Income and Wealth Inequality
Today, we live in the richest country in the history of the world, but that reality means little because much of that wealth is controlled by a tiny handful of individuals.
The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time.
The reality is that since the mid-1980s there has been an enormous transfer of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the wealthiest people in this country. That is the Robin Hood principle in reverse. That is unacceptable and that has got to change.
Despite huge advancements in technology and productivity, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages. The real median income of male workers is $783 less than it was 42 years ago; while the real median income of female workers is over $1,300 less than it was in 2007. That is unacceptable and that has got to change.
There is something profoundly wrong when one family owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans.
The reality is that for the past 40 years, Wall Street and the billionaire class has rigged the rules to redistribute wealth and income to the wealthiest and most powerful people of this country.
Our Revolution is sending a message to the billionaire class: “you can’t have it all.” You can’t get huge tax breaks while children in this country go hungry. You can’t continue sending our jobs to China while millions are looking for work. You can’t hide your profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, while there are massive unmet needs on every corner of this nation. Your greed has got to end. You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America, if you refuse to accept your responsibilities as Americans.
What can we do about it?
In a highly competitive global economy, we need the best-educated workforce in the world. It is insane and counter-productive to the best interests of our country and our future, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades. That shortsighted path to the future must end.
Our Revolution will fight to make sure that every American who studies hard in school can go to college regardless of how much money their parents make and without going deeply into debt.
What can we do about it?
BIG MONEY IN POLITICS
Big Money in Politics
Six years ago, as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, by a 5-to-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially said to the wealthiest people in this country: you already own much of the American economy. Now, we are going to give you the opportunity to purchase the U.S. Government, the White House, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, Governors’ seats, legislatures, and State judicial branches as well.
The Citizens United decision hinges on the absurd notion that money is speech, corporations are people, and giving huge piles of undisclosed cash to politicians in exchange for access and influence does not constitute corruption.
During this campaign cycle, billions of dollars from the wealthiest people in this country are already flooding the political process. Super PACs – a direct outgrowth of the Citizens United decision – are enabling the wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country to contribute unlimited amounts of money to campaigns.
The situation has become so absurd that super PACs, which theoretically operate independently of the actual candidates, have more money and more influence over campaigns than the candidates themselves.
We know, for example, that the Koch brothers, the second wealthiest family in America, have made public that they and their network intend to spend at least $750 million on politics during this election. This is more money than either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party will spend.
Let’s be honest and acknowledge what we are talking about. We are talking about a rapid movement in this country toward a political system in which a handful of very wealthy people and special interests will determine who gets elected or who does not get elected. That is not what this country is supposed to be about. That was not Abraham Lincoln’s vision of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
As former President Jimmy Carter recently said, unlimited money in politics, “violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now, it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. Senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”
The need for real campaign finance reform is not a progressive issue. It is not a conservative issue. It is an American issue. It is an issue that should concern all Americans, regardless of their political point of view, who wish to preserve the essence of the longest standing democracy in the world, a government that represents all of the people and not a handful of powerful and wealthy special interests.
Real campaign finance reform must happen as soon as possible. That is why we must overturn, through a constitutional amendment, the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision as well as the Buckley v. Valeo decision. That is why we need to pass legislation to require wealthy individuals and corporations who make large campaign contributions to disclose where their money is going. More importantly, it is why we need to move toward the public funding of elections.
Our vision for American democracy should be a nation in which all people, regardless of their income, can participate in the political process, can run for office without begging for contributions from the wealthy and the powerful.
Our vision for the future of this country should be one in which candidates are not telling billionaires at special forums what they can do for them.
Our vision for democracy should be one in which candidates are speaking to the vast majority of our people – working people, the middle class, low-income people, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor – and discussing with them their ideas as to how we can improve lives for all of the people in this country.
What can we do about it?
War and Peace
Foreign Policy: Strength Through Diplomacy
We believe that the test of a great and powerful nation is not how many wars it can engage in, but how it can resolve international conflicts in a peaceful manner. From the Middle East, to Ukraine, to North Korea, to the South China Sea, to civil war in the world’s newest nation – South Sudan, we face a multitude of serious foreign policy challenges.
We should protect America, defend our interests and values, embrace our commitments to defend freedom and support human rights, and be relentless in combating terrorists who would do us harm. However, after nearly fourteen years of ill-conceived and disastrous military engagements in the Middle East, it is time for a new approach. We must move away from policies that favor unilateral military action and preemptive war, and that make the United States the de facto policeman of the world.
We believe that foreign policy is not just deciding how to react to conflict around the world, but also includes redefining America’s role in the increasingly global economy. Along with our allies throughout the world, we should be vigorous in attempting to prevent international conflict, not just responding to problems. For example, the international trade agreements we enter into, and our energy and climate change policies not only have enormous consequences for Americans here at home, but greatly affect our relations with countries around the world.
Iraq and Afghanistan
We believe that the invasion in Iraq was one of the worst foreign policy blunders in modern U.S. history.
6,700 brave men and women lost their lives in those wars, that too many came home without legs, arms or eyesight.
500,000 servicemen and women returned home with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, and that the war disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of families.
Preventing a Nuclear Iran
The U.S. must do everything it can to make certain that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, that a nuclear Iran does not threaten Israel, and to prevent a nuclear arms race in the region. We support the agreement between the U.S., Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program, because it has the best chance of limiting Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon, while avoiding yet another war in the region.
While the agreement is not perfect, it is far better than the path we were on – with Iran developing nuclear weapons and the potential for military intervention by the U.S. and Israel growing greater by the day. If Iran does not live up to the agreement, sanctions can be reestablished and all other options remain on the table. It is incumbent upon us, however, to give the negotiated agreement a chance to succeed, and we applaud President Obama and Secretary Kerry for their efforts.
Israel and Palestine
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been one of the world’s most difficult and intractable disputes for more than sixty years. Moreover, the failure to resolve that crisis has helped fuel other conflicts in the region. We support a two-state solution that recognizes Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, and the Palestinians right to a homeland in which they control their political and economic future.
The U.S. must play a leading role in creating a two-state solution, which will require significant compromises from both sides. The Palestinians must unequivocally recognize Israel’s right to exist, and hold accountable those who have committed terrorist acts. The Israelis must end the blockade of Gaza, and cease developing settlements on Palestinian land. Both sides must negotiate in good faith regarding all other outstanding issues that stand in the way of a durable and lasting peace in the region. In the meantime, strict adherence, by all sides, to the tenets of international humanitarian law is necessary in order to avoid escalating the conflict yet again.
