Speaking before a standing room only audience at a town hall meeting in Austin, Texas, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said that we need a political revolution that empowers ordinary Americans to revitalize the US.
Sanders said that wealthy campaign donors have used their wealth to capture control of the government and advance their private agendas.
As a result, the government is making bad political decisions that cater to the special interests of the rich at the expense of everyone else causing tens of millions of potential voters to become disengaged from politics.
Getting these disgruntled voters engaged in the political process is the only way to reverse the bad policy decisions that have cost us millions of good paying jobs and a disappearing middle class, burdened many young people seeking a college degree with oppressive debt, degraded our environment, and made health care too expensive.
“Politics is important to the rich, it should be just as important to the rest of us,” said Sanders to the overflow crowd at the IBEW Local 520 union hall.
Sanders has laid out a 12-point agenda for revitalizing America. Educating people about and organizing them around this agenda, said Sanders, is the key to mobilizing them for the fight to take back the government.
Foremost on this agenda is Sanders’ proposal for creating millions of good paying jobs by rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure–roads, bridges, schools, water plants, sewage systems, railroads, airports and other public investments that make commerce, work, recreation, and education possible.
Investing in such an undertaking will be expensive, acknowledged Sanders, but not doing so will be more expensive.
If we don’t make the investment, commerce and other activities that constitute our every day lives will suffer and we’ll lose an opportunity to create millions of good paying jobs that can restore the middle class dream for many who have given up hope.
Sanders suggested that some of the money needed to rebuild our infrastructure could come from cutting the military budget.
“A $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create 13 million decent paying jobs and make this country more efficient and productive,” said Sanders. “We need to invest in infrastructure, not more war.”
If we are to rebuild the middle class, said Sanders, American workers need a raise.
Since 1999, the average annual income of middle-class America has dropped by $5,000 in inflation adjusted dollars.
Forty million Americans are still mired in poverty despite the vast wealth that has been created in the last 40 years.
Several points in Sanders’ Agenda for America offer ways to give American workers a raise:
- Make it easier for workers to join a union. Unions give workers the collective power to bargain for higher wages. In the past, stronger unions have meant higher pay for union and non-union workers alike.
- Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a poverty wage. The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009.
- Eliminate the pay differential between men and women. Women currently earn 78 percent less than men for the same kind of work.
- Raise Social Security benefits, expand Medicare to all Americans so that everyone has access to affordable quality health care, and expand federal nutrition programs.
- Make college affordable for all. Too many students are leaving college with crushing debt. Making college affordable will create a larger pool of skilled workers, who will help the US maintain a competitive edge in the world economy.
Tackling the effects of climate change is also an important point on Sander’s agenda.
Climate change threatens to transform our environment in a way that will make life harder for all but the most wealthy.
Climate change can be halted by relying more on renewable energy such as solar and wind power.
Converting our economy to one that relies more on renewable energy will have the added benefit of creating millions of new jobs as new renewable energy technologies develop and mature.
Finally, if we are to stop the decline of the American middle class, said Sanders, we must stop bad trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which the Congress will soon be considering.
Bad trade deals such as TPP and NAFTA are another example of bad decisions made to serve special interests.
Since NAFTA was ratified in the 1990s, millions of good-paying manufacturing jobs have been shipped abroad as corporations seek to lower labor costs.
Job losses resulting from TPP, a proposed trade deal between the US and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, could dwarf those caused by NAFTA.
Implementing the Agenda for America will revitalize America by ensuring that the wealth that we all create will be distributed fairly, but it will only happen, said Sanders, if we stand together and educate and organize our friends, family, co-workers, and the millions who have been harmed by the bad decisions made on behalf of special interests rather than for the public good.
If we succeed then we can hold politicians accountable, said Sanders. “If they don’t vote for jobs, then they’ll lose their jobs. If they don’t vote for health care, then they’ll lose their health care.”