democracy for sale

Why read Secret Empire when you can buy Black Panther (2016) by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Top 10 Reasons I Stand with Bernie Sanders

by Ben Hauck

I never knew my political and social belief system was aligned with a politician openly known as a Democratic Socialist.   After overcoming the shock and awe of the word “Socialist”, I quickly decided it was time to do some research.  My best understanding is that the system he believes in most closely resembles the democratic system in Scandinavian countries.  You know, those countries that are always rated amongst the happiest, most educated and most successful on the planet?  The democratic societies that have free health care, free child care and free education?  Yes, also those countries that have high taxes to support those programs.

I do not believe America should adopt the exact same system, even if it were possible (it is not realistic anytime soon).  However what we are doing as a country right now is clearly not working.  I believe we need to take a few steps in the direction of our Scandinavian friends.  We need better and more affordable education for our youth.  We need to deal with extreme economic inequality, lift people out of poverty, and rebuild the middle class.  We need to provide affordable health care to our citizens.  We need to stop corporations and the insanely wealthy from avoiding paying taxes.  We need to protect the environment and move towards a sustainable future.  We need a fair and balanced system that protects the rights of American citizens, as our founding fathers intended.

I cannot speak for Bernie, but from everything I have heard and read, this is exactly what he wants for America.  This is exactly what the people of this country should want.  If we are going to continue to be a world leader, we must address these pressing issues, and we must address them now.    

Bernie Sanders has strong stances on a wide range of issues, and there are few areas where I can find disagreement.  However I have identified certain issues that are most important to me.  Here are the top 10 reasons I stand with Bernie Sanders.


1.      Fighting climate change and supporting the environment

This is my number one issue by a wide margin.  The issue concerns the health and wellbeing of billions of people. Nothing is more important.  Bernie has been strong on climate for years.  He led the opposition against Keystone XL from the beginning and has authored several anti-pollution and pro renewable energy bills.  Sanders also introduced, along with Senator Barbara Boxer, the Climate Protection Act, a fee and dividend bill that unfortunately died in Congress in 2013.    


“Unless we take bold action to address climate change, our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to look back on this period in history and ask a very simple question: Where were they? Why didn’t the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth, lead the international community in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and preventing the devastating damage that the scientific community told us would surely come?”

2.      Ending Citizens United and getting big money out of politics

It is massively important to transition our democracy back from the oligarchy it has become.  A small number of extremely rich and powerful individuals and corporations have a grotesque amount of power and influence in American politics.  When Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers can buy elections and make politicians dance for them, you know our democracy needs to be saved and revived.  Bernie has committed to reversing Citizens United, and to remove the influence of money from our political system.  We need to stand and make it clear – our democracy is not for sale!  


“Freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to buy the United States government.”


3.      Not allowing his views and policies to be influenced by corporate or wealthy donors  

This will prove to be a challenge for Bernie’s campaign, as the majority of the presidential candidates are taking massive amounts of money from corporations, wealthy donors and Super PACs.  Bernie has vowed not to take money from corporate Super PACs or billionaires.  So far, average citizens are the biggest donors.


“I will not be part of any Super PAC.  Throughout my career I have not taken any corporate PAC money. That will remain for this race as well.  Can I raise a billion dollars? Probably not. But the question is, can I raise enough money to run a grass roots campaign and utilize millions of people? I think we can raise that kind of money.”

 

4.      Ending the war on drugs

Bernie believes the war on drugs has been a failed policy. He recognizes the fact that this massively expensive policy has had almost zero impact on drug usage, but it has destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.  He believes that non-violent drug offenders should receive treatment, not jail time.  He co-sponsored a bill way back in 2001 to allow the medical use of marijuana. While he has not taken a firm stance on recreational use, he stated his support for decriminalization and is watching Colorado and other states closely before he comments further.  And yes, he inhaled.


“Because I coughed a lot, I don’t know. I smoked marijuana twice, didn’t quite work for me…It’s not my thing, but it is the thing of a whole lot of people.”

 

5.      Addressing income and wealth inequality  

I fully support Americans having the ability to prosper and earn a healthy paycheck.  A large number of people in this country are well-off due to their hard work, intelligence and business acumen.  Hats off to success.  However the income inequality in the US is completely out of control.  