We live in a dangerous world full of serious threats, perhaps none more so than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. But we cannot combat international terrorism alone. We must work with our allies to root out terrorist funding networks, provide logistical support in the region, disrupt online radicalization, provide humanitarian relief, and support and defend religious freedom. Moreover, we must begin to address the root causes of radicalization, instead of focusing solely on military responses to those who have already become radicalized.
And while there is no question our military must be fully prepared and have the resources it needs to fight international terrorism, it is imperative that we take a hard look at the Pentagon’s budget and the priorities it has established. The U.S. military must be equipped to fight today’s battles, not those of the last war, much less the Cold War. Our defense budget must represent our national security interests and the needs of our military, not the reelection of members of Congress or the profits of defense contractors. The warning that President Dwight David Eisenhower gave us about the influence of the Military-Industrial Complex in 1961 is truer today than it was then.
Protecting Americans and American Values
We believe our country must remain vigilant to protect us from terrorist attacks at home, whether from organized international terrorist networks, or from “lone wolf” extremists.
We must rein in the National Security Agency and end the bulk collection of phone records, internet history, and email data of virtually all Americans.Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies must have the tools they need to protect the American people, but there must be legal oversight and they must go about their work in a way that does not sacrifice our basic freedoms.
The same goes for our actions abroad. The U.S. must never again embrace torture as a matter of official policy. In an increasingly brutal world, the wanton use of torture by the Bush administration simply meant we lost our moral standing to condemn others who engage in merciless behavior. We must also, finally, close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. The mere existence of this camp, and the misguided policies that led to its creation, continues to damage the United States’ moral standing in the world, undermines our foreign policy, and fans the flames of terrorism rather than deters it.
What can we do about it?
A Fair and Humane Immigration Policy
We cannot and should not sweep up millions of men, women, and children – many of whom lived here for many years, contribute to our society, and are integrated into the fabric of American life – and throw them out of the country unjustly. It is categorically unacceptable that so many voices insisted that the large numbers of desperate, vulnerable, and unaccompanied children primarily from Central America who crossed our borders last year should be turned away and sent back to the countries they fled. Sadly, many of these same voices now advocate for the United States to turn our backs on desperate refugees fleeing violence and terrorism in Syria. Now is not the time for us to succumb to racism and bigotry. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided by the anti-immigrant and xenophobic hysteria.
America has always been a haven for the oppressed. We cannot and must not shirk the historic role of the United States as a protector of vulnerable people fleeing persecution.
Establishing an immigration policy that stops the criminalization of communities of color and keeps families together will be a top priority of my Administration. Our immigration policy will put the sanctity of families at the forefront and will be grounded in civil, human, and labor rights. With bold action that moves our nation towards common sense immigration policies, we can reverse the decline of our middle class, allow the United States to compete economically in the 21st Century and build upon the best parts of our tradition of embracing diversity and harnessing it for the common good.
A legislative solution to modernize our immigration system will be a top priority. We should not stand idly by waiting around for Congress to act. We must work to take extensive executive action to accomplish what Congress has failed to do and to build upon President Obama’s executive orders.
Unfortunately, our nation’s foreign policy towards Latin America has made difficult economic and political problems even worse. Supporters of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) claimed that unfettered free trade would increase the standard of living in Mexico and significantly reduce the flow of undocumented immigrants into this country. As history has demonstrated, the opposite is true. Since the implementation of NAFTA, the number of Mexicans living below the poverty line has increased by over 14 million. Not surprisingly we saw 185 percent increase in the number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico between 1992 and 2011.
A political revolution that mobilizes millions of Americans inclusive of Latinos and immigrants will ensure that Congress acts on what the majority of Americans demand – comprehensive and humane immigration reform policies.
Through legislation and executive action, we must implement a humane and secure immigration policy that will:
Deportation and Detention
The growth of the immigrant detention/deportation machine and the expansion of border militarization has perpetuated unjust policies and resulted in the separation of hundreds of thousands of immigrant families.
2. Eleven Million New Americans
We must make a path to citizenship for the undocumented population the building block of a new humane immigration system and not as a pretext to ramp up enforcement that separates families. Recognizing the difficult path to legislate a comprehensive solution to our nation’s outdated immigration system, we will lead a political revolution that mobilizes millions of Americans, particularly Latinos and immigrants, to ensure that Congress acts on what the majority of Americans demand – a comprehensive and humane immigration reform policy.
3. Border Security and Militarization
We believe that we can ensure that our borders are modern and secure. Indeed, we must continually modernize our border security measures and maintain security, all while protecting the rights and needs of our border communities. Border communities have much to offer the nation economically and culturally, but these contributions have been stunted or overshadowed by a negligent buildup of border enforcement. Communities along our border, particularly along the southern border, have become militarized and are being patrolled by a highly weaponized Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP).
4. Future Flow of Immigrants
A humane immigration system must honestly look at creating viable, legal channels that match our labor market needs. We must seriously reassess our foreign and international trade policies in light of the effects they have on migration and U.S. workers. A failure to do so will contribute to future flows that even the best-designed system will have extreme difficulty in addressing.
5. Balanced Trade Agreements
Inequality across the world is universally acknowledged as the driving force behind migration. This inequality does not develop organically and the United States must be introspective about its role. For example, the ill-conceived NAFTA, devastated local economies and pushed millions to migrate.
6. Immigration Integration
Integration into the great American mosaic is extremely important. Yet our immigrant integration policies, often not a priority in our national discourse, gravitate towards forced assimilation and, even as our society became more inclusive, provided little support, guidance, or even a welcome path to becoming an American.
CREATING DECENT PAYING JOBS
Creating Decent Paying Jobs
For most of our history, the U.S. proudly led the world in building infrastructure that grew our economy, gave our businesses a competitive advantage, and provided our workers a decent standard of living. Sadly, that is no longer the case.
Today, the U.S. spends less than 2 percent of GDP on infrastructure, less than at any point in the last twenty years. Meanwhile, Europe spends close to twice our rate, and China spends close to four times our rate. It is no wonder the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report now ranks our overall infrastructure at 12th in the world – down from 7th place just a decade ago.
The results are all around us: One of every 9 bridges in our country is structurally deficient, and nearly a quarter are functionally obsolete. Almost one-third of our roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and more than 42 percent of all urban highways are congested. Transit systems across the country struggling to address deferred maintenance and 45% of American households lack any meaningful access to transit at all.
