Bernie Sanders on Welfare & Poverty

Democratic primary challenger; Independent VT Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)


Deal with 500,000 people sleeping on streets, AND Trump

Q: Americans are watching these impeachment hearings. At the same time, they're also focused on their more immediate, daily economic and family concerns.

SANDERS: Sadly, we have a president who is not only a pathological liar, he is likely the most corrupt president in the modern history of America. But we cannot simply be consumed by Donald Trump, because if we are, we're going to lose the election. Right now, you've got 87 million people who have no health insurance or are underinsured. You've got 500,000 people sleeping out on the street and you've got 18 million people paying half of their limited incomes for housing. What the American people understand is that the Congress can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time. In other words, we can deal with Trump's corruption, but we also have to stand up for the working families of this country. We also have to stand up to the fact that our political system is corrupt, dominated by a handful of billionaires, and that our economy is rigged.

Source: November Democratic primary debate, on impeaching Trump , Nov 20, 2019

U.S. is wealthy, but have highest child poverty rate

Guess what? We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world. And yet, we have the highest child poverty rate of almost any country on earth. We have teachers in this country who are leaving education because they can't work two or three jobs to support themselves. Which is why, under my legislation, we'll move to see that every teacher in America makings at least $60,000 a year.
Source: September Democratic Primary debate in Houston , Sep 12, 2019

Focus big time on rebuilding distressed communities

Q: On reparations: You don't think cash payments are the best way, but according to a Gallup poll, 73% of African-Americans are in favor of cash payments to descendants of slaves. How do you respond to them?

SANDERS: Well, I respond to that by saying that I am supportive of Jim Clyburn's legislation, which is called 10-20-30. And what that understands is that as a result of slavery, and segregation, and the institutional racism we see now in health care, in education, in financial services, we are going to have to focus big time on rebuilding distressed communities in America, including African-American communities.

Source: July Democratic Primary debate (first night in Detroit) , Jul 30, 2019

1980s USSR housing worse than U.S.'s, but they pay only 5%

New details emerged Friday about Sen. Bernie Sanders' infamous honeymoon in the Soviet Union back in the 1980s.

Sanders' criticism [of the U.S.] reportedly included knocking the cost of housing and health care in the U.S. while blasting the U.S. for interventions in other countries. During an hour-long news conference upon his return to the U.S., Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, seemed unrepentant. "The fact that we were willing to be critical of the U.S.--I think that made them maybe more appreciative of our criticisms we made of their own society," he said. "We were saying, 'Yeah, in our country, we also have a housing crisis. Our housing in general is better than yours, but people are paying 40% of their income for housing. The quality of your housing is not good, but we appreciate the fact that people are paying 5%. The quality of your health care is not good, but in the United States, believe me, we have enormous problems in terms of our health-care system.'"

Source: Fox News on 2020 Democratic primary , May 3, 2019

Would sign reparations bill; wants investment in poor areas

A congressman from South Carolina, Jim Clyburn, called it the 10-20-30 legislation, which means that you use 10 percent of federal funds to focus on communities who have long-term poverty. We make sure that all of the kids get the education [and] health care they need. We improve the infrastructure. We improve broadband. We create a situation in these distressed communities where we take people out of poverty all across the country. That is the direction that I think we should go.
Source: CNN Town Hall 2020: 5 candidates back-to-back , Apr 22, 2019

Sanders supports economic help for blacks, not reparations

Sanders said he supports reparations, but the specific policy he describes here doesn't fit what experts say is the definition of such a policy. The point of reparations is to address the wrongs of discriminatory policies, including slavery, Jim Crow laws and redlining. "Something that is economically inclusive but has a racial bent to it--those may or may not be good policies," Ohio State University professor Darrick Hamilton told NPR, "but let's be clear: It's not reparations."
Source: NPR Morning Edition: Election 2020 Special Series , Mar 18, 2019

Puerto Rico nearly bankrupt after Great Recession

Since 2006, Puerto Rico had lost 20% of its jobs, and about 60% of Puerto Rico's adult population were unemployed. In other words, Puerto Rico remained in the midst of a major and prolonged depression.

As a result of its economic crisis, the Puerto Rican government was deep in debt and heading toward bankruptcy. Wall Street institutions, sensing the opportunity to make a killing at the expense of a weak and impoverished territory, were there to "help." They lent the government money at usurious interest rates.

