Bernie Sanders Blasts “Robin Hood in Reverse” Subsidies to the Rich, Calls for Full Employment

Bernie Sanders gave a forceful, if sobering, assessment of the state of the economy from the perspective of working men and women, as well as retirees, and focused on the hypocrisy of corporations and the wealthy that poor-mouth as a way to extract even more subsidies and tax breaks. Sanders called for an end to socialism for the rich, or what he calls “Robin Hood in reverse” and demanded the government do more to promote job creation and better wages.

The fact that a speech like this is noteworthy is a testament to how the Democratic party has become a pro-corporate venture which generously allows women, gays, Hispanics, and people of color to join in the looting.

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  1. Brooklin Bridge

    The fact that a speech like this is noteworthy is a testament to how the Democratic party has become a pro-corporate venture which generously allows women, gays, Hispanics, and people of color to join in the looting.

    Agreed, but nowhere in this clip did I hear Mr. Sanders point that out. He put the blame entirely on Republicans. I apologize if I missed something, but such a partial slant harnesses the truth to political rhetoric.

    1. diptherio

      Isn’t this the same guy who just invited Net-‘n-Yahoo to give a campaign speech in front of the US congress? Always consider the source, and Sanders is a senator–i.e. not a trustworthy person, period. He’s been going on with his populist rhetoric for decades now (it seems like anyway) with essentially nothing to show for it. Talk is cheap, and while I appreciate wanting to highlight the occasional bright spot in our national legislative body, I feel like this sort of thing is a distraction. When’s the last time the US Senate made a decision on the basis of the common good? Why do we expect that they ever will? And if we admit that they most likely never will, then why should we waste our time paying attention to what any of them, even the odd “progressive” outlier, has to say…about anything. It’s all hot-air and BS anyway, right? Am I missing something?

      I’d rather we focus our attention where we, the people, can actually have an independent effect on outcomes. I’d rather we spend a lot less time focusing on what noises the politicians are making, and a lot more focusing on how we can solve our own problems without resorting to politicians. I feel about politicians the same way I feel about other people’s kids: They can be cute, for awhile, but generally it’s best to just ignore them and hope they go away.

      My 2 cents…

      1. The Wabbit

        While I agree with you completely, we HAVE to pay attention to what they’re saying (and doing or not) as they work actively against us gaining any ability to solve any problems without their, or their masters’, say-so. I guess it’s that old “keep enemies closer” thing…these folks are not harmless, we ignore them at great peril.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            I’m so grateful Diptherio. I thought I was the only one to make foom-pas (as opposed to faux pas) on this site. This is probably your first and only where as I am steeped in the tradition.

      2. Nathanael

        Sanders isn’t a Democrat. He’s an independent and a Socialist. And do you really expect him to have any successes when he’s one out of 100 members of the Senate?

        He’s important because he’s a good guy and he’s got a megaphone.

      3. cwaltz

        I disagree with the viewpoint that he has essentially nothing to show for his populist speaking. Sanders was one of the few people who has successfully bartered. He managed to acquire funding for free clinics when health care reform was being negotiated. He successfully got an amendment to audit the Fed accomplished.

        Is the guy perfect? No. However, I don’t think that he should be judged on the whole merits of the body he works for and instead should be judged for his own words and actions.

        1. hunkerdown

          Bartered? Whose what did he barter, and why is appeasing terrorists with someone else’s penury not pathological?

      4. evodevo

        You ARE kidding, right? surely nobody on this blog could be that clueless about who Bernie is ….

  2. Larry

    It’s uplifting to hear a U.S. Senator speak to this serious issue of income disparity but I suspect it falls on too many deaf ears in Washington. In fact, I suspect that if the camera that was focused on Sanders panned back about the time he was finishing his presentation you would see many in the room on the GOP side and the corporate lobbyists sitting at the testimony table removing the ear plugs they had so firmly planted prior to Sander’s speech.

  3. Noonan

    The correct name for “socialism for the rich” is Fascism. The government will be able to promote job creation and better wages only if we stop allowing banks to control the government. Unfortunately neither political party is interested in making this happen.

    1. jrs

      I’m not sure whether it makes any sense to call it “socialism for the rich” either. I mean one can debate what socialism means, but transferring money to the rich business owning class is not ANY kind of socialism at all.

      It’s just not. That’s just further debasement of the language (and incidentally I don’t think using the phrase really promotes socialism if that’s the goal, only in a whiney “it’s not fair the rich can have socialism but I can’t” sense. But not in the sense of socialism as an ideal worth pursuing for it’s own sake).

      1. hunkerdown

        Yet we conveniently whitewash the helots out when we proclaim ourselves a “Democracy™”, and somehow that’s not only not a problem, but a good thing?