For Instance, one solution we support is Senator Bernie Sanders’ Rebuild America Act that would more than double the current level of funding for the highway and transit accounts of the Highway Trust Fund, and would create a National Infrastructure Bank to leverage private capital to finance more than $125 billion in new projects.
Much of our nation’s rail network is obsolete, even though our energy-efficient railroads move more freight than ever and Amtrak’s ridership has never been higher. While we debate the merits of high-speed rail, countries across Europe and Asia have gone ahead and built vast high-speed rail networks with trains that run at 125-200 miles per hour. Meanwhile, the Acela – Amtrak’s fastest train – travels at an average speed of just 65 miles per hour. The Rebuild America Act will invest $75 billion to upgrade our passenger and freight rail lines, to move people and goods more quickly and efficiently. It’s time for America to catch up with the rest of the world.
America’s airports are bursting at the seams as the numbers of passengers and cargo have grown to all-time highs. Moreover – and rather incredibly – our airports still rely on antiquated 1960s radar technology, because we have chronically underfunded a new satellite-based air traffic control system. The Rebuild America Act will invest $12.5 billion to improve airports across the country, and $17.5 billion to bring our air traffic control system into the 21st century by accelerating deployment of NextGen technology to make our skies safer and our airports more efficient.
Bottlenecks at our marine seaports – which handle 95% of all overseas imports and exports –prevent goods from getting to their destinations on time. The same is true for our inland waterways – which carry the equivalent of 50 million truck trips of goods each year.
The Rebuild America Act will invest an additional $15 billion over five years to clear the backlog of projects to improve inland waterways, coastal harbors and shipping channels. Our businesses simply can’t compete in the global economy if they can’t move their goods and supplies to, from and within our country more efficiently.
Right now, more than 4,000 of the nation’s 84,000 dams are considered deficient, and one of every eleven levees have been rated as “likely to fail” during a major flood.
The Rebuild America Act will invest $12 billion a year to repair and improve the high-hazard dams that provide flood control, drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, and recreation across the country; and the flood levees that protect our cities and our farms.
Much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life – we lose more than 2 trillion gallons of treated drinking water each year through leaking pipes, faulty meters and nearly a quarter-million water main breaks. Our wastewater treatment plants aren’t in much better shape: almost ten billion gallons of raw sewage are dumped into our nation’s waterways each year when plants fail or pipes burst.
The Rebuild America Act will invest $6 billion a year so states can improve the drinking water systems that provide Americans with clean, safe water; and $6 billion a year to improve the wastewater plants and stormwater infrastructure that protect water quality in our nation’s rivers and lakes. America’s aging electrical grid – which consists of a patchwork of power generation, transmission, and distribution facilities, some of which date back to the early 1900s – simply isn’t up to 21st century challenges, including resiliency to cyber-attacks. It is no wonder the World Economic Forum ranks our grid at just 24th in the world in terms of reliability, just behind Barbados. The Rebuild America Act will invest $10 billion a year for power transmission and distribution modernization projects to improve the reliability and resiliency of our ever more complex electric power grid. This investment will also position our grid to accept new sources of locally generated renewable energy, and it will address critical vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks the U.S. 16th in the world in terms of broadband access. We are only marginally better in terms of average broadband speed – 12th in the world. Today, businesses, schools and families in Bucharest, Romania have access to much faster internet than most of the United States. That is unacceptable and has got to change. The Rebuild America Act will invest $5 billion a year to expand high-speed broadband networks in under-served and unserved areas, and to boost speeds and capacity all across the country. Internet access is no longer a luxury: it is essential for 21st century commerce, education, telemedicine, and public safety. If $1 trillion over five years sounds like a lot of money, consider that the American Society of Civil Engineers says we need to invest $3.6 trillion by 2020 just to get our nation’s infrastructure to a state of good repair.That is $1.6 trillion short of current spending levels.
Moreover, there is an economic cost of not acting. Several studies have concluded that our deteriorating infrastructure already costs our economy close to $200 billion per year.
Further, investing in infrastructure is not just about “bricks and mortar.” At its core, it is about jobs and the economy.
While the economy has improved significantly since the worst days of the recession, our nation still faces a major jobs crisis. We need to create millions of decent paying jobs, and we need to create them now. And infrastructure spending is one of the best ways to do just that.
The Rebuild America Act would put more than thirteen million Americans to work in decent-paying jobs. These are jobs in sectors of the economy that haven’t fully recovered from the recession, like construction, and they are jobs that cannot be shipped offshore or outsourced overseas.
Moreover, each and every project will require equipment, supplies and services – from architects, engineers, and building materials and supply companies. Thirteen million Americans will spend their hard-earned salaries in their communities, supporting restaurants and local stores.
It is no wonder groups from across the political spectrum – from organized labor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – agree that investing in infrastructure makes sound economic sense. When spending goes up, both GDP and household incomes grow. Even the International Monetary Fund – long a proponent of economic austerity – now says that well-designed infrastructure projects spur almost $3 in economic output for each dollar spent.
A LIVING WAGE
Millions of Americans are working for totally inadequate wages. We must ensure that no full-time worker lives in poverty. The current federal minimum wage is starvation pay and must become a living wage. We must increase it to $15 an hour over the next several years.
We must also establish equal pay for women. It’s unconscionable that women earn less than men for performing the same work.
Millions of American employees have been working 50 or 60 hours a week while receiving no overtime pay. The Administration’s new rule extending that protection to everyone making less than $947 a week is a step in the right direction. It is a win for our economy and for our workers.
Lastly, we must support and strengthen the labor movement to ensure that workers have a say in their own economic futures. We need to support the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to organize and bargain collectively.
What can we do about it?
Combating Climate Change to Save the Planet
Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet. The debate is over, and the scientific jury is in: global climate change is real, it is caused mainly by emissions released from burning fossil fuels and it poses a catastrophic threat to the long-term longevity of our planet. If we do nothing, the planet will heat up five to ten degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. That would cause enough sea level rise from melting glaciers to put cities like New York and Miami underwater – along with more frequent asthma attacks, higher food prices, insufficient drinking water and more infectious diseases.
But this isn’t just a problem for the future – the impacts of climate change are apparent here and now. Whether it’s more intense forest fires on the West Coast, or more frequent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, or damaging flash floods in California, climate change is here and it’s already causing devastating human suffering. The worst part is this: people who live in low-income and minority communities will bear the most severe consequences of society’s addiction to fossil fuels.
