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On his weekly appearance on the Thom Hartmann program, in a segment called "Brunch with Bernie," Sen. Sanders (I-Vermont) - in response to two callers to the radio show - called for a Democratic presidential primary opponent to Barack Obama.

During the July 22 broadcast, Sanders accused President Obama of reneging on his promise to protect Social Security and Medicare, and said that the president has moved far to the right.  However, Sanders warned that "despair is not an option."

Sanders ignited Twitter when he suggested that it would be a good thing if Obama faced a primary challenge to a caller who wanted the senator to run for president.  Sanders told a second caller that "one of the reasons that President Obama has moved as far to the right as he has is that he thinks that he can go all the way and no one will stand up to him."

Although some of the twitter reaction indicated that some listeners thought that Sanders had indicated that he was considering running in a primary, on Friday a senior staff member from his office firmly denied it in a call with BuzzFlash.  The senior staffer indicated that that Sanders may have "inartfully" phrased a response when he said that "I am now giving thought to it." Indeed, listening closely to the interview, it appears Sanders was responding to encouraging a progressive to run, not declaring his personal intention to enter the primaries.

Senator Sanders, a favorite of economic and social progressives who believe that the distribution of wealth in America has become lopsided, is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

Disclosure: BuzzFlash has used first the congressional office of Senator Sanders and then his senatorial office as a resource since the founding of BuzzFlash in May of 2000. He is a regular BuzzFlash reader. Thom Hartmann has also been a colleague and friend for many years.

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Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) republidated the rumored details of the US Senate "Gang of Six" :

“While all of the details from the so-called Gang of Six proposals are not yet clear, what is apparent is that the plan would result in devastating cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and many other programs that are of vital importance to working families in this country. Meanwhile, tax rates would be lowered for the wealthiest people and the largest, most profitable corporations.


“This is an approach that should be rejected by the American people.  At a time when the rich are becoming richer and corporate profits are soaring, at least half of any deficit-reduction package must come from upper income people and profitable corporations.  We must also take a hard look at military spending, which has tripled since 1997.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today congratulated Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) on their very significant victory in negotiating a deficit-reduction plan which achieves their long-term goal of dismantling every major social program relevant to working families.

The so-called Gang of Six plan that the Republican senators negotiated calls for massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and virtually every program important to working families, the sick, the elderly, the children and the poor. The package also would hurt American workers by giving U.S. companies more incentives to avoid U.S. taxes by shipping jobs to low-tax countries.

"While I am sure that they did not get everything that they wanted, I think it's fair to say they won about 80 percent to 90 percent of what they fought for," Sanders said. "Despite President Obama's campaign promise not to cut Social Security benefits, the Gang of Six plan, which he apparently embraced, calls for massive cuts in that vitally important program."

Under the Social Security proposal, a new formula for calculating cost-of-living adjustments would cut a typical 75-year-old's yearly benefits in 10 years by $560. The average 85-year-old would see a $1,000 a year cut in 20 years. Furthermore, the proposal demands that Social Security be solvent for a 75-year period, which could include additional cuts. The proposal also cuts Medicare by $298 billion over 10 years and makes massive cuts to Medicaid.

While the spending cuts for programs that working people desperately depend upon are enforced by specific spending caps, there is no such enforcement or clarity regarding the $1.1 trillion to be raised in revenue over 10 years.

"What happens if that revenue target is not reached? There is no language that deals with that. Where does the revenue come from? That very important issue is kicked to the tax writing committees with no guarantee that hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue will not come from the pockets of low- and moderate-income Americans," Sanders said. "While nobody knows for certain what provisions might be adopted, there is reason to expect that some of the areas that the House and Senate will be looking at include the home mortgage deduction for middle-class families, taxes on health care benefits, and increased taxes on retirement programs such as 401(k)s and IRAs. In other words, while there is a reasonable degree of specificity in terms of cuts there is only vagueness in terms of revenue."

Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, has advocated an approach to deficit reduction that matches increased revenue with spending reductions. "At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are becoming wealthier and are paying the lowest effective tax rates in modern history, when corporations are making billions of dollars and making nothing in taxes at all, Sanders said at least half of a deficit reduction package should come from ending tax breaks and tax loopholes for the wealthy and large corporations. With military spending having nearly tripled since 1997, we must take a hard look at cutting unnecessary and outdated military programs," he said.

