There are many short- and long-term challenges we face as a nation.
In the coming weeks I will step up my efforts to generate strong grassroots support for a constitutional amendment I have introduced to overturn the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision of two years ago. It seems to me that there are about five people in this country who believe that a corporation is a person. Unfortunately, they are all on the Supreme Court. The result of this misguided 5-4 decision, one of the worst ever handed down by a Supreme Court, is that corporations can now spend, without disclosure, unlimited sums of money on political advertising. And we are seeing the results of that ruling right now with big money interests and Super PACs spending huge sums on television and radio advertising in the Republican primaries and in Senate races. Unless we change it, that situation will only get worse in future years.
The good news is that throughout the country grassroots activists are working hard to reclaim our democracy and defeat Citizens United. Resolutions in support of a constitutional amendment have already been passed in cities and towns all over the country including New York, Los Angeles, Boulder, Pueblo, Duluth, Oakland (CA), Albany (NY), Portland (OR), and Burlington (VT). In Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state legislators have introduced similar type resolutions.
If we value our democracy, we must all get involved in this issue -- demand that our local governments and state legislatures take a stand in demanding that Congress pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. To a significant degree, this is not a partisan issue. Most Americans, regardless of their political ideology, do not believe that a handful of wealthy and powerful special interests should be able to dominate our political process and elect -- or defeat -- the candidates of their choice.
Another issue that I am currently working on is postal reform legislation. While this is not a very sexy issue, it is extremely important, not only for the 600,000 employees of the U.S. Postal Service, but for our entire economy.
As a result of a very onerous and unfair requirement that they pay $5.5 billion a year into a health-benefit account for future retirees, as well as a significant decline in first-class mail because of increased e-mail use, the Postal Service faces serious financial challenges. Their response has been to develop a draconian proposal which would eliminate up to 200,000 jobs by shutting down more than 3,000 small post offices as well as half (252) of their mail processing plants, and to end Saturday and next-day mail delivery.
This plan would result in a significant decline in the speed of mail delivery service and, in my view, the beginning of a "death spiral" for that vitally important agency. With a diminishment in the quality and timeliness of the services the Postal Service provides, fewer and fewer businesses and consumers will be interested in using the mail. The result will be that postal deficits will grow larger, more cuts will continue to be made, and eventually the Post Office will be a pale shadow of what it is today.
During the next several weeks I, and a number of my colleagues, will be working to improve the existing postal reform legislation, which is due to come to the floor of the Senate very shortly. Our goal will be to save jobs in the Postal Service and maintain a high quality of service. We will also be demanding that the Postal Service create a new and aggressive business model so that it can effectively compete in today's market and increase their revenue in the digital age in which we live.
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid
I want to alert you to an ongoing issue I have been involved with during all of my five years in the Senate. Sadly, virtually every Republican in Congress and too many Democrats are determined to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in the name of deficit reduction. This is wrong! We must not allow them to do that.
At a time when we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth, and when working people are suffering through the worst recession since the Great Depression, we must not make savage cuts to programs which maintain the well-being and dignity of tens of millions of struggling Americans. With 45,000 Americans dying each year because they don't get to a doctor when they should, and when 50 million Americans already lack health insurance, how could anybody be calling for cuts in Medicare or Medicaid? The truth is -- we should be moving toward a universal, single-payer health care system, not decimating the limited public health programs we now have in place.
In terms of Social Security, please remember that Social Security today has a $2.5 trillion surplus, can pay out all benefits owed to every eligible American for the next 25 years and, because it is funded independently by the payroll tax, has not added one penny to our national deficit or debt. Social Security must not be cut!
Yes, we need to address the deficit crisis, but there are fair and responsible ways to do that. While the rich get richer, their effective tax rate is the lowest in decades. The top 1 percent must be asked to pay their fair share of taxes. While corporations are making record-breaking profits, many of them enjoy outrageous tax-loopholes which enable them to pay little or nothing in taxes. We must end corporate tax loopholes.
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