In 2015, Puerto Rico owed over $70 billion and was paying, in some cases, a 34% interest rate on tax-exempt bonds that vulture capitalists purchased at 29 cents on the dollar. The people of Puerto Rico should not be forced to suffer even more in order that a handful of wealthy investors could make outrageous profits. I called on those investors to take a major "haircut" and understand that they could not make huge profits off a deeply impoverished and suffering island.

Source: Where We Go From Here, by Bernie Sanders, p.112-3 , Oct 27, 2017

Welfare to low-wage workers subsidizes profitable companies

Why do the taxpayers of this country pay billions of dollars a year for programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as the food stamp program), Medicaid, and subsidized housing? The answer is clear. Millions of American workers need these programs because they cannot survive on the starvation wages their employers pay. Public assistance given to low wage workers is essentially subsidizing the profits of the companies paying the low wages. Those corporations and all businesses should be paying their employees wages that they can live on with dignity, without the need for public assistance.
Source: Guide to Political Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p. 8 , Aug 29, 2017

Burlington Community Land Trust for affordable housing

We developed some of the most innovative affordable housing concepts in the country. Against opposition from some members of the local real estate industry, we became the first city in America to fund community land trust housing. Through the Burlington Community Land Trust, working-class people were able to purchase their own homes at a lower cost than was available on the commercial market. The housing remains affordable in perpetuity because the owners must agree not to resell the property at market rates, accepting only a reasonable and limited return on their investment.

This community land trust concept has not only spread all across our country, but it has been adopted in other nations as well. The United Nations acknowledged the Burlington Community Land Trust as one of the most creative approaches to affordable housing in the world.

Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p. 37 , Nov 15, 2016

Grotesque inequality is unsustainable and immoral

There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and when 99 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent. There is something profoundly wrong when, in recent years, we have seen a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth. There is something profoundly wrong when one family owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans. This grotesque level of inequality is immoral. It is bad economics. It is unsustainable. This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about.
Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p.120 , Nov 15, 2016

Senior poverty AND childhood poverty are increasing

At a time when millions of Americans are struggling to keep their heads above water economically, when senior poverty is increasing, when millions of kids are living in dire poverty, my Republican colleagues, as part of their recently passed budget, are trying to make a terrible situation even worse. The Republican budget throws 27 million Americans off health insurance, makes drastic cuts in Medicare, throws millions of low-income Americans--including pregnant women--off of nutrition programs.

Well, let me tell my Republican colleagues that I respectfully disagree with their approach. Instead of cutting Social Security, we're going to expand benefits. Instead of cutting Head Start and child care, we are going to move to a universal Pre-K system for all the children of this country. As FDR reminded us, a nation's greatness is judged not by what it provides to the most well-off, but how it treats the people most in need. And that's the kind of nation we must become.

Source: Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders, p.125-6 , Nov 15, 2016

We should not lead the world in childhood poverty

We should not be the country that has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country and more wealth and income inequality than any other country. We should not be the only major country on Earth that does not guarantee health care to all of our people as a right of citizenship and we should not be the only major country that does not provide medical and parental leave.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas , Oct 13, 2015

Economic inequality & institutional racism exist in parallel

Q: What does Bernie want to do about wealth disparity among blacks?

A: Bernie is on the front line of addressing economic inequality for all Americans, particularly blacks who are disproportionately affected by systemic inequities that directly contribute to economic disparity. An important thing to understand about Bernie--perhaps the most important thing with regards to his views on issues affecting people of color--is that he views economic inequality and institutional racism as parallel and interrelated issues that must be addressed simultaneously: "Too many African-Americans and other minorities find themselves subjected to a system that treats citizens who have not committed crimes like criminals. A growing number of communities do not trust the police and police have become disconnected from the communities they are sworn to protect. We must reform our criminal justice system. Black lives do matter. Communities of color also face the violence of economic deprivation."

Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

Advocate for social benefits of public assistance programs

Bernie Sanders is a staunch advocate for the social benefits of public assistance programs. These aren't the Reagan-era "welfare queen" giveaways as Republicans have branded them--they're essential tools the federal government can wield to achieve a more just, equitable society.
Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

3.5 million Americans homeless is unacceptable

It is unacceptable that in one of the wealthiest countries in the world as many as 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness over the course of a year. In 2013, the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that on any given night, over 600,000 Americans are homeless. It is unacceptable that so many Americans are living on the streets. We must increase affordable housing and work to reduce homelessness among veterans.
Source: 2016 grassroots campaign website FeelTheBern.org, "Issues" , Sep 5, 2015

All religions call usury immoral: apply that to credit cards

We know every major religion on Earth--Christianity, Judaism, Islam, you name it--has always felt that usury is immoral. What we mean by usury is that when someone doesn't have a lot of money and you loan them money, you don't get blood out of a stone. You can't ask for outrageously high interest rates when somebody is hurting. That is immoral. Yet today we have millions of people in our country who are paying 25% or 30% & in some cases even higher interest rates on their credit cards. Yet many of the credit card companies were bailed out by the taxpayers of this country. What the Fed must do is say to those companies: "Sorry, you can't continue to rip off the American people and charge them 25% or 30% interest rates."

In my view, when credit card companies charge over 20% interest, they are not engaged in the business of making credit available to their customers; they are involved in extortion and loan-sharking--nothing essentially different than gangsters who charge outrageously high prices.

Source: The Speech: A Historic Filibuster, by Bernie Sanders , Dec 10, 2010

Predatory lending practices caused 2008 recession

We have seen the financial services industry charge 30% interest rates on credit card loans and tack on outrageous late fees and other costs to unsuspecting customers. We have seen them engaged in despicable predatory lending practices, taking advantage of the vulnerable and the uneducated. We have seen them send out billions of deceptive solicitations to almost every mailbox in America. What they hoped to do was to gain new customers for credit card companies and then, through the very small print on the back of the solicitation, have the opportunity, have the ability to monkey around with interest rates so when people thought they were getting zero interest or 2%, it turns out that a few months later they were paying very high interest rates. Most important, of course, we have seen the financial services industry lure people into mortgages they could not afford to pay, which is one of the basic reasons we are tonight in the midst of all of this.
Source: Outsider in the White House, by Bernie Sanders, p.323-324 , Oct 1, 2008

Economic insecurity is pivotal in how one lives one's life

I grew up in a lower-middle-class home in Brooklyn, NY--and knew what it was like to be in a family where lack of money was a constant source of tension and unhappiness.

My father worked hard as a paint salesman--day after day, year after year. There was always enough money to put food on the table and to buy a few extras, but never enough to fulfill my mother's dream of moving out of our 3-and-a-half-room apartment and into a home of our own.

While I had my share of hand-me-downs, there was enough money for decent clothes, but only after an enormous amount of shopping to get the "best buy." At a very young age I learned that lack of money and economic insecurity can play a pivotal role in determining how one lives life. There's a lesson I've never forgotten.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 13 , Jun 17, 1997

Land Trust: affordable housing by resale below market rates

We developed some very innovative concepts in affordable housing. Against opposition from a segment of the local real estate industry, we became the first city in America to fund community land-trust housing. Through the Burlington Community Land Trust, working-class people were able to purchase their own homes at a lower cost than offered on the commercial market. The housing remains affordable in perpetuity because the owners must agree not to resell the property at market rates, accepting only a reasonable and limited return on their investment.

Working with a tenant organization and nonprofit housing groups, we prevented the largest subsidized housing development in the state, Northgate, from being converted into expensive condominiums.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p. 65 , Jun 17, 1997

Opposed cutting food stamps

There is now NO major political party that represents the poor and the vulnerable. There is no question about it. Beating up on the poor is now "good politics." As Rush Limbaugh has told us: "The poor in this country are the biggest piglets at the mother pig and her nipples. They're the ones who get all the benefits in this country. They're the ones that are always pandered to." Congress and the president have heard Limbaugh's message, studied the polls, and clambered aboard.

If, 5 years before, someone had suggested that a Democratic president and the vast majority of Democrats in Congress would have supported legislation that cut food stamps by over $20 billion, and terminated a child's right to minimal economic support they would have been laughed at. Gingrich became Speaker, and Rush Limbaugh's brutal attitude toward the poor had permeated both parties. The bill accepts the brilliant proposal that poverty is caused by the poor.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p.139-40 , Jun 17, 1997

U.S. has highest income inequality in industrialized world

The Democratic convention was heavily scripted and entirely poll-driven. They made emotional appeals on several issues where the polls showed they had significant support. 75% of the people supported the ban on assault weapons. So they focused on the tragedy of Jim Brady, and support for gun control.