This is every kind of issue all at once: the financial cost of climate change makes it an economic issue, its effect on clean air and water quality make it a public health problem, its role in exacerbating global conflict and terrorism makes it a national security challenge and its disproportionate impacts on vulnerable communities and on our children and grandchildren make acting on climate change a moral obligation. We have got to solve this problem before it’s too late.
Why haven't we solved it yet?
Solving this should be straightforward. After all, the majority of Americans understand the seriousness of climate change, and they demand action. 97 percent of scientists agree about the urgent need to act and the vocal minority who don’t are bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry. More and more countries around the world are beginning to do their part, by stepping up to significantly curb their use of fossil fuels to become part of the solution. If our democracy worked the way it’s supposed to, that would be enough – the debate would be over, the facts would be heard and lawmakers would obey the will of the people.
But that’s where the billionaire class comes in. Instead of engaging on this issue in good faith and allowing democracy to play out, executives and lobbyists for coal, oil, and gas companies have blocked every attempt to make progress on climate change, and thrown unprecedented amounts of money at elected officials to buy their loyalty. Recent reporting even shows that executives at Exxon pioneered the research on climate change before anyone else did, but may have deliberately lied about it to spread disinformation and confusion to protect their bottom line. It’s eerily reminiscent of the fight over tobacco regulation, when executives from the tobacco companies repeatedly testified before Congress that cigarettes don’t cause cancer. Recently leaked internal documents show that even they knew they were lying.
Let’s be clear: the reason we haven’t solved climate change isn’t because we aren’t doing our part, it’s because a small subsection of the one percent are hell-bent on doing everything in their power to block action. Sadly, they have deliberately chosen to put their profits ahead of the health of our people and planet.
Here’s the good news: our society is already moving in the right direction. Solar panels cost 80 percent less than they did in 2008 and they’re popping up on rooftops everywhere. In fact, nearly a full quarter of the world’s electricity today comes from clean, sustainable resources like the sun and wind. The leaders of the seven major industrialized nations, including the United States, agreed in the summer of 2015 to a long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuels entirely and moving to an economy powered entirely by clean energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal. We’re already transitioning to a clean energy economy – but scientists say we need to do it faster and we need to do it right.
Doing it right means ensuring that workers have the skills, equipment, and training they need to succeed in a clean energy economy. It also means workers need to be able to organize and advocate for good wages and safe working conditions. We know these workers do some of the most important work in America and we need to ensure without a doubt that their livelihoods will be helped – not hurt – by the transition to clean energy.
The key is to stop funding the problem by subsidizing fossil fuels and instead accelerate our path to progress by showcasing our American innovation to accelerate the transition. This is important, because the support of the American people can make an enormous difference. In the 60’s, President Kennedy set a goal that many said was impossible – but by the end of that decade, Neil Armstrong had successfully taken his giant leap for humanity. Our government needs to think that big today and commit to prioritizing the transition to an economy powered by more than 80 percent clean energy sources by 2050. That starts with simple, commonsense steps: instead of subsidizing massive fossil fuel corporations, we can create millions of jobs for working families by investing in clean energy. The answer is clear and affordable. The solutions are within our reach – we just need average Americans to come together to make it happen.
Perpetrated by the State
Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Jessica Hernandez, Tamir Rice, Jonathan Ferrell, Oscar Grant, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, Samuel DuBose and Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas. We know their names. Each of them died unarmed at the hands of police officers or in police custody. The chants are growing louder. People are angry and they have a right to be angry. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that this violence only affects those whose names have appeared on TV or in the newspaper. African-Americans are twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police. African-American and Latinos comprise well over half of all prisoners, even though African-Americans and Latinos make up approximately one quarter of the total US population.
Perpetrated by Extremists
We are far from eradicating racism in this country. Today in America, if you are black, you can be killed for getting a pack of Skittles during a basketball game. Or murdered in your church while you are praying. This violence fills us with outrage, disgust and a deep, deep sadness. These hateful acts of violence amount to acts of terror. They are perpetrated by extremists who want to intimidate and terrorize black, brown and indigenous people in this country.
In the shameful days of open segregation, literacy laws and poll taxes were used to suppress minority voting. Today, through other laws and actions — such as requiring voters to show photo ID, discriminatory drawing of Congressional districts, restricting same-day registration and early voting and aggressively purging voter rolls — states are taking steps which have a similar effect.
The patterns are unmistakable. 11 percent of eligible voters do not have a photo ID—and they are disproportionately black and Latino. In 2012, African-Americans waited twice as long to vote as whites. Some voters in minority precincts waited upwards of six or seven hours to cast a ballot. Meanwhile, thirteen percent of African-American men have lost the right to vote due to felony convictions.
Yet in 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the seminal Voting Rights Act, even while saying “voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that.”
This should offend the conscience of every American.
The fight for minority voting rights is a fight for justice. It is inseparable from the struggle for democracy itself.
Millions of lives have been destroyed because people are in jail for nonviolent crimes. For decades, we have been engaged in a failed “War on Drugs” with racially-biased mandatory minimums that punish people of color unfairly.
It is an obscenity that we stigmatize so many young Americans with a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy. This must change.
If current trends continue, one in four black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during their lifetime. Blacks are imprisoned at six times the rate of whites and a report by the Department of Justice found that blacks were three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop, compared to white motorists. Together, African-Americans and Latinos comprised 57 percent of all prisoners in 2014, even though African-Americans and Latinos make up approximately one quarter of the US population. These outcomes are not reflective of increased crime by communities of color, but rather a disparity in enforcement and reporting mechanisms. African-Americans are twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police. This is an unspeakable tragedy.
It is morally repugnant that we have privatized prisons all over America. Corporations should not be allowed to make a profit by building more jails and keeping more Americans behind bars. We have got to end the private for-profit prison racket in America.
The measure of success for law enforcement should not be how many people get locked up. We need to invest in drug courts as well as medical and mental health interventions for people with substance abuse problems, so that people struggling with addiction do not end up in prison, they end up in treatment.
For people who have committed crimes that have landed them in jail, there needs to be a path back from prison. The federal system of parole needs to be reinstated. We need real education and real skills training for the incarcerated.
We must end the over-incarceration of nonviolent young Americans who do not pose a serious threat to our society. It is an international embarrassment that we have more people locked up in jail than any other country on earth – more than even the Communist totalitarian state of China. That has got to end.
We must address the lingering unjust stereotypes that lead to the labeling of black youths as “thugs” and “super predators.” We know the truth that, like every community in this country, the vast majority of people of color are trying to work hard, play by the rules and raise their children. It’s time to stop demonizing minority communities.
