For decades, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has objected to the failure of major media outlets to cover the growth of economic inequality in America. As a presidential contender in 2016, he used every opportunity that was afforded him in the media to address poverty, plutocracy, and the consolidation of wealth and power in the hands of “the billionaire class.”
Now he’s doing something to tip the balance of the popular discourse away from the agendas of the super-rich and toward the real-life concerns of working-class Americans. Something big. On Monday, from 7 to 8:30 pm ET, he will host a live-streamed town-hall meeting on “Inequality in America: The Rise of Oligarchy and Collapse of the Middle Class.” With Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, filmmaker Michael Moore, economist Darrick Hamilton, and others, Sanders will lead a discussion about the “growing power of corporate interests and how we can build economy that works for all Americans.” Livestreamed on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by Sanders, Warren, Moore, The Guardian, NowThis, The Young Turks, and Act.tv, the initiative will reach social-media sites with a combined following of close to 50 million Americans.
Sanders spoke with The Nation about what he hopes to accomplish.
The Nation: You say there are two fundamental issues with inequality. What’s the first?
Sanders: The first one is that this country is moving into oligarchy. The three wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of American society. The top one-10th of one percent now owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. And then, politically, what we have seen since the Citizens United decision (by the US Supreme Court in 2010) is billionaires like the Koch brothers and a few of their friends pouring hundreds and millions of dollars into the political process to elect candidates who represent the wealthy and the powerful. That is an issue of huge consequence to the future of America—in terms of the economic life of this country and the collapse of the middle class, and a political system which is being corrupted by big money and Citizens United.
And the second issue has to do with how the first is covered?
The second issue deals with the fact that we have a corporate media, which is not as Donald Trump defines it “fake news.” That’s not the issue. It’s not that you have people on CNN, or writing for The New York Times, who are deliberately lying or trying to destroy politicians—that’s not the case. Everyday there are very good and important articles that appear in The Washington Post and The New York Times, on CBS News and everywhere else.