Saturday, November 5, 2016

An appeal to every young person who says they won't vote in this election



POLITICS SUCKS.  So do politicians.  But even though your vote next Tuesday won't improve politics, it will actually mean something this year, because ...

POLICIES MATTER.  Policies transform our lives, for better or for worse.  And these 3 particular policies, which will impact the rest of your life, are going to be decided in next Tuesday's election:

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE:
The Democrats want to raise the Federal minimum wage to somewhere between $12 and $15 an hour.  Right now it is at $7.25 an hour.  For a full time job, that means anywhere from an extra $190.00 to $310.00 per week.  Even in those few states which now have a minimum wage of $9 or $10 an hour, workers will take home an extra $80.00 to $240.00 a week.  That's serious money, and because virtually all of it gets spent, it boosts the economy even further, requiring more hiring to keep up with increased sales of goods and services.

By comparison, Republicans oppose the minimum wage and believe that employers should be allowed to set wages at whatever rate the market will bear. 

AFFORDABLE COLLEGE EDUCATION:
It takes a college education to land the highest-paying and most satisfying jobs.  But a college education costs almost as much as a house these days, which is why Democrats are proposing to do 2 things:

1) Make college debt-free by providing every student with the ability to get, at a minimum, free tuition at Community Colleges; and also to provide a tuition-free State College option for families who earn less than $125,000 annually.

2) allow the 25 million graduates who already have outstanding college loans to refinance them at lower rates, the same way homeowners can refinance their homes in order to save money

GLOBAL WARMING:
If you are under the age of 40, (which may explain why Republicans deny it even exists), this will be the issue of your lifetime.  What good is a higher wage and a better education if in the near future, the planet is inhospitable to human habitation?  It's not selfish to want breathable air and drinkable water.  And besides lowering our costs and reducing our impact upon the planet, renewable energy is really cool!  And it's an industry that will continue to innovate and create high-paying jobs well into the future.

While there are many other issues which will be affected by the outcome of this election, there are none that will affect your lives more than the 3 above.  If for no other reason, that's why you should vote next Tuesday.  Not because I asked, but because your future depends upon whose policies our country follows.

POLICIES MATTER.  So does your future.

Note:  Presidents can't make policy on their own.  They need the cooperation of the House of Representatives and the Senate in order make changes.  Your vote matters there, too.



Monday, October 31, 2016

To My Progressive-Minded Friends Who are Planning to Vote 3rd Party

If Donald Trump becomes our next President, tens of millions of Americans you care about are going to get hurt, some of them badly and in ways from which they will never fully recover. 

     -- Immigrants, who will constantly be required to prove they belong, yet never treated as if they do

     -- People of color, whose skin will make them targets for those who believe their race or ethnicity makes them inferior and not true Americans

     -- The GLBT community, who will face legally permissible discrimination in every aspect of their daily lives

     -- Women, who will be forced to bring unplanned or unwanted pregnancies to term

     -- The Poor, for whom life will be harder, sicker and shorter -- and for whom opportunities will be fewer

     -- America's school-age children, whose Presidential role model will be a proud poster boy for misogyny and male chauvinism


These tens of millions of tragedies in waiting, are the human costs of a 3rd party vote in 2016.

And do not overlook The Supreme Court, whose beliefs will bear Donald Trump's thumbprint for decades to follow, putting progressive ideals further out of reach for at least another generation.

You've spent your life standing up for social justice.  Standing up for equal rights.  Standing up for fairness.  Now is NOT the time to abandon the people whose rights you have fervently championed; whose lives you have saved.  Now is NOT the time to allow this country to be led by those who would undermine all you have worked to achieve.


I get it.  Hillary isn't Bernie Sanders.  I wholeheartedly agree.

But she isn't Donald Trump, either. 

And no matter what we do or say, either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will become our next President.  It's one or the other.


On November 8th, this country will either embrace a movement that is based, in no small part, on people whose beliefs are defined and measured by who they hate -- or they will rebuff it.  
  
