Breaking up Wall Street’s biggest banks and expanding social programs. Those are just two of the twelve steps of the Agenda for America laid out on March 9 by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), when he spoke at the National Press Club luncheon. Senator Sanders is longest-serving Independent Senator in office, and is considering a possible 2016 presidential run.
Sen. Sanders said that, while our economy has improved, we still have a major jobs and income inequality crisis in the U.S — and this is how he would fix that:
- Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure: Sanders recently introduced a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that would improve our roads, bridges, water plants, schools, etc. It is definitely a much-needed investment and would create and estimated 13 million jobs. The American Society of Civil Engineers has given the country a D+ grade because of our poorly kept infrastructure. They claim that we need to invest $3.3 trillion by 2020 to improve it and obviously Sanders’ bill would go a long way towards that.
- Raise the Minimum Wage: The $7.25 minimum wage is a “starvation wage” according to the Senator and it needs to be raised to $15/hr over a period of years. Sen. Sanders is echoing what Democrats have been saying for ages: no person in this country should live in poverty while they work 40 hours a week. It is completely unacceptable.
- Reversing Climate Change: The Senator said that despite what Republicans have to say, climate change is real and we should be working to reverse the effects we have on our environment. In order to do that we need to stop being dependant on fossil fuels and seek out sustainable energy sources.
- Pay Equity for Women Workers: Senator Sanders is calling for equal pay for equal work. It is unacceptable that the women in this country are making 78 percent of what our male counterparts make. It’s time for that to stop.
- Transform Our Trade Policies: In order to save the middle class of this country we need to force corporate America to invest in the United States instead of China and other countries. Sanders is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has said that current trade policies force American worker to compete against foreign workers overseas who are willing to work for pennies.
- Make College Affordable for All: Sanders said we need to “learn from the rest of the world” and invest in higher education. This is another point where Democrats and the Senator are on the same page; millions of people in this country are deeply in debt because they tried to better themselves (myself included). College tution has raised more than 500 percent in this country since 1985, that is shameful! It is disgraceful that so many people are either putting themselves into massive debt trying to better themselves or can’t afford to go to college at all. That needs to change.
- Take on Wall Street (Break Up the Big Banks): This is probably the most important of Sanders’ steps. He says,” You cannot regulate Wall Street, Wall street is regulating the Congress. The six largest financial institutions have assets of almost 60 percent of our GDP…..Break them up!” These are the same institutions that brought our country to its knees and Congress is still protecting them. In 2010 President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law to try to prevent another financial disaster from taking place and Republicans have been trying to destroy it. They are doing what they always do: protecting Wall Street and corporations at the expense of the American people. If this country is going to avoid another financial disaster, the too-big-to-fail banks are going to have to be broken apart.
- Health Care as a Right for All: Senator Sanders says the United States remains the only major world power without a national healthcare system. Republicans have fought tooth and nail to keep Americans from receiving healthcare. They act as if it is a privilege, but Sanders is with Democrats and believes it should be a right at birth.
- Expand Social Programs: “Some of my colleagues in congress, my Republican colleagues, are working day and night to try to cut Social Security, cut Medicare, cut Medicaid. Needless to say, I strongly disagree; we need to expand Social Security,” said Sanders. He thinks it is disgraceful that Republicans are trying so hard to cut social safety nets in this country when we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of all of the major world powers. We agree with the Senator. Republicans are constantly poor shaming and telling the poor to “pull up their bootstraps” while systematically working to keep these people poor by not raising the minimum wage, cutting programs to help them get a hand up, and forcing some into poverty by refusing them healthcare. It is completely asinine.
- Real Tax Reform: This is another great idea that Senator Sanders and Democrats agree on. One percent of our population is favored by our tax code. A tax code that is set up so that the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. When Warren Buffet’s secretary pays a higher tax rate than him, that is a problem. Bernie Sanders and President Obama along with Democrats want to eliminate the unfair tax-loopholes that benefit that one percent. They want to make sure that American workers take home more of their money and corporations pay their fair share.
Senator Sanders has great ideas and in many ways is on the same page as Democrats. We all agree that it is time that America work for all of us and not just the obscenely rich one percent. the only way this country will continue to succeed is if we get Republicans out of office and elect people who work for us, not against us.
Watch the Senator speak below:
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.