Sanders Takes Budget Fight Across The Country

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(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders is playing a prominent national role to encourage liberal and progressive voters to be more actively involved in the budget decisions that will be made by Congress this fall.

As VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, the effort is taking Sanders all around the country with a message that’s critical of Republicans, Democrats and President Obama.

(Kinzel) There’s no question that Sanders believes that President Obama and Congressional Democratic leaders have failed to stand up to conservative Republicans in Washington. For instance, he was very disappointed that they supported legislation extending the nation’s debt ceiling without including new taxes on the wealthy in the package. 

Sanders told thousands of steel workers at their annual convention in Las Vegas last week, that the time has come to take a stand.

(Sanders) "What we have got to do now is exactly what your convention slogan is all about and that is stand up, fight back, organize, education and make this government work for all of us."

(Kinzel) To the delight of his audience, Sanders compared the needs of the rich to drug addicts and alcoholics.

(Sanders) "No matter how high the unemployment numbers all they want is more and more and more and I say enough is enough!"

(Kinzel) Sanders also made it clear that part of the problem lies with the President and the Democrats.

(Sanders) "There has been too much discussion in this country not just for Republicans but from Democrats alike that we should be making cuts in Social Security… That is wrong!"

(Kinzel) UVM political science professor Garrison Nelson says many liberal Democrats appreciate what Sanders is doing. Nelson says that Sanders, as an independent, can be critical of the Republicans and the Democrats.

(Nelson) "There’s a vacuum and Bernie has basically been obliged to fill that vacuum. It’s not a strategic ploy on Bernie’s part but is clearly a continuation of his long term ideological commitment."

(Kinzel) Nelson says the 2012 presidential election is beginning to resemble 1980, because some political observers are comparing Barack Obama’s leadership style to that of Jimmy Carter.

He says there’s one big difference. In 1980, the liberals were so unhappy with Carter that Massachusetts senator Teddy Kennedy ran against Carter in the Democratic primaries. But Nelson says that kind of challenge isn’t happening this year.

(Nelson) "So basically the question is what do the liberals do which is to sort of wring their hands and hope Obama as I say develops some toughness between now and next year. Because they really have no alternative that they can scare him with."

(Kinzel) Sanders says his goal to mobilize voters to send a clear message to the Congressional super committee on debt reduction that new tax revenue must be part of any final deal.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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