In many cities all over our country, the incentives for policing are upside down. Departments are bringing in substantial sums of revenue by seizing the personal property of people who are suspected of criminal involvement. So-called civil asset forfeiture laws allow police to take property from people even before they are charged with a crime, much less convicted of one. Even worse, the system works in a way that makes it very difficult and expensive for an innocent person to get his or her property back. We must end programs that actually reward officials for seizing assets without a criminal conviction or other lawful mandate. Departments and officers should not profit off of such seizures.
Local governments that rely on tickets and fines to pay bills can become dependent on implicit quotas for law enforcement. When policing is a source of revenue tied to the financial sustainability of agencies, officers are pressured to meet internal goals which can lead to unnecessary or unlawful traffic stops and citations which disproportionately affect people of color. Implicit quota systems promote racial stereotyping and breed distrust between officers and communities of color.
Furthermore, we must ensure police departments are not abusing avenues of due process to shield bad actors from accountability. Local governments and police management must show zero tolerance for abuses of police power at all levels. All employees of any kind deserve due process protections, but it must be clear that departments will vigorously investigate and, if necessary, prosecute every allegation of wrongdoing to the fullest extent.
It is necessary to try to address the rampant economic inequality while also taking on the issue of societal racism. We must simultaneously address the structural and institutional racism which exists in this country, while at the same time we vigorously attack the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality which is making the very rich much richer while everyone else — especially those in our minority communities – are becoming poorer.
In addition to the physical violence faced by too many in our country we need to look at the lives of black children and address some difficult facts. Black children, who make up just 18 percent of preschoolers, account for 48 percent of all out-of-school suspensions before kindergarten. We are failing our black children before kindergarten. Black students are expelled at three times the rate of white students. Black girls are suspended at higher rates than all other girls and most boys. According to the Department of Education, African-American students are more likely to suffer harsh punishments — suspensions and arrests — at school. Black students attend schools with higher concentrations of first-year teachers when compared with white students. Black students are more than three times as likely to attend schools where fewer than 60 percent of teachers meet all state certification and licensure requirements.
Communities of color also face the violence of economic deprivation. Let’s be frank: neighborhoods like those in west Baltimore, where Freddie Gray resided, suffer the most. However, the problem of economic immobility isn’t just a problem for young men like Freddie Gray. Despite hard-work and the will to get ahead, millions of Americans spend their entire lives struggling to survive on the economic treadmill.
We live at a time when most older workers have no retirement savings, and millions of working adults have no idea how they will ever retire in dignity. An unforeseen car accident, a medical emergency, or the loss of a job could send their lives into an economic tailspin. And the problems are even more serious when we consider race.
Let us not forget: It was the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street that nearly drove the economy off of a cliff seven years ago. While millions of Americans lost their jobs, homes, life savings and ability to send their kids to college, African-Americans who were steered into expensive subprime mortgages were the hardest hit.
Most black and Latino households have less than $350 in savings. The black unemployment rate has remained roughly twice as high as the white rate over the last 40 years, regardless of education. Real African-American youth unemployment is over 50 percent. African-American women earn 64 cents for every dollar white men make. This is unacceptable. The American people in general want change — they want a better deal. A fairer deal. A new deal. They want an America with laws and policies that truly reward hard work with economic mobility. They want an America that affords all of its citizens with the economic security to take risks and the opportunity to realize their full potential.
Perpetrated by Polluting Industries
People of color disproportionately experience a daily assault on their health and environment. Communities of color are the hardest hit by air and water pollution from industrial factories, power plants, incinerators, chemical waste and lead contamination from old pipes and paint. At the same time, they lack access to parks, gardens and other recreational green space.
Like income inequality, environmental inequality is rapidly growing in the United States.
Black children are five times more likely than white children to have lead poisoning. Indigenous peoples are impacted disproportionately by destructive mining practices and the dumping of hazardous materials on their lands. As demonstrated by Hurricane Katrina, poor communities of color have a harder time escaping, surviving and recovering from climate-related disasters. Taken together, it is clear that people of color experience a disparate exposure to environmental hazards where they “work, live, and play.”
Nationwide, the health of communities is consistently ignored in favor of the profits of corporate polluters. The fact that people of color breathe 46 percent more nitrogen dioxide —which causes respiratory diseases and heart conditions — than whites helps explain why one in six African-American kids has asthma.
The environmental violence being inflicted on people of color who are denied the full rights of citizenship — especially migrant workers and new immigrants — is especially pronounced. Low-income Latino immigrants are more likely to live in areas with high levels of hazardous air pollution than anyone else. In fact, the odds of a Latino immigrant neighborhood being located in an area of high toxic pollution is one in three.
Latinos and African-Americans are more likely to work in hazardous jobs that place them at higher risk for serious occupational diseases, injuries and muscular-skeletal disabilities. The fatality rate among Latino workers is 23 percent higher than the fatal injury rate for all US workers. Often reluctant to complain about poor working conditions for fear of deportation or being fired, Mexican migrant workers are nearly twice as likely as the rest of the immigrant population to die at work. This is unacceptable and must be addressed.
Taken together, these injustices are largely the product of political marginalization and institutional racism. The less political power a community of color possesses, the more likely they are to experience insidious environmental and human health threats. The environmental violence being inflicted on these communities of color is taking a terrible toll, and must be made a national priority. Access to a clean and healthy environment is a fundamental right of citizenship. To deny such rights constitutes an environmental injustice that should never be tolerated.
Ending the Humanitarian Crisis in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s debt crisis and harsh austerity measures are making a very difficult economic situation even worse. Today, more than 45 percent of the Puerto Rican people are living in poverty, and the childhood poverty rate is a staggering 56 percent. Meanwhile, the official unemployment is more than 12.5% — more than twice the national average – and real unemployment is much higher still. It is no wonder that an estimated 84,000 thousand people fled the island last year, and more than 1,000 are moving to Florida every week. The crisis is not only causing suffering and despair for Puerto Ricans living on the island, but is impacting their families on the U.S. mainland. This situation will spiral even further out of control if no adequate plan of action is implemented.
We must fight to give Puerto Rico the same Chapter 9 bankruptcy protections that exist for municipalities in the United States. Puerto Rico should be able to restructure its debt in a rational and organized way that protects its people without harming ordinary investors and pension funds in the United States.
Auditing Puerto Rico’s debt to investigate whether it was incurred legally. If any debt was issued to creditors in violation of Puerto Rico’s Constitution, it must be immediately set aside. Reversing austerity measures that have harmed children, senior citizens, and the most vulnerable people in Puerto Rico.
