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:

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: