Bernie Sanders on the shooting of Rep. Giffords, the new Congress

The following email was sent to supporters of independent Senator Bernie Sanders, from Vermont:

Given the recent tragedy in Arizona, as well as the start of the new Congress, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few words with political friends in Vermont and throughout the country.  I also want to thank the very many supporters who have begun contributing online to my 2012 reelection campaign at www.bernie.org.  There is no question but that the Republican Party, big money corporate interests and right-wing organizations will vigorously oppose me. Your financial support now and in the future is much appreciated.  Also, please do not hesitate to convey to me any ideas that you may have with regard to how we can best go forward in terms of public policy, as well as politically.  While I cannot respond personally to every comment, I will read them all.

ARIZONA: What occurred this weekend in Tucson was tragic, and I join my congressional colleagues and the entire nation in sending my condolences to the victims of this horrible attack.

In terms of this savage shooting rampage, several points need to be made.  First, this horrendous act of violence is not some kind of strange aberration for this area where, it appears, threats and acts of violence are part of the political climate.  Nobody can honestly express surprise that such a tragedy finally occurred. After all, last year, after her vote in support of health care reform, Rep. Giffords’ district office was attacked and her front window was shot out.  In 2009, at an open constituent town meeting in a shopping center similar to the one in which she was gunned down, a pistol fell to the ground from the pocket of a protester attending the event.  During her last campaign her opponent, Tea Party favorite Jesse Kelly, invited his supporters to an event at which they could fire live ammunition from an M-16 rifle as a fundraising device in his effort to help remove Rep. Giffords from office.  Congresswoman Giffords publicly expressed concerns when Sarah Palin, on her website, placed her district in the cross-hairs of a rifle – and identified her by name below the image – as an encouragement to Palin supporters to eliminate her from Congress.  Interviewed on MSNBC at the time when the cross-hairs were posted on the web, Giffords said; “When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action.”

What should be understood is that the violence, and threats of violence against Democrats in Arizona, was not limited to Gabrielle Giffords. Raul Grijalva, an old friend of mine and one of the most progressive members in the House, was forced to close his district office this summer when someone shot a bullet through his office window.  Another Democratic elected official in Arizona, recently defeated Congressman Harry Mitchell, suspended town meetings in his district because of the threatening phone calls that he received (Mitchell was also in the cross-hairs on the Palin map).  And Judge John Roll, who was shot to death at the Giffords event, had received numerous threatening calls and death threats in 2009.

In light of all of this violence – both actual and threatened – is Arizona a state in which people who are not Republicans are able to participate freely and fully in the democratic process?  Have right-wing reactionaries, through threats and acts of violence, intimidated people with different points of view from expressing their political positions?

My colleague, Senator John McCain, issued a very strong statement after the shooting in which he condemned the perpetrator of the attack.  I commend him for that.  But I believe Senator McCain and other Arizona Republicans need to do more.  As the elder statesman of Arizona politics McCain needs to stand up and denounce the increasingly violent rhetoric coming from the right-wing and exert his influence to create a civil political environment in his state.

Senator Bernie Sanders

THE NEW CONGRESS: The 112th Congress convened last week.  Republicans now control the House of Representatives and have increased their membership in the Senate to 47.  The media and pundits will talk about a million things with regard to this new Congress, but let me stress to you what I consider to be the most important.

The right-wing Republicans now leading their party are extremely confident that the political momentum is with them. They not only won decisive victories in the last election but, as a result of the disastrous Citizens United  Supreme Court decision, they correctly believe that they will have a huge financial advantage in future elections because billionaires and corporate interests can now contribute as much as they like into the political process without disclosure.  At this moment, Karl Rove and other Republican operatives are organizing big money interests to become financially involved in the next election in a way that will completely revolutionize campaign financing.  Republicans now believe that no matter what they do or say, they will be able to buy many seats in Congress because of their financial advantage.

