Rarely in history has a U.S. Senator spoken so much truth in such blunt language as did Bernie Sanders when the Vermont independent on Monday warned in a remarkable speech on the Senate floor that: "Unless the American people by the millions tell the President not to yield one inch to Republican demands to destroy Medicare and Medicaid, while continuing to provide tax breaks to the wealthy and the powerful, I am afraid that is exactly what will happen."
Speaking not just to the Senate—and the president—but the great mass of Americans, Sanders offered a new narrative with regard to addressing debt ceilings, debts and deficits. Rejecting the absurd claims of Republican legislators and their amen corner in the media, Sanders urged Obama and his fellow Democrats to draw a political line in the sand and declare that some compromises need not be made —and will not be made.
"In my view, the President of the United States of America needs to stand with the American people and say to the Republican leadership that enough is enough. No, we will not balance the budget on the backs of working families, the elderly, the sick, the children, and the poor, who have already sacrificed enough in terms of lost jobs, lost wages, lost homes, and lost pensions," declared Sanders. "Yes, we will demand that millionaires and billionaires and the largest corporations in America contribute to deficit reduction as a matter of shared sacrifice. Yes, we will reduce unnecessary and wasteful spending at the Pentagon. And, no we will not be blackmailed once again by the Republican leadership in Washington, who are threatening to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States government for the first time in our nation’s history unless they get everything they want."
As with the filibuster-style speech last December, in which he decried compromises with Republicans on tax policy (especially maintaining Bush-era tax breaks for billionaires), Sanders framed his remarks Monday not just in a political context but in human terms.
He quoted at length, and often in poignant language, from Americans—particularly Vermonters—who have seen their economic security threatened as federal priorities have shifted away from defending the Middle Class and toward the structuring of tax, trade and regulatory policies to serve multinational corporations and the CEO class.
While Sanders called on Obama to do the right thing, the senator was realistic. Clearly conscious of the president’s penchant for compromise, Sanders urged working Americans to join him in demanding that the White House and congressional Democrats stand firm against the agenda of Wall Street and a military-industrial complex that always finds money for wars but rarely finds resources to secure the homes, health and happiness of the great mass of citizens.