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Bernard S.
Independent VT

About Sen. Bernard
  • Hire More Heroes Act of 2015—Continued

    by Senator Bernard Sanders

    Posted on 2015-09-22

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    Read More about Hire More Heroes Act of 2015--Continued

    SANDERS. Mr. President, I am delighted that Pope Francis will be addressing a joint session of Congress on Thursday.

    The Pope has played, in my view, an extraordinary role since he assumed his position in speaking out with courage and brilliance about some of the most important issues facing our world. From the moment he was elected, he immediately let it be known that he would be a different kind of Pope, a different kind of religious leader. In choosing his Papal name--Francis--he said: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation.

    What I want to do in a short period of time is read some of the very profound and important statements Pope Francis has made over the last several years. They are incisive, they are courageous, and they speak to a world in trouble that needs the kind of leadership that he is providing.

    [[Page S6881]] Let me quote from a number of the statements he has made.

    Quote: While the income of a minority is increasing exponentially, that of the majority is crumbling. This imbalance results from ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and thus deny the right of control to States, which are themselves charged with providing for the common good.

    Obviously, he is not talking about the United States; he is talking about the global economy. But certainly in our country, when he talks about the income of the minority increasing exponentially and that of the majority crumbling, he is, of course, right. We have right now in our country the top one-tenth of 1 percent owning almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. We have about 58 percent of all new income being created now going to the top 1 percent. In the last several years, we have seen the 14 wealthiest people in America increase their wealth by $156 billion, and that increase in wealth is more wealth than is owned by the bottom 40 percent of the American people.

    As the Pope points out, this is not by any means just an American issue; this is a global issue. We are moving toward a period where very shortly the top 1 percent of the people on the planet will own more wealth than the bottom 99 percent. To me, that is immoral, that is wrong, that is unsustainable, and I am glad the Pope has raised that issue.

    He talks about another issue which is even more profound. It is one thing to talk about income and wealth inequality, and it is another thing to talk about poverty.

    Here, he says: We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.

    ``The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money.'' What does that mean? Well, I take it to mean that we are living in a society which turns its back on people who work hard, decent people, people who are good parents, but yet we worship those people who for whatever reason--sometimes honestly and with creativity, sometimes dishonestly and illegally--have become millionaires and billionaires. Those are the people we worship. The more money they make, the more they get worshipped. I think the Pope is right in saying that is not something we should be doing.

    In another statement, which is certainly relevant for a lot of the discussions we have here on the floor of the Senate, he said: In this context, some people continue to defend trickle- down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.

    What is he talking about? He is talking about a lot of what has gone on here in this country for many decades. There is a theory, which the Pope is right in saying has never been confirmed by the facts--quite the contrary--that if we give huge tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations, somehow that money will trickle down to the middle class and working class. Well, that theory has not proved to be true. Under trickle-down economics, the rich get richer and virtually everybody else gets poorer. I think the Pope is quite right in making that point.

    Let me again quote the Pope. This is what he said: Man is not in charge today, money is in charge. Money rules.

    Money rules. Well, 5 years ago the U.S. Supreme Court by a 5-to-4 decision passed the disastrous Citizens United decision which basically said to the wealthiest people in this country: You already own much of the economy; now we are going to give you the opportunity to buy the United States Government. And that is exactly what they are now attempting to do. Money rules. You have one family--the Koch brothers-- who will spend $900 million in this election cycle to elect candidates who will protect the wealthy and powerful. That is more money than will be spent by either the Democratic or Republican Party. When one family is spending more money than either of the two major political parties, I think it is an example of what the Pope is talking about when he says ``money rules.'' Money does rule, and that is why, in my view, we have to overturn Citizens United and move to the public funding of elections--so the wealthy and the powerful will not be able to buy elections.

    He also said something very interesting about the media. This is what he said: These things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a ten point drop on the stock markets of some cities is a tragedy.

    Well, what is news? Is he right? We talk about the stock market going up, the stock market going up. It is big news. The 45 million Americans living in poverty--I don't hear much discussion about that. There are thousands of people dying every single year because they don't have health insurance and can't get to a doctor when they need to. That ain't big news--not big news at all. I think it is an interesting point about what constitutes news, and I think the Pope makes a very good point in that regard.

    Let me give another quote: It is a well-known fact that current levels of production are sufficient, yet millions of people are still suffering and dying of starvation. This, dear friends, is truly scandalous.

    I think what the Pope is talking about is that in a world where we have enormous productive capability--industrial, agricultural--we have a situation where children die of diseases that are preventable all over the world, where people go hungry all over the world. Yet, as he says, our current levels of production are sufficient. We are producing enough to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide what people need, and yet we have an economy which works day after day to make billionaires richer and turns its back on desperate people all over the world.

    Let me end with this quote: Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

    That is certainly true in the United States. It is certainly truer all over the world. We are living in a world of the survival of the fittest. If you are poor, if you are unemployed, if you are hungry, government turns its back on you. But if you are rich, if you are powerful, if you can make campaign contributions of hundreds of millions of dollars, we love you, we welcome you, and we need you more and more.

    I think during this week where we welcome the Pope to Washington, DC, I would hope that some of my colleagues would examine the very profound lessons he is teaching people all over this world.

    With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Mississippi.

    (The remarks of Mr. Wicker pertaining to the introduction of S. 2067 are printed in today's Record under ``Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions.'') The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Barrasso). The Senator from New Hampshire.

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