As, perhaps, the most progressive member of the United States Senate and as the
longest serving Independent in congressional history, I want to take this
opportunity to provide you with another of our updates as to what I am doing in
Washington and the status of my campaign for re-election.
One of the most interesting pieces of information that I've seen in the last few weeks comes from a recent study done by University of California economist Emmanuel Saez. This study, based on an analysis of American tax returns, showed that in 2010, 93 percent of all new income growth went to the top one percent of American households. Everyone else, the bottom 99 percent, divided up the remaining seven percent.
In other words, the outrageous income and wealth inequality in America continues to get worse. Almost all new income is going to the wealthiest people in our country, the people who need it the least, while the middle class continues to collapse and tens of millions of Americans struggle daily just to put food on the table, fill up their gas tanks to get to work and pay for their housing. We have not seen this level of greed from the people on top in the last 100 years.
Later today, I expect that the Democratic Leadership in the Senate will bring up the "Buffet Rule" legislation. This bill is a modest effort to ensure that millionaires, who currently enjoy the lowest effective tax rate in decades, experience a tax rate that is at least the equivalent of what middle-class workers pay. Not surprisingly, it is likely that Republicans in the Senate, whose main interest in life is to represent the rich and the powerful, will move to defeat this measure.
The "Buffet Rule" is a progressive step forward, but we must go further. Not only must we create a fair and progressive personal income tax system, but we need to end the enormous loopholes that large and profitable corporations currently enjoy.
As a Vermonter, I am very proud to tell you that my state is helping to lead the effort to overturn the horrendous Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that was passed two years ago. In early March, on Town Meeting Day, citizens in some 70 Vermont towns voted to demand that Congress pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Just last week our State Senate, by an overwhelming vote, did the same. Vermont now becomes the third legislature in the country, along with those in Hawaii and New Mexico, to demand that Congress put an end to this absurd Supreme Court ruling which asserts that a corporation is a person and can spend as much as it wants on political campaigns.
Citizens United is undermining American democracy by giving enormous new power to billionaires and corporations. I and other senators have introduced strong constitutional amendments to overturn it, and we are gaining more and more support for this effort throughout the country. Please study this issue and urge your local and state governments to get involved. A strong national grass-roots movement to get corporate money out of politics can force reluctant politicians in Washington to do the right thing.
SAVING THE POSTAL SERVICE
Last Thursday, demonstrations across the country were held by postal workers, local business owners and citizens who are concerned about proposals from the U.S. Postal Service that would downsize the Postal Service by eliminating some 200,000 employees, shutting down 3,700 rural post offices and hundreds of mail-processing plants and slowing down mail delivery service.
I am very pleased that many of the postal unions are supporting legislation that I have introduced which would protect jobs at the Postal Service while, at the same time, change its business model so that the USPS develops the flexibility to bring in substantially more revenue in the digital age. The Postal Service must change, but there are ways to bring about that change without decimating this service which is so important to the people of our country.
It is possible that Postal Reform legislation may be on the floor of the Senate this week. Please contact your senators and urge them to defend the U.S. Postal Service and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are at stake.
END THE WAR AGAINST WOMEN
I don't think I have to tell you that the Republican Party is mounting a full-scale attack on women and women's rights. In addition to their unrelenting attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, Republicans in the Senate recently brought forth the Blunt amendment, which would have allowed any employer to cite "moral reasons" and thereby refuse to cover any kind of health care service -- contraception, mammograms, birth control, HIV coverage or prenatal care -- for single mothers. Fortunately, the measure did not pass the Senate, but only narrowly, by a vote of 51-48.
Combined with the efforts in 32 states to circumscribe voting rights, the Republican right-wing wants to reverse the gains made by women and the civil rights movement and take us back to a time when a small group of people controlled every aspect of American life.
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