Perhaps more remarkable were the issues NOT talked about. There was virtually no discussion of class, despite the fact that we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income in the industrialized world, and real wages of workers continue to fall. There was no discussion of our huge trade deficit, nor of corporate investment in China, Mexico, and other Third World countries, which is causing the loss of millions of decent-paying jobs. There was no mention of the fragility of a democracy in which half the people no longer vote and have given up on the political process.

Source: Outsider in the House, by Bernie Sanders, p.166-7 , Jun 17, 1997

Voted YES on instituting National Service as a new social invention.

Congressional Summary:Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act:
    Adds to National and Community Service Act of 1990 (NCSA) purposes:
  1. providing year-round opportunities in service-learning;
  2. involving program participants in emergency and disaster preparedness, relief, and recovery;
  3. increasing service opportunities for retiring professionals;
  4. encouraging service by individuals age 55 or older and continued service by national service alumni;
  5. focusing national service on the areas of national need.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D, MD): [In developing national service over many years] we were not in the business of creating another new social program. What we were in the business of was creating a new social invention. What do I mean by that? In our country, we are known for our technological inventions. But also often overlooked, and sometimes undervalued, is our social inventions.

We created national service to let young people find opportunity to be of service and also to make an important contribution. But not all was rosy. In 2003, when I was the ranking member on the appropriations subcommittee funding national service, they created a debacle. One of their most colossal errors was that they enrolled over 20,000 volunteers and could not afford to pay for it. That is how sloppy they were in their accounting. I called them the "Enron of nonprofits."

And they worked on it. But all that is history. We are going to expand AmeriCorps activity into specialized corps. One, an education corps; another, a health futures corps; another, a veterans corps; and another called opportunity corps. These are not outside of AmeriCorps. They will be subsets because we find this is where compelling human need is and at the same time offers great opportunity for volunteers to do it.

Opponent's argument to vote No:No senators spoke against the amendment.

Reference: Serve America Act/GIVE Act; Bill H.R. 1388 ; vote number 2009-S115 on Mar 26, 2009

Voted YES on providing $70 million for Section 8 Housing vouchers.

Voting YES on this amendment would add $70 million to the Section 8 housing voucher program, funding an additional 10,000 affordable housing vouchers.
Reference: Department of Housing and Urban Development appropriations; Bill HR 5576 Amendment 1015 ; vote number 2006-267 on Jun 13, 2006

Voted NO on promoting work and marriage among TANF recipients.

Welfare Reauthorization Bill: Vote to pass a bill that would approve $16.5 billion to renew the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant program through fiscal 2008 and call for new welfare aid conditions. The bill raises the work requirements for individuals getting assistance from 30 to 40 hours per week. States would be required to increase the number of recipient families working from the current level of 50 percent to 70 percent or more in 2008. The bill also provides an additional $1 billion in mandatory state child care grants and provides $200 million annually for marriage promotion programs.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Pryce, R-OH; Bill HR 4 ; vote number 2003-30 on Feb 13, 2003

Voted NO on treating religious organizations equally for tax breaks.

Vote to pass a bill that would allow religious organizations to compete equally with other non-governmental groups for federal funds to provide social service, and provide $13.3 billion in tax breaks for charitable giving over 10 years.
Bill HR 7 ; vote number 2001-254 on Jul 19, 2001

Voted NO on responsible fatherhood via faith-based organizations.

Vote to establish a program that would promote more responsible fatherhood by creating educational, economic and employment opportunities and give grants to state agencies and nonprofit groups, including faith-based institutions.
Reference: Bill sponsored by Johnson, R-CT.; Bill HR 3073 ; vote number 1999-586 on Nov 10, 1999

Increase the earned income tax credit.

Sanders co-sponsored increasing the earned income tax credit

Provisions Relating to Earned Income Credit: Amends the Internal Revenue Code to repeal the supplemental young child credit and revise and increase the earned income credit.

Source: Tax Simplification Act (H.R.13) 1993-H13 on Jan 5, 1993

Fully fund Head Start; Job Corps; and WIC food program.

Sanders co-sponsored fully fund Head Start; Job Corps; and WIC food program

Making appropriations to begin a phase-in toward full funding of the special supplemental food program for women, infants and children (WIC) and of Head Start programs, and to expand the Job Corps program for the year ending September 30, 1994.

Source: H.R.1722 1993-H1722 on Apr 20, 1993

Support school breakfast for low-income children.

Sanders signed bill favoring school breakfast for low-income kids