Creating new jobs and making Puerto Rican businesses more competitive in the global economy by enacting a national jobs program to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. Bernie Sanders’ Rebuild America Act would create more than 150,000 good-paying jobs in Puerto Rico and put 13 million people to work all over the U.S. This plan would help rebuild Puerto Rico’s crumbling roads and bridges, improve its ports, upgrade its drinking water and wastewater plants, and fortify flood control projects. It would also improve public transportation within cities like San Juan, Ponce, Bayamon, and Carolina, modernize Puerto Rico’s aging electric grid and expand high-speed broadband networks all across the island.
Empowering the People of Puerto Rico to Decide Their Own Destiny We must fight for a U.S. congressionally-sanctioned and binding referendum where the Puerto Rican people would be able to decide on whether to become a state, an independent country, or to reform the current Commonwealth agreement. This is an issue that should be decided by the Puerto Rican people.
Clean Energy and Environment
We must move aggressively away from fossil fuels toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy production. Puerto Rico is blessed with abundant solar and wind resources, and has great potential to expand biomass and geothermal energy. The island also is well-positioned to develop cutting edge marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy, as well as oceanic thermal energy. Yet, 99 percent of Puerto Rico’s energy mix currently comes from imported oil that is extraordinarily expensive for the Puerto Rican people and awful for the environment.
We must expand and make permanent tax incentives for renewable energy, and his climate plan would tax carbon and use the revenue to make significant investments in wind, solar, and geothermal energy. Updating Puerto Rico’s energy system is also critically important in terms of addressing the island’s debt crisis, since the single largest debt – more than $9 billion – is owed by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.
We need to end toxic pollution from incinerators by closing loopholes that treat trash as a “fuel” instead of “solid waste.” This is of particular importance in regards to the proposed construction of a 2,100-ton-per-day municipal solid waste incinerator in the north coast municipality of Arecibo.
We also need to ensure that federal environmental and public health laws are enforced. The Martin Peña Canal in downtown San Juan is severely polluted, with a fecal content 60 times greater than the EPA water-quality standard. The pollution has caused a tremendous amount of disease and distress in the heavily populated area – with between 26,000 and 30,000 residents affected by the urban waterway in an area where most of San Juan’s labor force resides.
We need to pay particular attention to the pressing needs in Vieques, including environmental clean-up, raising the quality of life and health on the island, and improving socioeconomic development. The alarming rates of cancer and other serious health conditions on Vieques – very possibly linked to the now closed U.S. Naval bombing range – must be addressed and the environmental damage caused by the range fully remediated. As one of the poorest municipalities in Puerto Rico, Vieques must have access to the same economic development opportunities as the rest of Puerto Rico.
It is counter-productive to the best interests of our country and our future that Puerto Rico’s bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that so many who do pursue higher education leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades. That shortsighted path to the future must end.
We will fight to make sure that every American who studies hard in school can go to college without going deeply into debt, regardless of how much money their parents make.
A College-for-All plan would:
Health care is a right, not a privilege. We will fight for a single payer, Medicare-for-all plan which would cover everyone and apply equally to states and territories, including Puerto Rico.
Fighting for Affordable Housing
While the housing market has improved since the worst days of the housing meltdown and recession, millions of Americans remain underwater with their mortgages and millions more can’t get a loan to buy a house. On the rental side, more than 7 million households lack access to adequate affordable housing, with many facing a daily choice between housing, food, and healthcare. Meanwhile, many working families, veterans, the mentally ill and the poor are living in their cars, in homeless shelters, or simply out on the street. That is unacceptable.
Working together, this is what we need to do to address the affordable housing crisis.
It is no secret that millions of families are struggling economically. Meanwhile, decent and affordable rental apartments are hard to come by, and millions of households are spending 50 percent or more of their income on housing. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 7.1 million American households cannot find affordable housing. That is unacceptable.
Owning a home remains one of the best ways for families to build wealth and enter the middle class. However, for decades, wages have not kept up with the median costs of homes, putting homeownership out of reach for millions of families. The housing crisis that began in 2007 wiped-out the entire household wealth of millions of families, particularly African-American and Latino families who were disproportionately targeted with sub-prime mortgages and had most of their wealth in their homes – the net worth of African-American households fell by more than 50 percent and Latino families by more than 65 percent. We must take aggressive steps to make homeownership more attainable for first time homebuyers, as well as for the millions of families across the country who lost their homes to foreclosure.
Helping Underwater Homeowners
For millions of American families, and for many hard hit communities, the housing crisis is not over. According to the real estate firm CoreLogic, 4.3 million homeowners still owe more than their houses are worth. While the taxpayers of this country, against my strong opposition, bailed out the largest financial institutions in this country with no strings attached, we have never provided an adequate lifeline to underwater homeowners. While Treasury’s Home Affordable Modification Program has helped more than 1.5 million homeowners avoid foreclosure, and the Hardest Hit Fund has assisted another 250,000 homeowners, these are a fraction of the households that were, or are, underwater.
What can we do about it?
Helping Underwater Homeowners
Fighting for Women's Rights
Despite major advances in civil and political rights, our country still has a long way to go in addressing the issue of gender inequality. Many of the achievements that have been made for women’s rights in the 20th century have been under attack by the Republican party — denying women control over their own bodies, preventing access to vital medical and social services, and blocking equal pay for equal work.
We are not going back to the days when women had to risk their lives to end an unwanted pregnancy. The decision about abortion must remain a decision for the woman and her doctor to make, not the government.
We are not going to allow the extreme right-wing to defund Planned Parenthood, we are going to expand it. Planned Parenthood provides vital healthcare services for millions of women, who rely on its clinics every year for affordable, quality health care services including cancer prevention, STI and HIV testing and general primary health care services. The current attempt to malign Planned Parenthood is part of a long-term smear campaign by people who want to deny women in this country the right to control their own bodies.
We are not going back to the days when women did not have full access to birth control. Incredibly, almost all of the Republicans in the Senate are in favor of giving any employer who provides health insurance, or any insurance company, the ability to deny coverage for contraception or any other kind of procedure if the employer had a “moral” objection to it. That is unacceptable.
We will not go back to the days when survivors of domestic violence had no access to services or recourse against their abusers, because domestic violence was swept under the rug, as a shameful, private issue. Worse yet, it was not so long ago that spousal abuse was legal in many states. We must expand services provided through the Violence Against Women Act and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, and fight any attempts to undermine these laws.
We are not going back to the days when it was legal for women to be paid less for doing the same work as men.
