YAKIMA, Wash., February 16, 2013 – A Senator to watch in the 2013 sessions of Congress is Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders. He describes himself as a Democratic Socialist who is strongly independent, and over the years has become very popular with the voters in his state.
Curmudgeons don’t like socialists, or commies, or most politicians for that matter, but this guy kind’ve interests me. Here’s his story.
Bernie was elected the Mayor of Burlington four times consecutively, starting in 1981. As mayor, he won an important lawsuit against the local cable company, which greatly reduced the cost of cable for local citizens. All right - a politician who puts money back in people’s pockets.
He also established a community-trust housing authority, the first of its kind in the nation and a model for many of today’s local housing authorities. A community-trust housing authority is a non-profit organization that provides low-cost housing to impoverished people. Wow - a politician who really cares about struggling voters.
In 1990, Bernie ran for the House of Representatives and won by a comfortable margin. As Congressman Sanders, he voted against the Brady Bill (a 1993 act which mandated a five-day wait for retail handgun purchases) and supported a bill favoring the NRA. Ten years later, he voted against the invasion of Iraq, yet later he signed onto a bill supporting our troops at the outset of that war.
Sanders was a vocal critic of Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Fed from 1987-2006, declaring that Greenspan “saw his function as a need to represent the wealthy and large corporations.” This Congressman has always been concerned that too much wealth has moved into too few hands. Maybe he understands the need for a healthy middle-class and will actually do something about it.
He also believes investment firms and banks should be separate entities. I’m for that.
While his Republican opponent described Sanders as “ineffective,” Bernie was popular with his voters, and when he decided to run for the senate in 2006, he won decisively.
He was support by New York Senator Charles Schumer plus many in the Democratic Party, and when he ran for re-election he handily won with 71 percent of the vote.
Sanders believes the most important issue confronting the nation now is the need to create more jobs and reduce the number of unemployed people, which he claims is actually around 14 percent.
A strong supporter of universal health care, Bernie believes instead of cutting Medicare and Social Security, we should insist that large corporations pay their fair share of taxes to strengthen the programs.
He observes that 25 percent of corporations pay no taxes. One in four - unbelievable. These non-paying corporations have been parking their money in offshore accounts for years.
Sanders is no fan of Jack Lew, Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary. He declared recently on the Tavis Smiley Show that Lew is part and parcel of the Wall Street gang. History says that might not be a bad thing.
When Franklin Roosevelt was trying to rein-in the Wall Street gang during the 1930s, he picked Joe Kennedy, a successful Wall Street investor, to spearhead the project. When asked why Joe Kennedy, Roosevelt replied, “it takes a rat to catch a rat.” That selection worked well for Roosevelt.
Because he knows the ropes, Lew will work well for President Obama in a similar role.
In the same television interview, the Sanders said the country must tackle the huge issues of Wall Street greed. He claimed the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures by corporations and unions, was a huge win for the wealthy and large corporations in influencing elections. It tilts the political playing field in their favor.
Sanders would like to see the return to majority rules in the Senate, not super-majorities which require 60 percent of the vote to get anything done. We must shift away from filibusters, which have strangled Obama’s ability to get his appointments through the Senate in the last four years and frozen critical legislation.
Charles Hagel, Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, is the latest victim of this super-majority rule.
While Sanders sees immigration reform being passed in some form, he still believes the country is mired in class warfare. He believes the middle-class must be re-invigorated and expanded to return our country back to economic prosperity and strength.
Bernie Sanders’ politics meander onto both sides of the aisle. He is fiercely independent, but he’s an independent we need.
Larry Momo writes for both The Washington Times Communities Politics and the San Pedro News Pilot.
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