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A Call for a 21st Century Bill of Rights

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My friends, we are in the midst of a defining and pivotal moment for our country and our planet. And, with so many crises converging upon us simultaneously, it is easy for us to become overwhelmed or depressed - or to even throw up our hands in resignation.

But my message to you today is that if there was ever a moment in the history of our country where despair was not an option, this is that time.

If there was ever a moment where we had to effectively analyze the competing political and social forces which define this historical period, this is that time.

If there was ever a moment when we needed to stand up and fight against the forces of oligarchy and authoritarianism, this is that time.

And, if there was ever a moment when we needed a new vision to bring our people together in the fight for justice, decency and human dignity, this is that time.

In the year 2019 the United States and the rest of the world face two very different political paths. On one hand, there is a growing movement towards oligarchy and authoritarianism in which a small number of incredibly wealthy and powerful billionaires own and control a significant part of the economy and exert enormous influence over the political life of our country.

On the other hand, in opposition to oligarchy, there is a movement of working people and young people who, in ever increasing numbers, are fighting for justice.

They are the teachers taking to the streets to make certain that schools are adequately funded and that their students get a quality education.

They are workers at Disney, Amazon, Walmart and the fast food industry standing up and fighting for a living wage of at least $15 an hour and the right to have a union.

They are young people taking on the fossil fuel industry and demanding policies that transform our energy system and protect our planet from the ravages of climate change.

They are women who refuse to give control of their bodies to local, state and federal politicians.

They are people of color and their allies demanding an end to systemic racism and massive racial inequities that exist throughout our society.

They are immigrants and their allies fighting to end the demonization of undocumented people and for comprehensive immigration reform.

When we talk about oligarchy, let us be clear about what we mean. Right now, in the United States of America, three families control more wealth than the bottom half of our country, some 160 million Americans. The top 1% own more wealth than the bottom 92% and 49% of all new income generated today goes to the top 1%. In fact, income and wealth inequality today in the United States is greater than at any time since the 1920s.

And when we talk about oligarchy, it is not just that the very rich are getting much richer. It is that tens of millions of working-class people, in the wealthiest country on earth, are suffering under incredible economic hardship, desperately trying to survive.

Today, nearly 40 million Americans live in poverty and tonight, 500,000 people will be sleeping out on the streets. About half of the country lives paycheck to paycheck as tens of millions of our people are an accident, a divorce, a sickness or a layoff away from economic devastation.

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Bernie Sanders is the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. He is a member of the Senate's Budget, Veterans, Environment, Energy, and H.E.L.P. (Health, Education, (more...)
 

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