It is wrong that women working full-time only earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. We have got to move forward and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act into law.
And, not only are we going to expand policies that advance gender equality, we are going to fight to pass the long-overdue Equal Rights Amendment and vigorously defend the critical laws and programs which protect all working people in our country.
At a time when elderly women are more likely than men to be living in poverty, not only do we say NO to cuts in Social Security, we will expand Social Security.
When 35 million Americans lack health insurance, not only do we say NO to cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, we will expand these programs that are so important to families.
What can we do about it?
AIDS AND HIV
Working to Create an AIDS and HIV-Free Generation
Today, one of the biggest problems in caring for the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV is the crisis of access to affordable drugs.
One of the great moral issues of our day is that people with HIV and AIDS are suffering and, in some cases, dying in America because they can’t afford to pay the outrageous prices being charged for the medicine they need to live.
It is indefensible that even with insurance and rebates, a person with HIV must spend thousands of dollars per year just on prescription drugs — often leaving them unable to afford decent housing or other necessities — all while profiteering companies continue to jack up the price of these treatments overnight, simply because they can.
Instead of focusing on public health and the public good, drug companies are focused on padding the pockets of their shareholders and top executives. That has got to change.
In the richest nation in the world, we must not tolerate a health care system that offers the best care to the rich, while leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. We must do everything possible to end the greed of the pharmaceutical companies and get people the medicine they need at a price they can afford.
We must do everything we can to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic. The good news is that San Francisco, New York and other urban areas are making significant progress in combating HIV and AIDS.
The bad news is that nationally we have not seen an improvement in the 50,000 avoidable HIV infections that are taking place each and every year. Tragically, in some regions of the country, the epidemic has gotten even worse. In the year 2016, we have got to do much better than that.
We now have all of the tools we need to end AIDS deaths and HIV transmissions. Now, we need the political will to do it.
What can we do about it?
Fighting for LGBT Equality
The United States has made remarkable progress on gay rights in a relatively short amount of time. But there is still much work to be done.
In many states, it is still legal to fire someone for being gay. It is legal to deny someone housing for being transgender. That is unacceptable and must change. We must end discrimination in all forms.
We must also establish equal pay for women. It’s unconscionable that women earn less than men for performing the same work.
What can we do about it?
EMPOWERING TRIBAL NATIONS
Empowering Tribal Nations
Native Americans are the first Americans, yet they have for far too long been treated as third class citizens. It is unconscionable that today, in 2016, Native Americans still do not always have the right to decide on important issues that affect their communities. The United States must not just honor Native American treaty rights and tribal sovereignty, it must also move away from a relationship of paternalism and control and toward one of deference and support. The United States has a duty to ensure equal opportunities and justice for all of its citizens, including the 2.5 million Native Americans that share this land. It is no secret that this isn’t the case today.
The Statistics are Staggering
Native Americans continue to face appalling levels of inequality and systemic injustice. One in four Native Americans are living in poverty and the high school graduation rate is 67 percent, the lowest of any racial demographic group. The second leading cause of death for Native Americans between the ages of 15-24 is suicide. One in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime; most of the offenders are non-Native. Most federal programs for tribal nations are underfunded, which has led to inadequate housing, healthcare, education, and law enforcement. Native Americans have a much lower life expectancy and higher uninsured rates than the population at large, and even those who have health insurance often have difficulty accessing the care they need.
Although Native American tribes are supposed to be sovereign nations with the right to self-governance, the United States has greatly exacerbated the struggles of Indian Country because of its failure to support basic principles of self-determination. Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than any other racial group and the rate of violent crime against them is twice the national average. Yet, because the federal courts have chipped away at tribal sovereignty, tribal nations are often unable to prosecute criminal offenders for violent crimes that occur within tribal borders. Tribal governments are distinct sovereigns, and should be recognized as such – they must have the autonomy and authority to protect their own peoples.
What can we do about it?
CARING FOR OUR VETERANS
Caring for Our Veterans
As a nation, we have a moral obligation to provide the best quality care to those who have put their lives on the line to defend us.
Just as planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war, so is taking care of the men and women who we sent off to fight the war. It includes caring for the spouses and children who have to rebuild their lives after the loss of a loved one. It includes caring for the hundreds of thousands of veterans with multiple amputations or loss of eyesight, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. It includes veterans who are having difficulty keeping jobs in order to pay their bills, and it includes the terrible tragedy of veterans committing suicide.
Reports of unacceptable wait times at many VA medical facilities means that not all veterans have access to timely health care.
More doctors and nurses are needed to care for the surging number of veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must do more to expand veterans’ benefits by making comprehensive dental care available and by expanding caregiver provisions. We must do more to meet the mental health needs of our veterans, especially those who have served in harm’s way. We must fully restore cuts to military pensions that were insisted upon by Republicans in the last budget deal.
We must end the travesty of veterans’ homelessness. While huge gains have been made over the past six years, the fact that on any given night there are fifty thousand homeless veterans on the street is a national disgrace. We also need to make further improvements to the VA disability claims process, which while significantly streamlined, still takes far too long for many veterans.
What can we do about it?
MEDICARE FOR ALL
Medicare For All
It has been the goal of Democrats since Franklin D. Roosevelt to create a universal health care system guaranteeing health care to all people. Every other major industrialized nation has done so. It is time for this country to join them and fulfill the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson and other great Democrats.
The Affordable Care Act was a critically important step towards the goal of universal health care. Thanks to the ACA, more than 17 million Americans have gained health insurance. Millions of low-income Americans have coverage through expanded eligibility for Medicaid that now exists in 31 states. Young adults can stay on their parents’ health plans until they’re 26. All Americans can benefit from increased protections against lifetime coverage limits and exclusion from coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
But as we move forward, we must build upon the success of the ACA to achieve the goal of universal health care. Twenty-nine million Americans today still do not have health insurance and millions more are underinsured and cannot afford the high copayments and deductibles charged by private health insurance companies that put profits before people.
The U.S. spends more on health care per person, and as a percentage of gross domestic product, than any other advanced nation in the world, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. But all that money has not made Americans healthier than the rest of the world. Quite simply, in our high-priced health care system that leaves millions overlooked, we spend more yet end up with less.
Other industrialized nations are making the morally principled and financially responsible decision to provide universal health care to all of their people—and they do so while saving money by keeping people healthier. Those who say this goal is unachievable are selling the American people short.