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Friday, 08 July 2011 03:01

Sanders Says Hands Off Social Security

The following is a news release from the office of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).

Washington - As Social Security emerged as a target in White House budget negotiations, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) insisted that the retirement program must not be cut as part of any deficit reduction deal.

Social Security, which had been off the table in the deficit talks, reportedly reemerged as President Obama met with congressional leaders.

"Let us be clear," Sanders said. "Social Security has not contributed one nickel to our deficit or our national debt. Social Security is funded by the payroll tax, not the U.S. treasury." The program that benefits more than 50 million seniors and disabled has a $2.6 trillion surplus, he stressed, and will be able to provide full benefits for every eligible American for the next 25 years.

"I am especially disturbed that the president is considering cuts in Social Security after he campaigned against cuts in 2008," Sanders added. Obama made his position clear on Sept. 6, 2008, when he said: "John McCain's campaign has suggested that the best answer for the growing pressures on Social Security might be to cut cost of living adjustments or raise the retirement age. Let me be clear: I will not do either," Obama said. "The American people expect the president to keep his word," Sanders said.

According to a coalition of seniors groups, Social Security Works, a change in the way Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are calculated would cost seniors hundreds of dollars a year in benefits. The Congressional Budget Office estimates adoption of the so-called "Chained-CPI," which would be used to determine Social Security's annual COLA, would cut benefits by $112 billion over 10 years. The Social Security Administration chief actuary estimates the effects of this change would be that beneficiaries who retire at age 65 and receive average benefits would get $560 less a year at age 75 than they would under current law and get $1,000 less a year at age 85 - a 3.7 percent cut and a 6.5 percent cut, respectively. The proposal would cut $1.6 trillion over Social Security's 75-year valuation period - mainly from the oldest of the old, primarily women and those who are disproportionately poor.

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The following is a news release from the office of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders:

WASHINGTON, June 21 - More than 5 million American seniors face the threat of hunger and 1 million a year go hungry, according to a report released today by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at a hearing of a Senate panel he chairs.

Poor nutrition can cause chronic diseases that require costly hospital or nursing home care, according to the report released at a meeting of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging.

"Investing in senior nutrition and in well-designed senior programs in general saves money for the government because when we do that we keep people out of emergency rooms, nursing homes and the hospital.  The result is substantial savings for government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid," said Sanders, the subcommittee chairman.

The average cost of a meal delivered to a senior's home is about $5.  A one-day hospital stay typically costs about $1,800. The cost of a year in a nursing home is $77,000.  Clearly, an up-front investment in programs like Meals On Wheels and community meals at senior centers is a more common-sense approach to our budget crisis, Sanders said.

Since the recession began in 2008, agencies on aging across the country have experienced increased demand for meals programs, according to a Government Accountability Office study cited in the report. "As gasoline, home heating fuel and food prices continue to rise, we see many of the seniors we work with being forced to choose between paying for food, fuel, rent or prescription medicines," Ken Gordon, executive director of the Northeastern Vermont Area Agency on Aging, told the subcommittee.

Half of all diseases affecting older Americans are directly connected to inadequate nutrition. "For older Americans especially, hunger and malnutrition can completely undo any investments or advances we might make in better access to health care," according to Dr. Mark Lachs of Cornell University. "I have seen it over and over again-easily treatable illnesses that could have been quickly and inexpensively handled at home, instead evolved into costly episodes of disability that at best led to costly hospitalization and at worst to indefinite nursing home residence.  Who pays for that care?  We all do."

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The following is a June 15th news release from the office of Senator Bernie Sanders:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today introduced legislation to make federal commodity regulators halt excessive oil speculation that has driven up gasoline prices.

A provision in last year's Wall Street reform law required federal regulators to clamp down on speculators, but the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has refused to do so.  Partly as a result of the failure to enforce the law, the national average price for a gallon of gasoline today is $3.69 a gallon, although supplies are greater and demand lower than two years ago when prices averaged about $2.44 a gallon.