You have the ability to decide that outcome.

In fact, at this point in time, you are probably the only ones who still can.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What have you got to lose?

Enough of the name-calling and bickering. This isn't reality TV. This is an election to determine what the future holds for us, for our children, and for our grandchildren. If the candidates and the media won't act responsibly, then we need to.

A few weeks ago Donald Trump asked the question: "What do you possibly have to lose by electing me?" My first response was "seriously?" But then I realized that virtually the only thing the media was focusing on was what terrible human beings each of the candidates was. Trump because of the widely demonstrated racist, sexist, bigoted and xenophobic attitudes he harbors for women, minorities, immigrants, gays and lesbians. Hillary because she illegally used a private e-mail server while Secretary of State. Yeah, equivalence!

You know, I really couldn't care less about politics or politicians. But I sure do care about how their policies affect me and my family. I think you do, too.  

Here's a news flash: political candidates lie. I know – shocker. Get over it. Their promises don't matter, but the historical actions of their parties, do. If you want to get a glimpse of what your life will be like under each of the candidates, take a look at what their parties stand for. Sort of like what your mother told before you got married – if you want to know what your fiancĂ© will be like in 30 years, take a look at their parents. It's something like that.

So, I decided to take up Donald Trump's challenge and I made up the 2 lists below. The first is a list of 13 things you and I stand to gain if we elect Hilary Clinton. The second is a list of 16 things you and I stand to lose if we elect Donald Trump.  

But first, a little history about what each of the parties supported, opposed and accomplished over the past 2 dozen years. Yes, history matters. As your shrink keeps reminding you, "past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior." That'll be $200, please.  

80 Years ago, Republicans opposed Social Security – and they are still trying to weaken it today. 50 Years ago they opposed Medicare (they still do). 7 Years ago they opposed the Affordable Care Act – the law that has recently helped over 20 million Americans obtain health insurance. Republicans have vowed to repeal it if they get the chance. A Republican President may make that repeal possible, causing 1 out of every 16 Americans to lose their health insurance.

Republicans don't believe that global warming is real, calling it a "hoax", despite the fact that nearly every single climate scientist in the world has warned about the dire consequences we all face if we don't act soon. You know, we've already given our children the lingering gift of the housing crisis, taxpayer-funded bank bailouts, enormous student debt and a near-depression. How selfish would we have to be to hand them a much less hospitable and much less habitable planet as a bonus?  Sorry, I digress.

The Republican view of economics isn't any prettier. Their formula for spurring economic activity is to cut taxes for the wealthiest and for big business. It's called trickle-down economics. If you survived through the George W. Bush years, you know how that theory worked out. The Democrats take a different approach:  cut taxes and increase minimum wages directly for the working class, while raising taxes on the wealthiest amongst us. As Warren Buffett said, it's absurd that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary pays. It's also unfair. 

Eight years ago dozens of banks failed. More had to be bailed out with taxpayer money. Wall Street crashed. Millions of people had lost – or were in the process of losing – their homes, their jobs and their life savings. U.S. businesses were shuttering their doors nearly every single day. Over 2.5 million businesses eventually closed as a result of the financial crash. For one scary weekend in September of 2007, our entire financial system teetered on the brink of total collapse.  

Today, the Obama administration's policies have created over 15 million private sector jobs in the longest streak of job growth ever recorded; the Stock Market has nearly tripled; unemployment has fallen by half; wages have increased; and the banks have been stabilized and regulated. That's a good start.

Looking back through the past few decades, you can clearly see the effect of both approaches. Economic activity soared during Bill Clinton's administration. During George W. Bush's administration, the economy tanked, leading to a near-collapse of our entire financial system and requiring taxpayers to pay for bailing out the banks. Though initially bogged down by the Great Recession, the economy during Barack Obama's administration has significantly recovered with 72 months of uninterrupted, private sector job gains – the longest streak ever recorded.