Further, and equally important, the right-wing media echo chamber of Fox TV and talk radio (Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, etc.) are becoming increasingly effective in transmitting a reactionary world view to the tens of millions of Americans who watch or listen to them every day.  For many of these Americans, the only news that they receive comes from these extreme right-wing commentators.  While the progressive community has made some significant media gains with excellent websites and informative blogs, compelling television news and commentary on MSNBC and some fine and engaging radio talk shows, we would be very naïve not to understand that our progressive analysis of contemporary political issues is being overwhelmed by the right wing. We have some good shows on MSNBC; they have a network.  We have over a million radio listeners to Thom Hartmann and Ed Schultz; Rush Limbaugh has 14 to 25 million, and Sean Hannity has 13 million.

All of which brings me to what the Republican agenda, pushed by an extreme right-wing, will likely be in the coming Congress. And here it is.  The Republicans in this Congress, in a way unprecedented in modern American history, will begin a political assault on the very foundations of modern American society. Yes, of course they will continue their usual day-to-day efforts to give tax breaks to billionaires and cut back on programs desperately needed by the middle-class, but now they are prepared to go much further.  Now, in a very well-orchestrated effort, they are determined to undo virtually all of the major pieces of social legislation passed since the 1930s, and move this country back to a time when workers, the elderly and the poor had virtually no protections against the vicissitudes of life.  They want to return this country to a time when large corporations and the rich had all the power – economic and political.

They do not simply want to repeal the Health Care Reform bill passed last year.  There are many Republicans in Congress who believe that any federal efforts in health care are unconstitutional. This means, over a period of time, completely eliminating Medicare, Medicaid and other public health programs.  In other words, if you’re sick and you don’t have a lot of money, you’re on your own. Good luck.

They do not want to simply cut back on Social Security.  They want to privatize it.  With the backing of Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson and others, the Republicans are not just pushing to raise the retirement age for Social Security and cut benefits in the short- term.  Their long-term goal is to create a situation in which the retirement accounts for workers will be administered by Wall Street – at great profit for financial investment firms.  And when the stock market crashes and you lose your retirement savings, you’re on your own.  Good luck.

They do not want to simply deny the extension of unemployment benefits to workers who lost their jobs in this recession – the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression seven decades ago.  Some of them want to eliminate the concept of unemployment compensation.  Their position is: Lose your job?  You’re on your own.  Good luck.

And on and on it goes.  Whether it is Social Security, health care, environmental protection, education or workers’ rights, the Republican Party is now prepared to dismantle virtually all of the protections that workers and the middle class have successfully fought for over the last 75 years.

Today, in the United States, while the middle class collapses and poverty increases, the richest people in our country have never had it so good. In 2007, the top one percent earned 23 percent of all income in our country – more than the bottom 50 percent.  The top one percent also owns more wealth than the bottom ninety percent.  While in recent years we have seen a huge increase in the number of millionaires and billionaires in this country we continue to have, by far, the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world.

But, for my Republican colleagues, all of this is not enough.  They need to help the rich get more, more and more.  That is what their agenda is all about.

Needless to say, as Vermont’s senator, I will do all that I can to defeat this disastrous set of policies. And I will be joined in this effort by other members of the Senate, and by many members of the House.  But we can’t do it alone.  We’re all in this together.

I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead.

Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

Bernie
Senator Bernie Sanders

16 thoughts on “Bernie Sanders on the shooting of Rep. Giffords, the new Congress

  1. Hayden

    Senator. I agree that the rhetoric has to cool but I find it appalling that you only castigate the GOP. You need look no further than President Obama for such quotes as “get in their faces” or “we will punish our enemies.” If we are to go after rhetoric we need to go after all rhetoric, not just that with which we disagree.

  2. Gene Berkman

    Sen. B.S. says:”Nobody can honestly express surprise that such a tragedy finally occurred. After all, last year, after her vote in support of health care reform, Rep. Giffords’ district office was attacked and her front window was shot out.”

    But there is no indication that the alleged shooter has ever made a comment against Obamacare. I have not seen any quote about healthcare legislation mentioned in any of the many articles trying to tie Jared Loughner to the rightwing fringe.

    Sen. B.S. is just demagoguing here.

  3. Hmmm ...

    Nice partisan rant Bernie, but the assassin had been stalking his target since 2007. He felt he had been insulted by her and not taken seriously. He was and is a seriously mentally ill young man. He is a confused nihilistic socialist who complained that the things that he wanted were not provided to him free. Like you and other typical socialists, he only cared that he could have the things that he wanted, provided free by government to him and that others would pay.

