Bernard “Bernie” Sanders (born Sept. 8, 1941, in Brooklyn), a Democrat, is the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont. A Democrat as of last year, he had been the longest-serving independent in U.S. Congressional history.
Sanders graduated from the University of Chicago in 1964. While a student, Sanders was a member of the Young People’s Socialist League and a civil rights protest organizer. In 1963, he participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.
As an independent, he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont’s most populous city, in 1981. He was re-elected three times. In 1990, he was elected to represent Vermont’s at-large congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He served as a congressman for 16 years before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006.
Today, we live in the richest country in the history of the world, but much of that wealth is controlled by a tiny handful of individuals. The top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.
As President, Sanders will reduce income and wealth inequality by:
- Demanding that the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes. As President, Sen. Sanders will stop corporations from shifting their profits and jobs overseas to avoid paying U.S. income taxes. He will create a progressive estate tax on the top 0.3 percent of Americans who inherit more than $3.5 million. He also will enact a tax on Wall Street speculators who caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, homes and life savings.
- Increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2020. No one who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty.
- Putting at least 13 million Americans to work by investing $1 trillion over five years toward rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, railways, airports, public transit systems, ports, dams, wastewater plants and other infrastructure needs.
- Reversing trade policies like NAFTA, CAFTA and PNTR with China. If corporate America wants us to buy their products, they need to manufacture those products in this country.
- Creating 1 million jobs for disadvantaged young Americans by investing $5.5 billion in a youth jobs program. Today, the youth unemployment rate is off the charts.
- Fighting for pay equity by signing the Paycheck Fairness Act into law. Women earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.
- Making tuition free at public colleges and universities throughout America. Everyone in this country who studies hard should be able to go to college regardless of income.
- Expanding Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income above $250,000.
- Guaranteeing health care as a right of citizenship by enacting a Medicare for all single-payer health care systems.
- Requiring employers to provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave; two weeks of paid vacation; and seven days of paid sick days.
- Enacting a universal child care and pre-kindergarten program. Every family in America should have the opportunity to send their children to a high-quality child care and pre-K program.
- Making it easier for workers to join unions by fighting for the Employee Free Choice Act.
- Breaking up huge financial institutions so that they are no longer too big to fail. Sen. Sanders has introduced legislation to break these banks up. As president, he will fight to sign this legislation into law.
Make tuition free at public colleges and universities. This is not a radical idea. Last year, Germany eliminated tuition because it believed that charging students $1,300 per year was discouraging Germans from going to college. Next year, Chile will do the same. Finland, Norway, Sweden and many other countries around the world also offer free college to all of their citizens. If other countries can take this action, so can the United States.
Stop the federal government from making a profit on student loans. Over the next decade, it has been estimated that the federal government will make a profit of more than $110 billion on student loan programs. As President, Sen. Sanders will use this money instead to significantly lower student loan interest rates.
Substantially cut student loan interest rates. Under the Sanders plan, the formula for setting student loan interest rates would return to where it was in 2006. If this plan were in effect today, interest rates on undergraduate loans would drop from 4.29% to 2.37%.
Allow Americans to refinance student loans at today’s low interest rates. It makes no sense that you can get an auto loan today with an interest rate of 2.5%, but college graduates are forced to pay interest rates of 5-7% or more for decades.
Allow students to use need-based financial aid and work-study programs to make college debt free. The Sanders plan would require public colleges and universities to meet 100% of the financial needs of the lowest-income students. Low-income students would be able to use federal, state and college financial aid to cover room and board, books and living expenses. And Sanders would more than triple the federal work-study program to build career experience.
Impose a tax on Wall Street speculators. The cost of this $75 billion a year plan is fully paid for by imposing a tax of a fraction of a percent on Wall Street speculators who nearly destroyed the economy seven years ago.
As President, Sanders will:
- Ban fossil fuels lobbyists from working in the White House.
- End subsidies that benefit fossil fuel companies.
- Create a national environmental and climate justice plan that recognizes the health risks faced by low-income and minority communities.
- Bring climate deniers to justice. Sanders recently called for the Department of Justice to investigate Exxon Mobil, which may have not only known about the dangers of climate change, but has spent millions of dollars to spread doubt about the causes and impacts of burning fossil fuels.
- Fight to overturn Citizens United. In a 5-4 decision in 2010, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for corporations and the super wealthy to spend unlimited and undisclosed money to buy our elected officials. The Supreme Court essentially declared that corporations, including fossil fuel corporations, have the same rights as natural-born human beings. This decision has enabled billionaires and special interests to increasingly control the political campaign finance system.
Through legislation and executive action, Sen. Sanders will implement an immigration policy that will:
- Dismantle deportation programs and detention centers.
- Pave the way for a legislative road map to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants.
- Ensure our border remains secure while respecting local communities.
- Regulate the future flow of immigrants by modernizing the visa system and rewriting bad trade agreements.
- Enhance access to justice and reverse the criminalization of immigrants.
- Establish parameters for independent oversight of key U.S. Department of Homeland Security agencies.
- We must demilitarize our police forces so they don’t look and act like invading armies.
- We must invest in community policing. Among other things, that means increasing civilian oversight of police departments.
- We must create a police culture that allows for good officers to report the actions of bad officers without fear of retaliation and allows for a department to follow through on such reports.
- We need police forces that reflect the diversity of our communities, including in the training academies and leadership.
- At the federal level, we need to establish a new police training program that re-orients the way we do law enforcement in this country. With input from a broad segment of the community, including activists and leaders from civil rights organizations, we will re-invent how we police America.
- We need to federally fund and require body cameras for law enforcement officers to make it easier to hold them accountable.
- We need to require police departments and states to collect data on all police shootings and deaths that take place while in police custody and make that data public.