Many of us lived through all 3 of these administrations and while we may have our political differences, we saw the effect of those policies in our daily lives and on our wallets. What happened during each of those presidencies is not speculation. It is fact. Reflect and remember. As has been said before, "those who do not learn from history, are doomed to repeat it."

If you are concerned about the environment; if you are concerned about the availability of affordable healthcare; if you are concerned about preserving Social Security and Medicare; if you are concerned about preserving a woman's right to choose; if you believe that global warming is real; if you believe that gays and lesbians and all minorities deserve the equal rights promised in our Constitution – then your only way to prevent those beliefs from getting trampled out of existence over the next 4 years is to vote for the person who represents the only party that has championed and fought for those causes.


13 THINGS WE STAND TO GAIN IF HILLARY CLINTON WINS

  • A $15 minimum wage that provides an opportunity for people to work their way out of poverty, instead of a meager wage that sentences them to a life of it. (Republicans oppose the concept of a minimum wage altogether, preferring to let businesses and the free market set wages.) 
  • Debt free state college options (enabling every American to get the education that employers require for good-paying jobs, without taking on a lifetime of debt)
  • A planet that is habitable and hospitable to human life. (Democrats believe global warming is real and that we must act now to preserve our planet. Republicans believe the concept of global warming is a hoax. Go figure.) 
  • A moderate and fair Supreme Court defining our rights, our freedoms and our laws for decades to come.
  • ObamaCare or, if we're lucky, universal healthcare. (Democrats support it.  Republicans obviously don't.)
  • The right for gays and lesbians to marry and be treated as equal citizens under the law. (Democrats support. Republicans don't. Hello? 2016 calling!)
  • A lower share of taxes paid by the middle class and the poor. A higher share of taxes paid by the wealthy. (Republicans skew their tax cuts toward the wealthiest, claiming it will "trickle down" to others. It doesn't. It hasn't. And it never will.) 
  • Preservation and protection of Social Security and Medicare programs. (Republicans call them "entitlement programs". Doesn't that really piss you off?)  
  • Fairness, Equality and Opportunity for all of us, not just for some. (Duh.)
  • A government that actually represents what's best for ordinary citizens rather than what's best for lobbyists, corporations and other moneyed interests. 
  • The aggressive pursuit and expansion of clean energy technologies so we can eventually eliminate our dependence upon fossil fuels. (Democrats support. Republicans don't.)
  • More of the economically sound fiscal policies that pulled us out of the Great Recession; doubled the stock market; put limits on Wall Street banks; reduced the rate of poverty; and created an unprecedented streak of job gains over the past seven years. 
  • The repeal of Citizens United, the law which allows billionaires and corporations to dump unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns in order to elect legislators who will support their interests instead of ours. (Democrats favor repeal. Republicans don't.)

16 THINGS WE STAND TO LOSE IF DONALD TRUMP WINS

  • Accessible and affordable healthcare for everyone, regardless of income or pre-existing conditions.
  • A hospitable and inhabitable planet.
  • Fairness, equality and opportunity for everyone, not just some. 
  • Regulations on banks, workplace safety and food safety. 
  • Protections for the environment, wildlife, national parks, oceans and waterways.  
  • A woman's right to obtain a safe and legal abortion.
  • Net neutrality, treating and regulating Internet services just like telephone and other monopolistic utilities in order to serve the public interest rather than corporate profits.
  • Especially for minorities, the presumption of innocence, unless and until proven guilty.
  • The Constitutional right for all American citizens to cast their vote with dignity and without intimidation, hindrance or encumbrance (through voter suppression laws, Republicans have already stripped voting  rights from millions of American citizens).
  • The fundamental assertion, embodied in our Constitution, that all of us are created equal.
  • Medicare health insurance for retirees. Republicans want to phase it out forcing retirees to seek alternative health care insurance plans.
  • A political system that represents the will of the voters as opposed to the will of billionaires and large corporations whose goals and interests are often in conflict with those of citizens. 
  • A moderate and fair Supreme Court .
  • The right for gays and lesbians to marry.
  • Laws designed to prevent the same kind of bank failures that caused the 2007 financial crisis; forced taxpayers to bail out the banks; cost nearly 9 million American workers their jobs; saw 7 million Americans lose their homes to foreclosure; and caused 2.5 million American businesses shutter their doors for good. (Republicans want to repeal)
  • More of the same Republican policies that put this country into an economic spiral and into an unjustified and ill-conceived war in Iraq which killed thousands of American soldiers; cost Americans taxpayers trillions of dollars; and gave rise and safe harbor to our terrorist enemies by destabilizing the Middle East.