    Socialism is the ultimate form of greed. Take what you want from others through the force of government and use the power and force of government to force others to pay – to the point of imprisonment and death if needed. Socialists use political violence to impose their evil, greedy wishes on others.

    Loughlin, the shooter, was following the socialist methodology that had twisted his mind into the mentally imbalanced condition that allowed him to act as a lone nut murderer, using force to get what he wants.

    You, Senator, use others to carry out your violent attacks on the innocent to get what you want through the power of the state. It’s the same thing, but the “blood” on your hands must be washed off the hands of your employed serfs and minions who enforce the evil you advocate and legislate.

  4. Alaska Constitution Party

    Those who are trying to blame Sarah Palin or the Tea Party for this are truly
    pathetic political hacks with blinders on. The shooter is obviously mentally
    ill. This is a national tragedy. My experience shows me that hateful political
    rhetoric often originates with the left. For those seeking to assign blame, ask
    yourself what you have done to contribute to peaceful political dialogue. How
    have you reached out to the mentally ill? To those in distress? Have you
    mentored a young person? What example do you provide to the world? We don’t need
    more falsehood, accusation and inflammatory rhetoric. Love conquers hate. Pray
    about it. May the LORD be with us and our nation during this time of tragedy. Shalom!

  5. paulie

    Socialism is the ultimate form of greed. Take what you want from others through the force of government and use the power and force of government to force others to pay – to the point of imprisonment and death if needed. Socialists use political violence to impose their evil, greedy wishes on others.

    What you are describing is statism, not socialism.

  6. paulie

    As was posted on a previous discussion:

    Sad to see terms misused in this discussion.

    Socialism is worker control of the means of production.

    State (monopoly government, regime) “socialism” presumes that the state is the proxy for worker control of the means of production. Numerous historical examples show us it is not.

    Workers do not control the means of production under state “socialism” – manager-bureaucrats do. State “socialism” is not socialism.

    State “socialism” is only left wing in theory, not in practice, as “left wing” is originally understood within the context of the divisions in the French parliament of the 18th century. Classical liberals, the ideological ancestors of the libertarians, were left wing.

    Fascism is a movement that grew out of this nominal “left” but was quickly adapted by manipulators from the right. It involves the open worship of state power, much as state “socialism” does.

    In practice, state “socialism” and fascism are similar, although under fascism control of the means of production is nominally private but heavily regulated and steered towards a small number of state-connected companies. Under state “socialism,” the same manager-bureaucrats that squash workers under fascism work directly for a monopoly state.

    The term socialist is also nowadays used for political parties/movements – many of which have led or shared power in governments – that theoretically seek to establish state “socialism” but actually govern or function within a mixed economy that is similar to fascism in economic practice, but in line with western pluralistic/democratic traditions on such matters as freedom of speech, civil liberties, and genuine multipartisan elections.

    As far as I know, no such parties ever actually established state “socialism” in economic terms. So, it’s impossible to say whether genuine state “socialism” in economic terms, such as existed in the Soviet Bloc, can coexist with liberal democracy, free speech, civil liberties and multipartisan elections in more than just theory.

  7. Gene Berkman

    “Socialism” in practice has meant either total state control of the means of production, or more mildly, the welfare state. The “socialism” of Bernie Sanders is more the welfare state variety.

    Workers Control of the means of production has never existed in a socialist regime. In Yugoslavia and Algeria, the forms of workers control existed, but they wer e subject to supervision by committees of the ruling party.

    In America a growing number of companies are employee owned, and tax law favors ESOPS – Employee Stock Ownership Plans. So workers controls is more likely to occur in a free market economy than in a “socialist” state.

  8. paulie

    workers controls is more likely to occur in a free market economy than in a “socialist” state.

    True. Not that the US is really a free market economy.

  9. Hmmm ...

    Paulie, your antiquated view of the meaning and use of the word “socialism” might soothe the feelings of your socialist friends and potential clients, but it’s no longer valid. Socialists fit in the bottom corner of the Nolan Chart along with other varieties of statism. We need to move on to use the Nolan chart world. Well known French political scientist Maurice DuVerger (among others) began looking for an alternative to the French left right spectrum even before Nolan, and although he didn’t get it right, he did come up with a two-dimensional model as well.