"We have a responsibility to do everything we can to lower gas prices so that they reflect the fundamentals of supply and demand and bring needed relief to the American people," Sanders said.

When speculators push up oil prices "guess who suffers, it's the rest of us," said   Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), an original cosponsor of the bill who joined Sanders at a Capitol press conference. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), another cosponsor, called gas prices "absolutely crushing" for American families and the economy. Other cosponsors include Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce a companion measure in the House. His cosponsors include Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). "Once again, the economic well-being of middle-class families is being put at risk by Wall Street," said Hinchey. "The price of gasoline has spiked up due to record speculation, and small businesses and working people are paying the price. This legislation would immediately implement new rules to ensure the price of fuel is based on supply and demand - not the whims of greedy speculators." Added Welch, "Speculation is driving up gas prices, causing hardship for Vermonters and threatening the economic recovery. With consumers paying a speculative premium of 60 to 70 cents a gallon, we need to shut down casino-style gambling in the markets."

The bills would force the chairman of the commission that regulates commodity markets to establish strong position limits to eliminate

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A press release from the office of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont):

Washington - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) introduced a bill that would lower the cost of solar power and put the United States on track to install 10 million solar systems on homes and businesses by 2020.

Sanders and Boozman are the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Green Jobs and New Economy Subcommittee. They were joined in introducing the solar legislation by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"This legislation will make it more affordable for families and businesses to install solar, by helping communities reduce the costs associated with solar energy permitting," Sanderssaid. "As we lower the cost of solar energy and increase our use of solar, we can create hundreds of thousands of good-paying manufacturing and installation jobs in this country. This bill also sets strong targets for American solar energy production, to ensure we compete vigorously with China and Europe for solar energy jobs."

Boozman said the goal is to reduce unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles to American-made solar energy. "Our country benefits by using our domestic energy resources, including the expanded use of renewables, such as solar and wind energy.  A simplified permitting process will make solar energy more affordable.  I am especially pleased that our bill is fully offset and uses existing authorized spending to spur improvements in solar permitting and encourage the deployment of solar energy systems."

The 10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2011 would establish a goal of powering 10 million homes and businesses with solar energy by 2020. The measure also would incorporate a Department of Energy initiative called SunShot to make solar more competitive with conventional energy technologies. The bill would provide grants to communities to help them make their solar energy permitting process less costly and more efficient, and would recognize and reward communities that have adopted common policies on solar permits.

A solar industry report said obstacles to acquiring local permits add up to $2,500 to the cost of a typical residential solar installation. The Department of Energy also identified local permitting costs as an obstacle to further lowering solar energy costs that declined by 60 percent since 1995.

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Following on the passage of a single-payer healthcare system in Vermont (awaiting the governor's signature), Bernie Sanders and Jim McDermott issued a news release announcing their Medicare-for-All bill:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced today that he introduced legislation to provide health care for every American through a Medicare-for-all type single-payer system.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) filed a companion bill in the House to provide better care for more patients at less cost by eliminating the middle-man role played by private insurance companies that rake off billions of dollars in profits.

The twin measures, both called the American Health Security Act of 2011, would provide federal guidelines and strong minimum standards for states to administer single-payer health care programs.

"The United States is the only major nation in the industrialized world that does not guarantee health care as right to its people," Sanders said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "Meanwhile, we spend about twice as much per capita on health care with worse results than others that spend far less. It is time that we bring about a fundamental transformation of the American health care system. It is time for us to end private, for-profit participation in delivering basic coverage. It is time for the United States to provide a Medicare-for-all single-payer health coverage program."

McDermott said, "The new health care law made big progress towards covering many more people and finding ways to lower cost. However, I think the best way to reduce costs and guarantee coverage for all is through a Single-payer system like Medicare. This bill does just that - it builds on the new health care law by giving states the flexibility they need to go to a single-payer system of their own. It will also reduce costs, and Americans will be healthier."

Sanders and McDermott were joined at the press conference by leaders of organizations supporting the measure, including Arlene Baker-Holt, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO; Jean Ross, co-president of the National Nurses United; and Greg Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

While making the case for a single-payer system nationwide, Sanders applauded the Vermont Legislature which earlier this month voted to put the state on the path toward a single-payer system. Vermont, Sanders said, could become a model for the nation.

