Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Blogger Candidate Forum: Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders
Hello Everyone:

It is Tuesday, which means it is time for Blogger Candidate Forum.  The presidential election cycle just keeps getting more interesting by the minute.  The big shock over the weekend was the announcement that former Florida Governor and onetime Republican nominee leader Jeb Bush was suspending his campaign.  Blogger was quite certain that he would be the GOP standard bearer in the fall but Mr. Bush was simply out of step with the constituency.

  Today, we have the second of our two Democratic would-be nominees, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.  Senator Sanders has certainly generated a lot of excitement across the United States with his progressive message.  The Senator calls himself a "Socialist Democrat."  What does that mean in 2016?  More important, how does being a Socialist Democrat translate into real-life policy.  Today we are going to explore Mr. Sanders's position on some key issues that will be integral to the election.  Let us see if we can feel the Bern.

Senator Sanders was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Following graduation from the University of Chicago, Mr. Sanders moved to Vermont, where he worked as a carpenter and documentary filmmaker.  In 1981, he was elected Mayor of Burlington.  As Mayor, Mr. Sanders work and his administration focused on affordable housing, progressive taxation, environmental issues, child care, gender equality, youth programs, and the arts.  Mr. Sanders was later elected to the House of Representatives and later to the Senate.  In 2015, he was tapped by the Democratic party leadership to serve as the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee.  Senator Sanders lives in Burlington with his wife Jane, has four children, and seven grandchildren. (http://www.berniesanders.com)

"The 1% Share of Pre-Tax Income"
Income and Wealth Inequality

Income and wealth inequality is one of the key issues of the 2016 Presidential elections.  While Secretary Hillary Clinton pledged to "Give working families a raise and tax relief that helps them manage rising costs."(http://www.hillaryclinton.com)  To achieve this goal, Ms. Clinton has pledged to "create well-paying jobs and increase take home pay through infrastructure investment, clean energy, scientific, and medical research..." (Ibid)

The Sanders campaign has posted a thirteen-point plan targeted to reduce income and wealth inequality.  Some of the highlights include: demanding that the wealthy and large corporations pay their equal share in taxes through a progressive estate tax on the 0.3 percent of Americans who inherit in excess of $3.5 million.  Increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2020.  Sign the Paycheck Fairness Act to ensure that women are paid the same wages as their male counterparts.  Make university and college tuition free throughout the United States.  Expand Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income over $250,000.  Guaranteeing healthcare for every citizen by expanding Medicare for all single-payer plans.  Requiring employers to provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.  Enacting universal childcare and pre-kindergarten programs. (http://www.berniesanders.com)

Gavel with American flag
 Racial Justice

It seems that in contemporary times, the phrase "equality before the law" is just mere words.  It sounds cynical but the sad fact is African-American are twice as likely to be incarcerated and four times as likely to be subject to use of force by law enforcement.  The Sanders campaign uses the term Racial Justice as a catch-all for what they have identified as "the five central types of violence waged against black, brown, and indigenous Americans: physical, police, legal, economic and environmental."  (Ibid)  Blogger would like to note that each of these categories might work as stand alone or as a subheading within other issues.

In addressing physical violence, Mr. Sanders also advocates the demilitarization of our police force, investment in community law enforcement, the gathering of data on police involved shootings, and federal funding for body cameras.  Political violence, according to the Sanders campaign, means the systemic disenfranchisement mostly minority men and women because they do not possess a valid identity card (driver's license or state id card), unnecessarily long waits to cast a votes, or loss of franchise because of prior felony conviction.  To address these issues, Mr. Sanders advocates: the re-enfranchisement of felons who have paid their debt to society, restore the "pre clearance" formula in the Voting Rights Act, and end the systematic purging of minority-community names from the voting. rolls.  The Legal Violence section makes similar points that the Clinton campaign makes regarding the likelihood of African-Americans being stopped by police and incarcerated.  The Sanders campaign pledges policy that is similar to the Clinton campaign: ending privatized prisons and reform mandatory minimum sentences.  The final two sections, Economic Environmental Violence   seem to repeat what was said in previous sections.