Because the Supreme Court determines our rights, our freedoms and the legality of our laws, it's worth noting the extraordinary effect this election will have on it. The next president will pick at least two (and possibly as many as four) justices for the 9-member court. Those appointees will not serve for four or eight years, the term of the presidency – they will each serve for decades. With the Supreme Court having become so politicized, and the appointment of justices being equally politicized, each of the new justices will reflect the beliefs of the President and their political party. Donald Trump has stated that everyone he appoints must be willing to overturn Roe vs. Wade, eliminating a woman's right to obtain a safe and legal abortion. His appointees will be inclined to mirror Republican views on global warming, the minimum wage, banking regulations and oversight, environmental protections, voter suppression, minorities, the GLBT community, Citizens United, Social Security, Medicare and Obama Care.  

The next President's Supreme Court appointments will define our laws for decades to follow. If you care about what this country will be like in 20 years, you'd better make sure that the next president's beliefs are also your beliefs. This is what they mean when they say that elections have consequences.  

If you still are in undecided, try asking yourself the following questions:
  • Are you and your family better off today under Democratic policies than you were 8 years ago under Republican policies?
  • Which candidate's beliefs most closely match your own beliefs?
  • Whose version of America do you want your children to live in? Hillary Clinton's? Or Donald Trump's?

For the future of every citizen in this nation, and for the future of the only planet we call home, I will vote for Hillary Clinton on November 8th. It's not the vote I originally wanted to cast, but I will not allow my disappointment to cause me to throw away everything we have gained these past 8 years in an attempt to "get even" with the political system.  

There is too much at stake right now. We can change the system later.

Right, Bernie?

John P. Epstein




Footnotes

Differences between Democratic and Republican party platforms:
http://www.diffen.com/difference/Democrat_vs_Republican

The economic records of US presidents:
http://politicsthatwork.com/economic-record-president/clinton

Democratic Party Platform:
https://www.demconvention.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Democratic-Party-Platform-7.21.16-no-lines.pdf  

Republican Party Platform:
https://prod-static-ngop-pbl.s3.amazonaws.com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_FINAL[1]-ben_1468872234.pdf

Hillary Clinton Platform:
https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/

Donald Trump Platform:
https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions

Friday, July 1, 2016

I Wish You Enough

Recently I overheard a Father and daughter in their last moments together at the airport.

They had announced the departure. Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the Father said:

"I love you, and I wish you enough."

The daughter replied, "Dad, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Dad."

They kissed and the daughter left. The Father walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry.  I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me by asking, "Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?"

"Yes, I have," I replied.  "Forgive me for asking, but why is this a for ever good-bye?"

"I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is - the next trip back will be for my funeral," he said.

"When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, 'I wish you enough.' May I ask what that means?"

He began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone."

He paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail, and he smiled even more.

"When we said, 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them."

Then turning toward me, he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.

"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good- bye."

He then began to cry and walked away.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them; but then an entire life to forget them.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Holyoke City Council Ignores Voters -- Appoints Their Own Candidate


Earlier this evening, the Holyoke City Council selected a replacement for Councilor Jennifer Chateauneuf, who resigned last month.  As you know, Councilors are exclusively elected by the voters to represent them, but tonight the City Council decided to put their own individual wishes ahead of the voters' wishes.  In fact, 8 of the Councilors entirely ignored the voters' wishes.  That should raise an alarm for every single Holyoke resident.