Last year's health reform law is projected to cover 32 million more Americans. Despite that important step forward, however, 23 million people living in the United States will remain uninsured by the end of this decade while health care costs continue to skyrocket. Some 60 million Americans, both insured and uninsured, have inadequate access to primary care due to a shortage of physicians and other like providers in their community.

Under the current health care system, 45,000 Americans a year die because they delay seeking care they cannot afford.  Health care eats up one-fifth of the U.S. economy, but we rank 26th among major, developed nations on life expectancy and 31st on infant mortality.

Drug companies charge Americans twice as much or more for the exact same drugs manufactured by the exact same companies than citizens of Canada or Europe. Some insurers that gouge policy holders spend 40 cents of every premium dollar on administration and profits while lavishing multimillion dollar payouts on their CEOs.

"This is unacceptable," Sanders said. "Until we put patients over profits, our system will not work for ordinary Americans."

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The following April 26 news release is from the office of Sen. Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont):

A study requested by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) found numerous instances during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 when banks took near zero-interest funds from the Federal Reserve and then loaned money back to the federal government on sweetheart terms for the banks.

The banks pocketed interest on government securities that paid rates up to 12 times greater than the Fed's rock bottom interest charges, according to a Congressional Research Service analysis conducted for Sanders.

"This report confirms that ultra-low interest loans provided by the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis turned out to be direct corporate welfare to big banks," Sanders said. "Instead of using the Fed loans to reinvest in the economy, some of the largest financial institutions in this country appear to have lent this money back to the federal government at a higher rate of interest by purchasing U.S. government securities."

The Federal Reserve claimed at the time that the emergency loans were needed so banks could provide credit to small- and medium-sized businesses that desperately needed money to create jobs or to prevent layoffs.  "Instead of using this money to reinvest in the productive economy, however, it appears that JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America used a large portion of these near-zero-interest loans to buy U.S. government securities and earn a higher interest rate at the same time, providing free money to some of the largest financial institutions in this country," Sanders said.

The Fed transactions during the financial crisis were detailed in documents that the central bank was forced to disclose last Dec. 1 to comply with a Sanders provision in the Wall Street reform law. Sanders subsequently asked the Congressional Research Service to compare the emergency Fed loans with investments in government securities by the nation's six largest bank holding companies. The study found, for example, that:

  • In the 1st quarter of 2008, JPMorgan Chase had an average of $1.2 billion in outstanding Fed loans with a 2.1 percent interest rate while it held $2.2 billion in U.S. government securities with an average yield of 4.6 percent.
  • In the 4th quarter of 2008, JPMorgan Chase had an average of $10.1 billion in outstanding Fed loans with a 0.6 percent interest rate while it held $10.3 billion in U.S. government securities with an average yield of 1.7 percent.
  • In the 1st quarter of 2009, JPMorgan Chase had an average of $29.2 billion in outstanding Fed loans with a 0.3 percent interest rate and held $34.6 billion in U.S. government securities with an average yield of 2.1 percent.
  • In the 2nd quarter of 2009, JPMorgan Chase had an average of $7.6 billion in outstanding Fed loans with an interest rate of 0.25 percent interest. Meanwhile, it held $34.6 billion in U.S. government securities with an average yield of 2.3 percent.
  • In the 1st quarter of 2008, Citigroup received over $5.2 billion in Fed loans with a 3.3 percent interest rate and held $7.9 billion in U.S. Treasury Securities with an average yield of 4.4 percent.
  • In the 4th quarter of 2008, Citigroup received $15.8 billion in Fed loans through the Fed's Primary Dealer Credit Facility with a 1.2 percent interest rate; $11.6 billion in Term Auction Facility loans with a 1.1 percent interest rate; and $4.9 billion in Commercial Paper Funding Facility loans with a 2.7 percent interest rate. It simultaneously held $24 billion in U.S. government securities with an average yield of 3.1 percent.
  • In the 1st quarter of 2009, Citigroup received over $12.1 billion in Fed loans with an interest rate of 0.5 percent while holding $14.3 billion in U.S. government securities with an average yield of 3.9 percent.
  • In the 2nd quarter of 2009, Citigroup received over $23 billion in Fed loans with an interest rate of 0.5 percent while holding $24.3 billion in U.S. government securities with an average yield of 2.3 percent.
  • In the 3rd quarter of 2009, Bank of America had an average of $2.9 billion in outstanding Fed loans with an interest rate of 0.25 percent while purchasing $23.5 billion in Treasury Securities with an average yield of 3.2 percent.