- We need new rules on the allowable use of force. Police officers need to be trained to de-escalate confrontations and to humanely interact with people who have mental illnesses.
- States and localities that make progress in this area should get more federal justice grant money. Those that do not should get their funding slashed.
- We need to make sure federal resources are there to crack down on the illegal activities of hate groups.
As President, Sen. Sanders will:
- Sign into law the Equality Act, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act and any other bill that prohibits discrimination of LGBT people.
- Work with HHS to ensure LGBT Americans have access to health insurance that provides appropriate coverage and do not have to fear discrimination or mistreatment from providers.
- Continue the work of the State Department’s Special Envoy for LGBT Rights and ensure the United States helps protect the rights of LGBT people around the world.
- Advance policies to ensure students can attend school without fear of bullying, and work to reduce suicides.
- Require police departments to adopt policies to ensure fairer interactions with transgender people, especially transgender women of color, and institute training programs to promote compliance with fair policies.
- Bar discrimination of LGBT people by creditors and banks.
- Veto any legislation that purports to protect religious liberty at the expense of others’ rights.
Prescription drug prices
- Negotiate a better deal.
- Require Medicare to use its bargaining power to negotiate with the prescription drug companies for better prices – a practice that is currently banned by law. Last year there were more than 37 million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in private Part D plans. 90 percent of seniors take at least one prescription.
- Not only would negotiation substantially reduce prices seniors and people with disabilities pay for drugs, it could save Medicare between $230 billion and $541 billion over the next decade.
- 83 percent of Americans support allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies for better prices.
- Import prescriptions from Canada.
- Allow individuals, pharmacists and wholesalers to import prescription drugs from licensed Canadian pharmacies. The United States spends more than $1,000 per person per year on prescription drugs – that’s nearly 40 percent more than Canada, the next highest spender. In 1999, Sanders became the first member of Congress to take a busload of Americans across the border into Canada to purchase prescription drugs.
- 72 percent of Americans support this policy of allowing Americans to import prescription drugs from Canada.
- Prohibit the United States from agreeing to provisions in international trade deals that would raise drug prices in the United States or extend the monopoly period when a brand-name drug company has no generic competition.
- Suspend the government’s authority to destroy packages of imported drugs at the border until legislation is passed ensuring that Americans can import safe and affordable drugs from Canada.
- Restore discounts for low-income seniors.
- Close the Medicare Part D donut hole for brand and generic drugs by 2017, three years earlier than under current law. The “donut hole” is a coverage gap wherein seniors and people with disabilities pay for their medications even while they are paying monthly premiums.
- Require generic drug companies to pay a rebate to Medicaid if their drug prices rise faster than inflation.
- Brand-name drug makers have to pay a rebate to Medicaid if their drug prices rise faster than inflation. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this policy will save the federal government $1 billion over 10 years.
- Restore Medicare prescription drug discounts for low-income seniors and people with disabilities.
- Ten years ago, prescription drug coverage for low-income seniors and people with disabilities was moved from Medicaid to Medicare. Because Medicaid gets a much better price for prescription drugs than private Medicare Part D plans, this policy change meant that drug companies would gain large profits at taxpayers’ expense. The Sanders plan will restore these rebates for low-income seniors, saving $103 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
- Prohibit deals that keep generic drugs off the market.
- Prohibit “pay-for-delay” deals between brand and generic drug makers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, these deals cost consumers and taxpayers at least $3.5 billion in higher drug costs every year.
- Enact stronger penalties for fraud.
- Terminate exclusivity — a government-awarded monopoly period — from a drug company convicted of fraud. Nearly every major pharmaceutical company has been convicted of civil or criminal fraud for violations including off-label promotion, kickbacks, anti-monopoly practices or Medicare fraud. Even though the Justice Department has won suits requiring companies to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, the prescription drug companies simply treat those fines as a cost of doing business.
- Require pricing and cost transparency.
- Require drug companies to publicly report information that affects drug pricing. Companies frequently distort the true cost of drug research and development. Under the Sanders plan, drug makers would be required to report certain price information to the federal government and the public on their products, including the total expenditures on research and development and clinical trials, as well as the portion of their drug development expenses offset by tax credits or paid for by federal grants.
- Companies also would be required to submit price, profit and sales information in other countries in which the drug is sold.
Reform Wall Street
- Introduced the “Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act,” which would break up big banks and prohibit any too-big-to-fail institutions from accessing the Federal Reserve’s discount facilities or using insured deposits for risky activities.
- Led the fight in 1999 defending Glass-Steagall provisions which prevented banks (especially “too big to fail” ones) from gambling with customers’ money, and currently is a co-sponsor of the Elizabeth Warren/John McCain bill to reinstate those provisions.
- Has proposed a financial transaction tax which would reduce risky and unproductive high-speed trading and other forms of Wall Street speculation; proceeds would be used to provide debt-free public college education.
- Is co-sponsoring Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s bill to end Wall Street’s practice of paying big bonuses to bank executives who take senior-level government jobs.
- Supports capping credit card interest rates at 15%.
- Sponsored an amendment calling for an audit of the Federal Reserve. The audit found that far more had been spent in the Wall Street bailout than previously disclosed, and that considerable funds had been spent to bail out foreign corporations.
War and peace
- Move away from a policy of unilateral military action, instead emphasizing diplomacy and ensuring the decision to go to war is a last resort.
- Ensure that any military action we do engage in has clear goals, is limited in scope and whenever possible provides support to our allies in the region.
- Close Guantanamo Bay, rein in the National Security Agency and abolish the use of torture..
- Promote fair trade, address global climate change, provide humanitarian relief and economic assistance, defend the rule of law and promote human rights worldwide.
Thursday: Rick Santorum