Mimi Panitch, who placed 9th in a field of 16 (the first 8 being elected), was the next-highest vote-getter in the recent November election and would normally have been in line for the vacated position.  3,000 Holyoke residents chose her as the first runner-up in November but, tonight, 8 of the 13 Councilors present refused to cast even one single vote for her.  Instead, they decided to play "politics" -- ultimately appointing a former colleague who wasn't even on the November ballot.  Ironically, it is some of those same Councilors who will be the first to decry the playing of politics by others. 

I (and others) had intended to make public comments at the start of the meeting, which is customary, but for some reason Council President, Kevin Jourdain, instead recommended that the Council alter their schedule and take up the vote first -- preventing public comment until after the voting had been completed.

Unable to speak as I intended until after the vote, I had to change my words to past tense, but they were just as sharply pointed as they would have been had I been allowed to speak ahead of the vote.  This is, essentially, what I said to the City Council at the conclusion of the vote:


"The Council has conducted the process of replacing Jennifer Chateauneuf as if this is a hired position.  This is NOT a hired position.  Not one of you is hired.  Every one of you has been chosen by the voters, and ONLY by the voters.

Only the voters get to decide who they want to represent them. 

How is it, then, that some of you decided to usurp that authority, in an attempt to appoint your friends or political allies to this Council?  The voters have already told you who their pick is, but some of you chose to play "politics", instead.  Voters didn't elect you so you can replace their choices, with yours.  The Council's job tonight wasn't to pick and choose ... it was to ensure that the will of the voters, in choosing their representatives, was followed.  You failed.  And you failed deliberately.

You don't get to dismiss the election results simply because they don't jibe with your own politics.  You don't have that right.

Sure, you may have established a rule that says you can ignore the voters' wishes, but you take that step at the risk of diminishing the credibility of this entire body.  Was it worth it?

There were two ways you could have gotten this right tonight:
            1) Either go by the November election results
            2) or hold a special election

Instead, you decided to play "politics". 

Shame on every one of you who acted on the belief that your vote outranks the votes of thousands of Holyoke voters."


Footnote:  the 8 Councilors who completely ignored the voters' wishes, refusing to cast even one single vote for Mimi Panitch were:  David Bartley;  Dan Bresnahan;  Howard Greaney;  Kevin Jourdain;  Todd McGee;  Joe McGiverin;  Nelson Roman;  and Linda Vacon. 

For the record it should be mentioned that Councilor Peter Tallman voted for Mimi Panitch, the next-highest vote-getter, on every one of the 13 ballots and Michael Sullivan voted for her on the first 11 ballots.  Gladys Lebron-Martinez and Rebecca Lisi voted for her on 7 ballots and Jossie Valentin on 6.



Sunday, February 28, 2016

Life under Bernie Sanders vs. life under Donald Trump



This is What Your Tax Dollar Gets You
In a Bernie Sanders Society
 

8 Guaranteed full health care for all

8 A guaranteed state or community college education for everyone who is willing to apply themselves (resulting in a more educated and more globally competitive American workforce)

8 A livable minimum pay wage allowing every working American the ability to become self-sufficient

8 Rebuilding of America's crumbling infrastructure -- roads, bridges, dams, railways, power grids, and more -- creating 13 million good-paying jobs

8 Environmental stewardship including seriously addressing global warming

8 More fairness, equality and opportunity for all Americans

8 Better protection of our natural resources focusing on water pollution; air pollution; soil and chemical pollution

8 The end of politicians (and laws) that are bought and paid for by corporations, lobbyists and billionaires

8 A government whose job is to serve and protect Americans, not persecute them

8 Shoring up of the Social Security safety net and ensuring its viability for generations to come

8 More economic equality

8 Pursuit of policy, not politics

8 Freedom of religion and religious belief

8 A new focus on early childhood education

8 Paid sick leave

8 Paid family leave for parents of newborn children

8 Strict regulations on investments banks and related firms so taxpayers never again get stuck with footing the bill for wild, and irresponsible, Wall Street speculation
 
