One of the few national politicians willing to speak unflinchingly about how the so-called “robust” U.S. economy has failed vast swaths of America, last month, Sen. Bernie Sanders asked constituents to share their stories of how they’re coping with rising prices of medicine, gas, heating fuel and food. Since then, over 700 responses from Vermont and across America have flooded his office. The letters — a painful installation of the hollowing-out of middle-class America — should be required reading for any elected official here in DC. Some excerpts:
I am 55 years old and clean homes for a living. I am divorced and work 6-7 days a week-10 to 14 hours a day trying to make ends meet…I drive to get to my jobs and my fuel costs have more than doubled. I use to spend $60.00 a month for fuel and now it is closer to $300.00.
We have two small children (a baby and a toddler). Due to the increasing fuel prices we have at times had to choose between baby food/diapers and heating fuel, we’ve run out of heating fuel 3 times so far and the baby has ended up in the hospital with pneumonia.
The letters are part testimonial, part appeal. As one writer from Tulsa, Oklahoma wrote: Please encourage your colleagues in DC to do something, and hurry. I’m doing all I can and it just isn’t enough.
Others write about repeated layoffs, inability to meet skyrocketing insurance premiums and chopping up family furniture to burn and save on heating bills. The letters don’t document the effects of a temporary recession. Rather, they’re a testimonial to the fact that for the first time in U.S. history, the economy has grown and left the middle class behind–and only the rare senator seems to be listening.