Americans need a health care system that works for patients and providers. We need to focus our federal investments on training the health care providers. We need to ensure a strong health care workforce in all communities now and in the future. We need to build on the strength of the 50 years of success of the Medicare program. We need a health care system that significantly reduces overhead, administrative costs and complexity. We need a system where all people can get the care they need to maintain and improve their health when they need it regardless of income, age or socioeconomic status. We need a system that works not just for millionaires and billionaires, but for all of us.
What can we do about it?
STRENGTHEN SOCIAL SECURITY
Strengthen and Expand Social Security
Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation’s history. Before it was signed into law, nearly half of senior citizens lived in poverty. Today, the elderly poverty rate is 10 percent. Although still much too high, that’s a dramatic improvement.
Through good times and bad, Social Security has paid every nickel owed to every eligible American – on time and without delay. As corporations destroyed the retirement dreams of millions over the past 30 years by eliminating defined benefit pension plans, Social Security was right there paying full benefits. As millions of Americans lost their life savings after Wall Street’s recklessness crashed the economy in 2008, Social Security was right there paying full benefits.
Today, Social Security is more important than ever. Over half of workers between the ages of 55-64 have no retirement savings. More than a third of senior citizens depend on Social Security for virtually all of their income. One out of every five senior citizens is trying to scrape by on an average income of just $8,300 a year.
Given these facts, our job cannot be to cut Social Security. Our job must be to expand it so that every American can retire with dignity and respect.
Virtually every Republican candidate for president disagrees. Many of them claim Social Security is “going broke,” that it’s causing the deficit to explode, and its trust fund is full of IOUs.
They want the American people to believe Social Security is in crisis and must be cut.
They are dead wrong.
What can we do about it?
We need to lift this cap so that everyone who makes over $250,000 a year pays the same percentage of their income into Social Security as the middle class and working families.
This would not only extend the solvency of Social Security for the next 50 years, but also bring in enough revenue to expand benefits by an average of $65 a month; increase cost-of-living-adjustments; and lift more seniors out of poverty by increasing the minimum benefits paid to low-income seniors.
Not only is this the right thing to do from a moral perspective, it is also what the vast majority of the American people want us to do. 61 percent of the American people support expanding Social Security benefits by lifting the cap on taxable income, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll earlier this year.
It’s time to expand Social Security to make sure that everyone in this country can retire with the dignity and respect they deserve.
PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES
Fighting to Lower Prescription Drug Prices
Americans pay, by far, the highest prices for prescription drugs in the entire world. When we talk about health care, we are talking about the need of the American people to be able to afford the medicine their health care providers prescribe. A life-saving drug does no good if the people who need it cannot afford that drug.
Yet, last year, nearly one in five Americans between the ages of 19 and 64 – 35 million people – did not get their prescriptions filled because they did not have enough money. In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, Americans should not have to live in fear that they will go bankrupt or die because they cannot afford to take the medication they need.
In any given month, more than half of all American adults take at least one prescription drug. There is no question that medicines help millions of people live healthier and longer lives, and can also prevent more expensive illnesses and treatments. However, it is unacceptable that the United States now spends more than $370 billion on prescription drugs and spending is rising faster than at any point in the last decade.
Instead of listening to the demands of the pharmaceutical industry and their 1,400 lobbyists, it is time that Congress started listening to the American people, who overwhelmingly believe that the cost of medication is too expensive. More than 70 percent of Americans believe drug costs are unreasonable and that drug companies are putting profits before people.
Fighting for Disability Rights
When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed 25 years ago, it was hailed as the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities. Today, as a result of this landmark legislation, millions of people with disabilities are no longer denied the opportunity to get on a bus, go to a decent school, make a decent living, attend a baseball game, and live successful and productive lives. Instead of being isolated and hidden from society, kids with disabilities are now in classrooms all over America and graduating from high school and college with the respect and admiration of their classmates, teachers, and families.
This transformation in our culture and society did not happen by accident, and it did not happen overnight – it happened because a grassroots movement demanded change. Despite the progress that has been made over the past two decades, we unfortunately still live in a world where people with disabilities have fewer work opportunities and where the civil rights of people with disabilities are not always protected and respected.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership
1. The TPP will allow corporations to outsource even more jobs overseas.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, if the TPP is agreed to, the U.S. will lose more than 130,000 jobs to Vietnam and Japan alone. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Service Sector Jobs will be lost. At a time when corporations have already outsourced over 3 million service sector jobs in the U.S., TPP includes rules that will make it even easier for corporate America to outsource call centers; computer programming; engineering; accounting; and medical diagnostic jobs.
Manufacturing jobs will be lost. As a result of NAFTA, the U.S. lost nearly 700,000 jobs. As a result of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, the U.S. lost over 2.7 million jobs. As a result of the Korea Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. has lost 70,000 jobs.
Wages, benefits, and collective bargaining will also be threatened.
2. U.S. sovereignty will be undermined by giving corporations the right to challenge our laws before international tribunals. Buy America laws could come to an end.
The TPP creates a special dispute resolution process that allows corporations to challenge any domestic laws that could adversely impact their “expected future profits.”
These challenges would be heard before UN and World Bank tribunals which could require taxpayer compensation to corporations.
3.Prescription drug prices will increase, access to life saving drugs will decrease, and the profits of drug companies will go up. Wall Street would benefit at the expense of everyone else.
Big pharmaceutical companies are working hard to ensure that the TPP extends the monopolies they have for prescription drugs by extending their patents (which currently can last 20 years or more)
This would expand the profits of big drug companies, keep drug prices artificially high, and leave millions of people around the world without access to life saving drugs. Doctors without Borders stated that “the TPP agreement is on track to become the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines in developing countries.”
4. Our ability to protect the environment will be undermined.
Food Safety Standards will be threatened.
The TPP will allow corporations to challenge any law that would adversely impact their future profits. Pending claims worth over $14 billion have been filed based on similar language in other trade agreements. Most of these claims deal with challenges to environmental laws in a number of countries. The TPP will make matters even worse by giving corporations the right to sue any of the nations that sign onto the TPP. These lawsuits would be heard in international tribunals bypassing domestic courts
5. The TPP has no expiration date, making it virtually impossible to repeal.
Once TPP is agreed to, it has no sunset date and could only be altered by a consensus of all of the countries that agreed to it. Other countries, like China, could be allowed to join in the future. For example, Canada and Mexico joined TPP negotiations in 2012 and Japan joined last year.
"The problem of wealth inequality may be the biggest problem of this millennia. There is a need to look at wealth in new ways. We must find an alternative to capitalism and build an economy that addresses all peoples' needs."