Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president, has surprised by closing the poll numbers between him and Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the nomination. His platform will rile lobbyists and businesses but intrigue the poor and working class people in America. It calls for:
- Investment in our crumbling infrastructure by rebuilding roads, bridges, water systems and public facilities.
- Transformation of fossil energy systems to alternate energy systems.
- Development of new economic models to support workers in the U.S. instead of giving tax breaks to corporations and sending jobs overseas.
- Making it easier for workers to join unions to bargain for higher wages and benefits.
- Increase of the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour so that a minimum wage worker will not will live in poverty.
- Equal pay for women workers who presently earn 78 percent of their male counterparts’ salary.
- Reform to U.S. trade policies that have sent 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs overseas.
- Making college affordable and providing affordable child care to restore America’s competitive edge.
- Breaking up big banks. The assets of the six largest banks equal 61 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (over $9.8 trillion); they underwrite over half the mortgages in the country and issue over two-thirds of all credit cards.
- A Medicare-for-all health care system that provides better care at less cost.
- Expansion of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs.
- Reform to the tax code based on wage earners’ ability to pay with elimination of loopholes that let profitable corporations stash profits overseas and pay no U.S. federal income taxes.
This agenda contains a message of hope to working families and poor people in America. It is anathema for our billionaires and corporations who avoid payment of a fair share of taxes. However, the call for expanded healthcare for every citizen merely follows up on President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. A program for “green” energy is dependent on the price of oil. A drop in oil prices has made wind and solar initiatives seem less viable.
In 2004, another political leader from Vermont decided to run for president. After a slow start, Howard Dean attracted national attention and his campaign gained steam while the media hailed him as a viable contender for the nomination. In the end, Dean faltered and the luster that every new thing possesses wore off. John Kerry eventually won the nomination after the excitement of early poll surges faded.
It will be the same with Senator Sanders. However, his message to consider the needs of the people for schools, roads and bridges, and decent jobs and livable pay is one that all candidates must incorporate into their platform.
In Albany, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order allowing Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to step in as a special prosecutor in cases where police kill an unarmed civilian.
New York City appropriated $8.1 million for legal services for illegal immigrants accused of crimes. New York City will also commit $17. 8 million to assure that defendants do not remain in jail awaiting trial unnecessarily. The money will be used to improve the risk assessment protocol associated with the bail process. It will also fund an alternative to bail that places defendant in supervised release programs.
Peter Zimroth, the federal monitor appointed to oversee the reform of the NYPD stop-and-frisk policy, reported that the 685,724 stops in 2011 dropped to 46,235 in 2014. He reported that some police officers “may be declining to make lawful appropriate stops because of … uncertainties [about official policy].”
Mayor de Blasio finally approved the hiring of more police officers but needs to make sure that the police are trained and supported to make lawful and appropriate stops. A clear and lawful policy to make warrantless stops of citizens already exists under the law. We need better training and supervision of officers but the issue has already been resolved.
Hillary Clinton revealed details of her economic policies which include higher taxes on the wealthy, spending cuts and better collection of tax by closing loopholes. Clinton has proposed an expansion of Washington’s involvement in programs from universal pre-K (to include every four-year-old) to increased Alzheimer’s research.
The most ambitious ideas include pre-K expansion, expanded access to child care, paid sick and family leave days for works, help to reduce student loan debt for students, a higher minimum wage, company profit-sharing for employees, legal protections for illegal immigrants and increased financing for medical research.
The voters will like the promise of action but the hard part will be finding a way to pay for the plans. Our government should be a force for change but the change must benefit all Americans, including the ones who need help the most.
In Vienna, at talks to produce an agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program in return withdrawal of economic sanctions, Iran accused the U.S. and Western powers of creating new “red lines” at the bargaining table. The Iranians call demands for safeguards from the West “excessive.”
The U.S. should end the negotiations. Secretary of State Kerry told reporters, “If the tough decisions don’t get made, we are absolutely prepared to call an end to this.” A senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader called those remarks “part of America’s psychological warfare against Iran.”
Meanwhile, millions of Iranians rallied nationwide to chant “Death to Israel” and Down with the U. S. (Great Satan)” on the last Friday of Ramadan called “Quds Day”. We can never trust such a nation to use a nuclear capability peacefully.