With news that Senator Bernie Sanders will have a more formal unveiling of his presidential campaign this afternoon, it seems like a good time to get to know the self-proclaimed socialist from Vermont.
"I'm not running against Hillary Clinton," he said. "She's a candidate, I'm a candidate, and I suspect that there will be other candidates. The people in this country will make their choice." His socialist platform is "one that resonates" with the American people, and he believes he can effectively appeal to them no matter who his opponent is, or how large her war chest is. But, as he's said, he's engaged in "a real struggle against the billionaire class."
Twice now, actually, because not only is Senator Sanders not afraid of the word, he openly embraces it. Earlier this month, he freely admitted that he wanted to make America "more Scandinavian" -- by which he meant, a democratic country with a socialist backbone when it comes to healthcare, education, and retirement. "If you see the transfer of 99 percent of the wealth to the top one-tenth of the one percent," he's said, "you've got to transfer that back."
"The major issue of our time is whether the United States of America retains its democratic foundation or whether we devolve into an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires are able to control our political process by spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elect candidates who represent their interests," he said last September. The best way to do that, he said, is to overturn Citizens United, because "freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to buy the United States government."
He has proposed what would, in essence, be a "Wall Street sales tax," and his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership is based on the fact that only "[m]ultinational corporations that have outsourced millions of good-paying American jobs to China, Mexico, Vietnam, India and other low-wage countries think this is a great deal." Whereas "every union in this country...opposes this agreement that will wipe out jobs and depress wages."
Senator Sanders' top five campaign contributors since 2009 are all unions, and 69 percent of the money he receives from political action committees comes from union PACs. "I'm not going to use a super PAC," he's said, and the facts bear him out. He has one, but it hasn't raised any money for his presidential bid to date.
From elementary to middle, through high school and into community college or a university, Sanders believes that education should cost the student nothing. It's not merely a personal investment, he believes, it's a public good -- and as such should be funded by the public. "These are not utopian ideas," he's said. "They are not radical ideas. They are fairly commonsensical ideas that can happen when you have a government that is directed by the people themselves and not by wealthy powerful corporate interests."