    Socialism is a form of statism. Voluntary socialism is impossible in reality, and silly in theory. Socialiam is a form of evil statism. It’s proponents are evil, even if unknowingly so.

    The socialists’ fancies are silly, illogical and impossible. There is no “theory” under which socialism works without statism. Whales cannot pull blocks of ice to cool seas of lemonade to quench the thirsts of the masses.

    In the end, the socialists are evil and greedy. They cannot accomplish any of their goals without the statists tools – and so they use whatever evil means will get them the power they think they need. The pursuit of power obviates any honest concern for humanity that may have once motivated their intentions. Evil truimphs, all progress is lost and the end result is always the same.

    Socialism is always, in theory and reality, a trip down a dark evil road to tyrrany: It increases poverty at all levels and increases the divide between the rich and powerful and the poor. It increases the power of the state and destroys the rights of the individual. The greed of the socialists has no bounds and as they try to suck up the production and resources of individuals – whoever is without power and least favored will suffer most – the productive capacity of the economy is decimated and left as a shadow of where it could have been.

    The US Socialist Security and Medicare programs, for example, have prevented the creation of a minimum of 200 million good, permantent jobs around the world. This has caused poverty, war, disease, increased birthrates and populations, reduction in the availability and quality of health care, lack of development, lack of investment in green tech, and higher rates of pollution. There is no way that such a program can exist under any “voluntary” socialist system. But, Bernie and his evil ilk support it and propose even more of the same.

    All socialism is a form of statism. All socialism is evil. All socialism must be exposed and abolished.

  10. Michael H. Wilson

    re # 9. I would like to use the information you have posted, so do you have a link to the data you mention in this comment? “The US Socialist Security and Medicare programs, for example, have prevented the creation of a minimum of 200 million good, permantent jobs around the world.”

    If so please pass it one. Those are nice numbers.

  11. Hmmm ...

    @#10 It was in my reading long ago for my econ major: comparative economic systems class. I have used a simplified but similar methodology to estimate current numbers, but I don’t remember the book title or author.

    The essence is this: Individuals rely on SS and medicare in future planning, so they save less using the future guarantee of government support in their personal calculation (estimation) and they reduce the savings they would otherwise make for retirement purposes. We can use Net Present Value of the unfunded liabilities of those two programs as a proxy for the amount they would have saved, although, due to uncertainty of returns and overreliance on the promises of government, the actual amount they would have saved is likely larger than the NPV of these unfunded liabilities.

    Then, we can use the cost of the average investment per job created by the private sector in the US and divide, although, since these jobs would be created worldwide, we should use a worldwide investment/job factor which is lower and so the number of jobs created would have been higher.

    I have come up with a range of lost jobs, and this is the low end. But, of course, it’s only my computation and you’d want to find the orignial, decades old source, or look for any new updated studies.

  12. paulie

    Paulie, your antiquated view of the meaning and use of the word “socialism”

    Nothing antiquated about it – it is inherent in the word itself. Socialism, socialize, society. I don’t think society and the state are one and the same, do you? Libertarianism isn’t atomism, and socialism isn’t statism, no matter how much you try to redefine it.

    might soothe the feelings of your socialist friends and potential clients,

    Anyone who would consider being my friend or client should not labor under the delusion that I will soothe their feelings. I call them as I see them, and that’s that. If you like being surrounded by yes-men or hiring contractors who present something other than their actual views, don’t hang out with me and don’t hire me, as you will be disappointed. I don’t misrepresent the views of my clients, and I don’t claim to share them when I don’t share them. And if you prefer to socialize (by which I don’t mean go around taking other people’s stuff against their will) with people who sweep disagreements under the rug, I’m probably not your cup of tea. I hope that was sufficient to clear up any misunderstanding.

    but it’s no longer valid. Socialists fit in the bottom corner of the Nolan Chart along with other varieties of statism.