       For all of Bernie's policies, follow this link: http://feelthebern.org/
 

 

By Contrast, This is What Your Tax Dollar Gets You
In a Donald Trump Society
 
M Authoritarianism

M Persecution of Americans based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, gender

M More costly wars and military actions and interventions

M Trade war with China

M Economic wars with everyone

M Mass deportation of people based on race, ethnicity and religion

M Religious intolerance

M Border walls

M More bullying, less diplomacy

M More pointing of fingers and passing of blame

M Less civility

M More economic inequality

M Distrust of each other

M No action on global warming

M Intolerance of opposing views
 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why I'm Voting for Bernie Sanders

Bernie walks the walk and he genuinely understands

the plight of average Americans. 


If I had to pick one word that embodies the essence of what Bernie Sanders stands for, that word would be:
"Fairness"

Bernie believes in fairness.  He believes in equality.  And he believes in the justness of a cause. 
Every one of us knows our political system is rigged to represent the interests of the wealthy, the powerful and the well-connected long before it represents what's best for us.  Every one of us also knows that this is not what our founding fathers intended.  But the majority of today's politicians practice this kind of "limited representation government" and they couldn't care less what we think.  The game they play is about what's best for them, or for their political party.  And that's what has drawn me to Bernie -- he doesn't stoop to that level.  He has been unwavering in standing up for what is right, what is fair and what is just.
 

From the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, right through today, Bernie Sanders has walked the walk.  As the son of a partially-schooled Jewish/Polish immigrant who lost most of his family in the Holocaust, and whose struggles to provide for his family created significant household stress, Bernie witnessed the reality of how uncertain life can be. 
Perhaps those early experiences explain why he readily empathizes with the plight of others:  of the poor;  of veterans;  students;  working-class families;  oppressed minorities;  struggling seniors;  gays and lesbians;  women's equality;  immigrants;  the undereducated, underpaid or unemployed;  the sick and uninsured;  and of our children and grandchildren who are facing a planet which may not be as inhabitable for them as it has been for us. 

For 6 decades, Bernie has stood up for the underdog -- fighting to level the playing field and to give people a barrier-free, equal opportunity to achieve and succeed.  First as an activist, then as a Mayor and -- for the past 16 years -- as a member of Congress, Bernie has a long record making a difference in people's lives.
 

What Bernie Stands For:
--  Bernie believes that America must act on Global Warming and -- for the sake of future generations -- we must act now.

--  He believes that the Federal Minimum Wage should be increased to $15/hour so that anyone who works 40 hours a week shouldn't be forced to live their lives in poverty.
--  Bernie believes that Government, and the laws and regulations we live under, should not be for sale to the highest bidder.  He believes that the Supreme Court's 2010 "Citizens United" ruling, allowing billionaires and corporations to spend unlimited money to influence the outcome of elections, corrupts our entire democratic political system and should be overturned.  As just one consequence of that ruling, the Koch brothers have pledged to spend nearly $800 million dollars to alter the outcomes of the 2016 elections.  Whose best interest do you think the politicians receiving that money will represent?  Ours?  Or the Koch's? 

--  He believes that American citizens should never again have to foot the bill to bail out another collapsed bank or financial institution -- and that if a bank is too big to fail, that means it is too big to exist.  He advocates splitting up those banks which are currently considered to be a potential threat to taxpayers and, because of their size, pose a potential threat to the economy.
--  Bernie believes that America needs to have a sensible, and fair, immigration policy that keeps us safe and secure, without treating immigrants like 2nd class citizens or regarding them as our enemies.

-- He wants to rescind the corrupted tax laws that allow greedy corporations to avoid paying taxes by hiding their assets in the Cayman Islands -- or by moving their headquarters and jobs to other countries in order to escape paying their fair share of taxes.
-- Bernie believes that the vast wealth and income inequality in America today is the great moral issue of our time.  The top 1/10 of 1 percent (0.1%) of Americans now own as much as the bottom 90%.  Over half of all the income created in the United States since the Wall Street crash has gone to just the top 1%.  Yet, at the same time, the United States has one of the highest childhood poverty rates in the world.  This is immoral on every level.   