Melting globe
Photograph by GB Times
Combating Climate Change to Save the Planet

Despite what some may say, climate change is a very real and devastating problem.  We have already experienced the affects of climate change through more intense storms, droughts, and floods.  The Sanders campaign has laid a out five different policy initiative designed to tackle the growing crisis.  As president, Mr. Sanders has pledged the following: "Reclaim our democracy from the billionaire fossil fuel lobby.  Accelerate a just transition away from fossil fuels.  Invest in clean, sustainable energy.  Revolutionize our electric and transportation infrastructure.  Lead the international community to solve climate change and prevent international conflict."  (http://www.berniesanders.com)

Social Security card and American Passport
A Fair and Humane Immigration Policy

The United States of America is a nation of immigrants.  Mr. Sanders makes a proud point of being the son of an immigrant.  Yet, given the anti-immigrant rhetoric it seems that the United States has pulled up the welcome mat, locked the door, shut the windows, and turned out the lights.  Blogger firmly believes that there needs to be fair and just immigration reform.  Secretary Hillary Clinton has pledged to enact "comprehensive immigration reform to create a pathway to citizenship, help keep families together and close private immigrant detention centers." (http://www.hillaryclinton.com)  Ms. Clinton has also pledged to defend President Barack Obama's executive order delaying the deportation of DREAMers and the parents of Americans and lawful residents.

Of elected president, Mr. Sanders offers the following policy initiative: "Allow immigrants to purchase health coverage under the Affordable Care Act...Employ humanitarian parole to ensure the return of unjustly deported immigrants and unity of broken families...Issue whistleblower visas for workers who report abuse and employer violations...Regulate future flows via a reformed visa system and reworked trade agreements...Dismantle inhumane deportation programs and private detention centers"  (http://www.berniesanders.com)

"Health care reform?"
insurance marketplace.com

Medicare for All

Access to quality affordable health care is necessity for every person.  However, it seems like something simple like a wellness examination feels like a mission impossible for most Americans who do not have private or employer provided insurance.  As First Lady of the United States, Hillary Clinton championed health care reform and as President, she promises to continue and expand the Affordable Health Care.  Mr. Sanders pledges to implement a single-payer national health care plan.  The Sanders campaign offers a nine-point plan: "...ensure all Americans can access the health care they need regardless of their income...get our runaway health care spending under control by eliminating waste and focusing on our patients...streamline our health care system to provide the best health care to all patients..."  (http://www.berniesanders.com)

"Wall Street Reform First"
Reforming Wall Street

Reforming Wall Street, the American financial center, is a central theme in the Sanders campaign.  According to the campaign website, "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% of all mortgages.  They control 95% of all derivatives and hold more than 40% of all bank deposits in the United States."  (Ibid)

As president, Mr. Sanders pledges to implement a nine-point action plan to reform financial institutional practices, based on his prior initiative in Congress.  Among the highlights are : "Introduced the 'Too Big to Fail to Exist Act," which would break up the big banks and prohibit any too-big-to-fail institutions from accessing the Federal Reserves's discount facilities or using insured deposits for risky activities.  Led the fight in 1999 defending Glass-Steagall provisions which prevented banks...from gambling with customers' money...Supports capping credit card interest rates at 15%..." (Ibid)

These are just some of the highlights of the Bernie Sanders campaign.  Once again, Blogger refuses to make any final comment on the candidate until she is completely finished with the series.  Once again, Blogger's final opinion will be rendered in the voting booth.  Yours truly urges everyone to go to the candidates's website and study their positions.  To check out Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, please go to http://www.berniesanders.com.  Also, please make sure you check with your state's Secretary of State for information about the primary and general elections.  Next week, we cross the aisle to the Republicans.  

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