America has more wealth and income inequality than any major developed country on earth.  Since the mid-1980s there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes to the ultra-rich.  The top one-tenth of 1% owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.  Most of the new income since the great recession has gone to the top 1%.  The system is broken, and needs to be addressed immediately.  Bernie supports fair taxation of corporations and the rich, increasing the minimum wage, putting Americans to work with youth jobs programs, infrastructure projects and other programs, revising trade agreements to protect American jobs and other progressive programs to rebuild the middle class and provide the lower class with livable wages.  Sanders also supports reducing interest rates on student debt, and providing free four year college to all eligible students.


“There is something profoundly wrong when we have a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages and we have the highest childhood poverty rate of any developed country on earth.”

 

6.      Fighting for women’s rights

Seriously, why do a handful of rich, Republican, conservative men have so much power and influence over women’s rights to their own bodies?  Bernie has strongly committed to protecting the rights of women. He will protect the reproductive rights of women, including only nominating Supreme Court justices who also support the reproductive rights of women.  With 2/3 of all minimum wage workers being women, his $15 minimum wage will raise many women out of poverty.  He also supports raising the tipped wage to $15 by 2023. His stance on Medicare for All under a single payer system would have huge benefits for women and families. Bernie’s policies also seek to fight for pay equity for women.  There is no reason women should make 78 cents on the dollar.

 

“The right-wing in this country is waging a war against women and by working together, we will ensure that is a war they are going to lose.”

 

7.      Eliminating for profit private prisons and reducing the highest incarcerations levels in the world

This is one of the most outrageous and disgusting situations in America today.  As a result of a failed drug policy, racial injustices, mandatory minimum sentences, unfair legal processes and other deep cancers in our system, America has the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized country in the world.  The US has about 5% of the world’s population, but nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners.  The rate of incarceration in the US is approximately five times as high as the next highest countries.  Bernie supports major overhauls of the prison and legal systems to significantly reduce incarceration rates in the US.


“It is morally repugnant and a national tragedy that we have privatized prisons all over America. In my view, 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. I intend to introduce legislation that will end the private prison industry.”  

 

8.      Fighting for a fair and humane immigration policy

Immigrants play a crucial role in our economy and our society.  Hard working immigrants from around the world come to America and perform jobs that average citizens simply will not do.  Many immigrants have fled violence and corruption in their countries, and have sought haven in the US.  They have taken incredible risks to bring their families out of the violence and into a nation of safety.  To then encounter the hatred and violence from a certain section of the American population is disgusting and disgraceful.  I am ashamed by what I see and hear coming from American citizens. It is time for this to end, and for our country to adopt realistic policies to manage immigration in this country.

 

“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.  We are a nation of immigrants. I am the son of an immigrant myself. Their story, my story, our story is a story of America: hard-working families coming to the United States to create a brighter future for their children.”

 

9.      Fighting for racial justice

Sanders is firmly committed to battling for racial justice.  The political, physical, legal and economic violence against minorities needs to end.  Bernie has a long track record of fighting for racial and social justice.  This includes his stance on demilitarizing police, and investing in community policing with forces that reflect the diversity of our communities.  Sanders will fight against disenfranchisement in the political system, including ending voter ID and other discriminatory laws.    He will fight against legal violence, including the massive over-incarceration of minorities on minor charges.  As of today (9/12) Bernie does not have a high percentage of support among Latino and African American voters, but I believe this will change as people learn of Sanders’ long and dedicated fight for racial justice and equality.  


In a society of increasing diversity, ending systemic racial disparities is vital to building economic prosperity. This begins with comprehensive immigration reform, expanded voting rights and an end to mass incarceration and the systematic criminalization of people of color.”

 

10.   Committing to reform Wall Street  

Wall Street continues to take high risk actions in order to maximize short term profits, then expects American citizens to bail them out when their risky behaviors lead to financial collapse. The largest banks that nearly destroyed our economic system received a $700 billion bailout from the US taxpayer, and more than $16 trillion in virtually zero interest loans from the Federal Reserve. Despite that, financial institutions made over $152 billion in profit in 2014 – the most profitable year on record, and three of the four largest financial institutions are 80 percent bigger today than they were before we bailed them out.  

The six largest financial institutions in this country today hold assets equal to about 60% of the nation’s gross domestic product. These six banks issue more than two-thirds of all credit cards and over 35 percent of all mortgages. They control 95 percent of all derivatives and hold more than 40 percent of all bank deposits in the United States.  The banks have become so enormous and complex, their risky behavior could easily lead to economic catastrophe. ‎


“If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. These institutions have acquired too much economic and political power, endangering our economy and our political process.”