    Only phony state “socialism” fits that description. As I have already explained, that isn’t socialism at all. Calling it socialism only serves to deepen existing confusion. Serving society is indeed one of the many excuses used by statists to seize power; so is maintaining moral order, for example. It does the cause of liberty no good to agree with the statists’ contention that they are socialists, any more than – say – agreeing with some other statists’ contention that they represent a moral majority.

    Well known French political scientist Maurice DuVerger (among others) began looking for an alternative to the French left right spectrum even before Nolan, and although he didn’t get it right, he did come up with a two-dimensional model as well.

    All such models below infinite-dimensional represent only a simplified piece of reality. I personally prefer at a minimum a three-dimensional model, basically a Nolan chart plus the added dimension of war/peace/foreign policy, as represented non-graphically by Ivan Eland in Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty.

  13. paulie

    Socialism is a form of statism.

    Circular reasoning. You’ve falsely redefined socialism as a form of statism, when the form of statism you are describing is not even properly called socialism.

    Voluntary socialism is impossible in reality, and silly in theory.

    http://www.ic.org/
    http://directory.ic.org/iclist/geo.php
    http://directory.ic.org/iclist/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intentional_community

    Socialiam is a form of evil statism. It’s proponents are evil, even if unknowingly so.

    Presuming that socialiam is a misspelling of socialism, and not some other word I’m unfamiliar with, you’re quite wrong.

  14. paulie

    The socialists’ fancies are silly, illogical and impossible. There is no “theory” under which socialism works without statism. Whales cannot pull blocks of ice to cool seas of lemonade to quench the thirsts of the masses.

    As my references above to intentional communities should be sufficient to demonstrate, socialism does work without statism. Actually, I would say that socialism does not work with statism. Statism does not make the social order any more equitable, any more than it makes people more moral or reduces terror. In reality, statism does just the opposite of all those things: it concentrates power (and effective wealth), spreads ripples of force-initiation throughout society and creates a cycle of terror and counter-terror. It also leads to environmental destruction. In fact, no good comes from statism, except to the few in the short term at the expense of everyone else and generations to come.

    In the end, the socialists are evil and greedy. They cannot accomplish any of their goals without the statists tools – and so they use whatever evil means will get them the power they think they need. The pursuit of power obviates any honest concern for humanity that may have once motivated their intentions. Evil truimphs, all progress is lost and the end result is always the same.

    Ex-socialists who become statists because they think the ends justify the means, and statists who use socialism as yet another convenient justification, don’t thereby redefine what socialism actually is. Similarly, the crusades and the inquisition did not redefine the message of Christianity. Christianity was just the excuse du jour. So has socialism been for some other power mongers. Christ’s message did not change as a result of the actions of these power mongers, and neither did the definition of socialism. If you insist that war is peace often and loudly enough, that does not make it so.

    Socialism is always, in theory and reality, a trip down a dark evil road to tyrrany: It increases poverty at all levels and increases the divide between the rich and powerful and the poor. It increases the power of the state and destroys the rights of the individual. The greed of the socialists has no bounds and as they try to suck up the production and resources of individuals – whoever is without power and least favored will suffer most – the productive capacity of the economy is decimated and left as a shadow of where it could have been.

    What you are describing never was is, is not, and never will be socialism. It is in fact a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The clothes do not change the nature of the wolf, nor do they redefine all sheep.

  15. paulie

    The US Socialist Security and Medicare programs, for example, have prevented the creation of a minimum of 200 million good, permantent jobs around the world. This has caused poverty, war, disease, increased birthrates and populations, reduction in the availability and quality of health care, lack of development, lack of investment in green tech, and higher rates of pollution. There is no way that such a program can exist under any “voluntary” socialist system.

    Other than the superfluous scare quotes around the word voluntary, you are correct.

    All socialism is a form of statism. All socialism is evil.

    An illogical conclusion flowing from a demonstratedly false premise.

    All socialism must be exposed and abolished.

    Since you apparently deny that the numerous actually existing intentional communities are logically possible, does that mean that you would or would not use force to abolish them? What about Employee Stock Ownership Plans – to abolish or not to abolish?

    I agree with Gene Berkman that workers controls is more likely to occur in a free market economy than in a “socialist” state.

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