By Dave Lindorff
Washington, DC -- Standing before a sea of humanity -- people of all ages and races, stretching out from the Lincoln Monument back as far as the Capitol building-- a sea vaster than any demonstration in the history of the nation's capital, the unkempt white-haired senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, a self-described independent socialist maverick who decided to take his oath of office on the steps where Martin Luther King once spoke, instead of the traditional spot at the Capitol building, called out to the American people to join him in "taking back our country from the smug, self-satisfied rich and the corporations that have been pretending to be persons!"
"We are engaged in a struggle to undo decades of government policies that were designed to benefit the one percent," said the man who has upended centuries of two-party duopoly by winning the presidency in a landslide on the Green Party ticket in a sweep that handed control of both House and Senate to a Democratic Party that was at the same time relegated to a humiliating third place finish in the presidential race.
"The election is over," President Sanders declared. "But the American people's fight is just beginning! I call on all those who voted for my opponents, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, to join with the 75 million who elected me in taking back this country from the special interests, from the wealthy for whom nothing is ever enough, from the corporations that see themselves as global enterprises, not as part of the fabric of this nation and its society, and from those who would trample on the weak in order to raise themselves a notch above the rest."
Sanders went on to announce a list of priority measures he intends to present to the new Congress on this, his first day in office, the first being a bill to establish a new Department of Peace, whose secretary, he said, would henceforth sit in on all discussions of foreign affairs in order to "insure that peaceful options for resolving differences will always be put on the table." Other measures going to Congress on day one of Sanders' presidency, he said, would include:
* Establishment of a commission, headed up by his nominee for Secretary of Health and Welfare Jill Stein, charged with drawing up, over the next six months, a plan for replacing the costly and complex Affordable Care Act with an expanded and enhanced Medicare program that would cover all Americans, not just the elderly. The new president, a long-time advocate of a national single-payer health care system similar to Canada's, said his plan would cost less than health care does now because it would do away with the need for Medicaid for the poor, with the need for employer-funded insurance plans and their huge premiums, and with the Veterans administration hospital system, since everyone would be receiving Medicare. He promised that such a system would allow the federal government to bargain for lower prices for all health care and medicines. "We are declaring that as of today, health care in America is a right of citizenship, and we are saying if every other developed country in the world can deliver affordable healthcare to all its citizens, then so can America!" said the new president to thunderous applause.
* Establishment of a $15/hr federal minimum wage, linked to the consumer price index, to become effective as soon as a bill reaches his desk, and a "card-check" measure giving unions the right to demand recognition by an employer after simply turning in to the National Labor Relations Board cards signed by a majority of workers, without having to go through a lengthy and endlessly delayed formal election process. Sanders said that bill would also make labor law violations by employers subject to triple damages, similar to insider trading violations, instead of simply requiring payment of back wages. Said Sanders, "A person who works full-time at a job should be able to earn enough to support a family. It's that simple," he said. "Companies should not be subsidizing their payroll costs by forcing their workers to rely on taxpayer-funded assistance programs like welfare and food stamps! No more!"
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