Beware The Little Man With An Idea

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 7:53 a.m.

A few days back, while I was perusing my Twitter page, I discovered a news story that seemed to be ignored bye the major media of the day:  Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont, held an 8 ½ hour filibuster on the U.S. Senate floor protesting the proposed tax bill that had been agreed upon by the Democratic and Republican parties.

Senator Sanders, affectionately known as Bernie by many, is the first Senator to declare himself a socialist and who admits to admiring European style social democracy.  In Canada, we call them NDP; in the U.S.A., they’re called Communists, pinko-s and loonies.

That long a filibuster is a triumph of the spirit over the flesh.  Bernie is 69 years old and for a filibuster to be carried on, the person is not allowed to eat or go to the bathroom.  If he does, he loses the floor.  Senator Sanders, a 69-year-old man, did not eat or leave the floor.  He did have some short-term subs in the persons of Sherrod Brown a progressive Democrat from Ohio who spoke for 3/4 of an hour and center-right Democrat Mary Landrieu who took the microphone for 1/2 an hour.

Historically, Senate filibusters have been used for bad purposes too.  In the 1960s, Strom Thurmond pulled a filibuster to oppose the Civil Rights Act that was passed in 1964.  The famous senator, Huey Long, spoke for fifteen and a hour hours to block a bill that would have also benefited rich Americans over poor ones and wound up reading from Shakespeare to keep going.  Interestingly enough, no filibuster has ever successfully blocked a bill from being passed.  Sanders definitely knew from the get-go that history was working against him.

No matter where you stand on taxation, socialism, and the income disparities that are a serious problem in many Western nations today, you have to admire the courage of the man to get up and speak for the little guy.  In his speech, Sanders referred to Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two billionaires who have openly questioned why they need a tax break. 

He spoke passionately about the jobs that are leaving the United States as corporations move to countries like Thailand where the minimum wage was recently doubled…from eleven cents an hour to twenty-two cents an hour.  Sanders asked how American companies were expected to compete with companies whose labour costs were so low and he asked why it is that we are all racing to the bottom because of the greed of big corporations.  Finally, Sanders enumerated the banks and corporations that were bailed out at American taxpayers’ expense, thanks to the recent disclosure of the list.  This list includes Korean, Japanese and Bahrainian banks.  Then he spoke of small and medium-sized businesses that were unable to even get a loan, businesses that could be a source of jobs for a population starving for jobs.

I watched about a half hour of his speech and I was riveted, not because Bernie is such a dynamic orator – he isn’t – but because the ring of truth was so loud and so clear that you couldn’t help but admire the honesty of the man.

Tommy Douglas, in his famous Mouseland speech said that, “Beware the little man with an idea. You can lock up a man but you can’t lock up an idea.”  Sanders sent a definitive message in homespun words that a government that ignores the working and middle classes is doomed to failure…and more debt.
Ellen Goldfinch may be reached at radiomother@yahoo.ca



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