--  He believes that making college affordable for all Americans not only levels the educational playing field, it also makes American workers more competitive in our global economy.  He further believes that the government should not be making a profit on student loans;  that existing student loans should be able to be refinanced, just like your mortgage;  and that state universities and community colleges should be tuition-free so that a lack of money doesn't lock a worthy student out of a college education and the lifetime of opportunities that a college degree provides.
--  For his entire political career, Bernie has been unaffiliated with either major political party, remaining an Independent  and preferring to answer to no one but his own conscience and moral sense of right and wrong.  He consistently puts policy above politics, saying what he believes -- even when it may not be politically expedient to do so.

--  As one of the poorest members of Congress, Bernie obviously hasn't used his position in government to enrich himself.  He's not a millionaire and he has always believed that being elected to represent one's constituents is a public service, not a wealth-building opportunity.
--  He believes that government should represent all citizens, not just wealthy families, special interests and corporations -- and the lobbyists they employ.

--  Bernie believes that the air we breathe and the water we drink are precious, and that we need to treat them like the limited resources that they are -- and that our kids and grandkids are counting on us to preserve and protect the planet we live on and depend upon for our survival.
--  He believes that, in America, access to quality health care should be a right for every man, woman and child -- just like it is in nearly every other major country around the world.

--  Bernie believes it is imperative that we preserve Social Security's safety net so that every American can be allowed to retire with the dignity and respect they have earned and deserve.
-- He believes that Medicare should be allowed to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, saving taxpayers close to a half billion dollars annually;  that Americans should be able to legally buy their drugs from Canada when they can get the same drugs at lower prices;  that it should be illegal for brand name drug makers to pay off generic drug manufacturers to keep lower priced versions of their drugs off the American market;  and that there should be stronger penalties for fraud and for price gouging the American public for medically necessary prescription drugs.

--  He believes that costly wars and military invasions should be our last option, not our first.  And he believes that terrorism cannot be fought solely by the American military;  that we must engage the world's nations -- including Arab nations -- in combating terrorism wherever it exists.  He feels the United States should not be the "policemen of the world".
-- Bernie believes that wealthy Americans, Wall Street speculators and large corporations should be required to pay their fair share of taxes instead of hiring expensive lobbyists to create loopholes in our tax laws that shift the burden onto average citizens and small business owners.

-- He believes that voting is a right granted by The Constitution and that recent Voter Suppression laws which were designed and implemented by partisan politicians in order to prevent or hinder certain groups of people from voting, are an affront to our Democracy and must be overturned. 
-- Bernie believes in banning assault weapons and increasing background checks.  Interestingly, he has been the only candidate to differentiate between the purpose of guns used in rural settings and those used in urban settings.
 

Bernie has never been your typical politician.  Is it any wonder that the words people most commonly use to describe him are "genuine", "sincere", "honorable", "integrity", "trustworthy" and "truthful"?  How many politicians do you know who can lay claim to that?
Leaders set the tone for all of us.  While the Republican candidates talk about who they hate, Bernie talks about giving people a level playing field, the tools they need, and an opportunity to succeed -- ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background, has a fair shot at the American dream.

During this election, I'm not just picking a leader for the country, I'm picking someone who represents what America stands for.  That makes me think back to the final 6 words from the pledge we all learned to recite as children:  "with liberty . . . and justice . . . for all". 
Isn't it ironic that it should be the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist whose actions for the past 6 decades have personified -- better than any other candidate -- exactly what those words mean?

"With liberty, and justice, for all."
After all these years, I still care about what those words represent. 

That's why I'm voting for Bernie Sanders.
 

John P. Epstein
 
To learn more about where Bernie stands on the issues: