Sanders: Party platform still needs work

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U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders holds up his notes while speaking about his attempts to influence the Democratic party's platform during a speech in Albany, New York, U.S., June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

 

The Democratic Party platform drafted in St. Louis is an excellent start in bringing forth policies that will help end the 40-year decline of the American middle class. These initiatives, if implemented, will create millions of good-paying jobs, significantly improve health care, and reverse the dangerous trend in this country toward an oligarchic form of society. But, let us be clear, this is a document that needs to be significantly improved by the full Platform Committee meeting in Orlando on July 8 and 9.

Here are some very positive provisions in the platform as it stands today:

At a time when huge Wall Street financial institutions are bigger now than they were before the taxpayers of this country bailed them out, the platform calls for enacting a 21st-century Glass-Steagall Act and for breaking up too-big-to-fail banks.

The platform calls for a historic expansion of Social Security, closes loopholes that allow corporations to avoid paying taxes, creates millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, makes it easier for workers to join unions, takes on the greed of the pharmaceutical companies, ends disastrous deportation raids, bans private prisons and detention centers, abolishes the death penalty, moves to automatic voter registration and the public financing of elections, eliminates super PACs, and urges passage of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, among many other initiatives.

These are all major accomplishments that will begin to move this country in the right direction. I congratulate Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.), chairman of the Platform Drafting Committee, and all 15 members of the panel for their hard work.

But, unfortunately, there were a number of vitally important proposals brought forth by the delegates from our campaign that were not adopted. My hope is that a grassroots movement of working people, environmentalists, and human-rights advocates will work with us to demand that the Democratic Party include these initiatives in the platform to be adopted by the full committee in Orlando.

We need to have very clear language that raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ensures that the promised pensions of millions of Americans will not be cut, establishes a tax on carbon, and creates a ban on fracking. These and other amendments will be offered in Florida.

Further, one of the most important amendments that we will offer is to make it clear that the Democratic Party is strongly opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In my view, the Democratic Party must go on record in opposition to holding a vote on this disastrous, unfettered free-trade agreement during the lame-duck session of Congress and beyond.

Frankly, I do not understand why the amendment our delegates offered on this issue in St. Louis was defeated with all of Hillary Clinton's committee members voting against it. I don't understand that because Clinton, during the campaign, made it very clear that she did not want to see the TPP appear on the floor during the lame-duck session.

If both Clinton and I agree that the TPP should not get to the floor of Congress this year, it's hard to understand why an amendment saying so would not be overwhelmingly passed.

Let's be clear: The trade agreement is opposed by virtually the entire grassroots base of the Democratic Party.

Every trade union in this country is strongly opposed to the pact. They understand that this agreement will make it easier for corporations to throw American workers out on the street and move factories to Vietnam, where workers are paid 65 cents an hour.

Virtually every major environmental group is opposed to the TPP because they understand that it will make it easier for the biggest polluters in the world to continue despoiling our planet.

Major religious groups are opposed because they understand that it will reward some of the biggest human-rights violators in the world.

Doctors Without Borders is strongly opposed to this agreement because its members understand that it would increase prescription-drug prices for some of the most desperate people in the world by making it harder to access generic drugs.

This agreement also threatens our democracy. We cannot give multinational corporations the ability to challenge our nation's labor and environmental laws simply because they might reduce expected future profits through the very flawed Investor State Dispute Settlement system. That would undermine the democratic values that our country was founded on.

During the coming days and weeks our campaign will be reaching out to grassroots America to do all that we can to oppose the TPP and make sure that it doesn't get passed.

@BernieSanders