Bernie Sanders on Welfare & Poverty

Socialist Jr Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)


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