Another Sanders provision in the financial reform law required the Government Accountability Office to audit the Fed's activities during the financial crisis. Sanders asked the non-partisan research arm of Congress to examine in greater detail the sorts of transactions that the Congressional Research Service highlighted. "I hope the GAO will closely investigate this issue as part of the top-to-bottom audit that I included in the Wall Street reform bill last year," the senator said.

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The following is a news release from the office of Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont):

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that new national surveys show that Congress is "way out of touch with the American people" on how to reduce deficits.

"At a time when not a single Republican in Congress is prepared to ask the wealthiest people in this country to pay a little more to help bring down deficits, an overwhelming majority of Americans see things differently," Sanders said.

According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 72 percent of Americans support raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 - including 91 percent of Democrats; 68 percent of independents; and 54 percent of Republicans.  A separate McClatchy-Marist poll on how to tackle the deficit found similar results. Voters by a margin of 2-to-1 support raising taxes on incomes above $250,000, with 64 percent in favor and 33 percent opposed.

"The American people are clear. They do not want to savage Medicare and Medicaid while giving even more tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, yet the Republicans have proposed exactly that," Sanders said. "Republicans and too many Democrats in Congress are listening to campaign contributors and lobbyists while the American people want something entirely different."

Sanders has scheduled a series of town meetings next week in Vermont that will focus on the impact of a budget approved last Friday by the House that would dismantle Medicare and Medicaid, slash other programs and give away another $1 trillion in tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and profitable corporations.

The Washington Post and ABC News survey found that Americans prefer to keep Medicare the way it is and oppose cuts in Medicaid. More than half say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases while calls to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoyed solid support.

Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, has proposed legislation to impose a 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires that would raise up to $50 billion a year in new revenue. He also has called for eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies and loopholes that corporations use to shelter income overseas.

"While we have to move toward a balanced budget, we have to do it in a responsible way," Sanders said. "We need shared sacrifice, not just cuts that balance the budget on the backs of the sick, children, the poor and the elderly."

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We first came across the "mail panties to John Boehner until he cries and stops trying to defund Planned Parenthood" campaign when we saw this entry on Facebook:

Mail a Million Panties to John Boehner for Women's Reproductive Rights is going viral. Check it out on Facebook. I bought undies today and mailed them. They are white with BLACK hearts. Men can send underwear, too. They must be clean.This is a "mass piece of performance art" according to the site. Speaker of the House, John Boehner, H-232 The Capitol, Washington DC 20515

Then we found this article about the origin of the campaign on MyNorthwest.com. It attributes the idea to New Orleans artist Linda Morgan Smith, who explained:

"Mail your panties, jock-straps or boxers to Congress to show that we will not have the Tea Party fanatics take away our reproductive rights or any rights for that matter, underwear not not only represents our sexuality but the fact they can kiss our collective a--es."

"I just wanted to do something to get attention that had some humor and a way for women to take some action. What better way than to mail your panties? Boehner being kind of the anti-Elvis. You know how women used to throw their panties as an act of desire now its an act of protest and rebellion," she says in e-mail explaining why she started this. "These men are not going to push us around. So I thought this might embarrass them since they take themselves so seriously. I consider this a mass piece of performance art. I hope people will follow through."

There hasn't been a lot of press about Smith's idea, but it does have its own Facebook Page, which you can go to by clicking here.

On the Facebook site, "Mail a Million Panties to John Boehner," is this warning: "Please note, you must send only clean panties through the US mail, you can be prosecuted for sending dirty underwear! you cannot do it!"

We don't want anyone to end up in jail.  It might make John Boehner cry some more.

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