        The question, then, is scope. By taking the rich as their own society, with fortunes separate from ours — I don’t think it’s controversial that they have, as a group, spoken and acted quite reliably and consistently in support of that very reality — it should be clear that, they more or less freely share among themselves the resources made available to them, and largely trust one another to not break (their) society and the(ir) commons.

        Transferring wealth upwards is not socialism, it is true, but the Smelly People aren’t part of that socialist society, so the concerns of the dank Other are naturally (to be almost sycophantically generous) unaddressed by it. The descriptor of their system is valid insofar as the wall around them holds.

  4. DJG

    “The fact that a speech like this is noteworthy is a testament to how the Democratic party has become a pro-corporate venture which generously allows women, gays, Hispanics, and people of color to join in the looting.”

    Hmmm. So it was better when the Democratic Party was a pro-Southern party that tried to prop up the Slave Power and U.S. feudalism? Andrew Jackson’s idea of “identity politics” was white supremacist, which led to the Trail of Tears for the Cherokees and the Choctaws.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      So I see you’ve been pwned by the Democrats.Even Martin Luther King, when he spoke out against Vietnam, described his civil rights campaign as having failed because the money being poured into the war effort was leading to cuts in programs designed to help lift blacks out of poverty and was also resulting in young black men going to war in disproportionate numbers, since they could not obtain college deferrments. This country now has less class mobility than medieval Europe had, but that’s OK by you since we have, for instance, black attorneys general who refuse to prosecute any senior or even mid level bankers for the financial crisis (Loretta Lynch is expected to hew to the pattern set by Holder).

      And the party is now trying to improve its optics, late in the game, as the rank and file in those groups realize they’ve been had. For instance, Emily’s list (which BTW skews affluent in who it targets for fundraising) has started talking up equal pay for women because a right to an abortion is meaningless if you can’t afford to pay for one. Yet have you heard anyone in the Democratic party leadership throw their support behind strikes by fast food workers and nurses for better pay and working conditions?

      Look at this post by the Democratic party organ otherwise known as Daily Kos as an indicator: Fast food strikes are turning into a movement for low-wage worker justice. Kos is touting the strikes because it’s presumed to be more pro-labor than the Republicans, despite having done virtually perilous little on that front (note this is in part due to organized labor’s fecklessness).

      So what do we see in this story? Not a single quote from a Democrat supporting the strikes, or for that matter, the concept of a $15 an hour minimum wage! Trust me, Kos would have included one if anyone had made a statement.

      1. DJG

        Yves: No, I am not a Democrat. At a certain point, any leftist has to leave them behind. But they do serve nice vegan dishes at fundraisers. I was checking on where you were coming from.
        1. I am concerned when people imply “identity politics” without acknowledging the overwhelming historic burden of white surpemacists and the assumption that white is right. The default “American” identity has its problems. I am reminded that the largest mass lynching in U.S. history was of Italians in New Orleans. So race has to be dealt with–with a possibility of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s call for reparation and MLK’s call for equality and peace (and an end to the delusions of U.S. foreign policy). I very often find the term “identity politics” to be a dog-whistle for “blacks’ grievances are not legitimate.”
        2. My attitude toward white feminism and its dilemmas is best described here:
        A class oppressor is a class oppressor is a class oppressor. This is a very hard lesson for white women in general, with so much of feminism tied to careerism. The current push for more women on corporate boards is just window dressing for the haute bourgeoisie and its need to loot. As you point out, the Democrats flee from organization by workers and from any contact with unions. Bill Clinton famously so.
        3. A class / economic analysis of our current problems is what is required. The U.S. Gini quotient is higher than ever. Yet class analysis doesn’t go well among U.S. liberals, who are inclined to feel that a feeling for equality is what matters (it’s all a feeling) and who aren’t committed to redistributionist policies, if they ever were.
        4. I find that many groups have legitimate grievances (like those lynched Italians and their descendants), yet an obstacle is that so many groups are so “offended.” This is a rhetorical stance common in both parties used to eliminate discussion. Both parties trade in how “offended” their constituencies are. Witness the letter to Iran from the Senate Republicans and the responses.

        1. hunkerdown

          Who’s paying the reparations? The slave owners, or descendants of the indentured servants? Without specifically identifying who pays, we have nothing more than an assertion of differential entitlement based on some slight causal relationship to people long dead, and I’ve never seen a differential entitlement that failed to sow division or was not captured to the purpose relatively quickly.

          Review the Lumbergh’s birthday scene in Office Space and I think you’ll see what such talk sounds like to the parts of the precariat that aren’t being *bought*.

      2. Ed S.


        Four words. 4.


        You know them. But it’s time to re-introduce them to 21st century Americans.

      3. Carla

        Yves, in my view, Sanders needs to call out the Democrats. And Sherrod Brown and Alan Grayson should join him. Maybe it would give courage to a few others…

        But in any case, it is essential that this be done.

    2. Brindle

      What a disingenuous piece of claptrap—creating a straw man of the antebellum South in discussing Dem Party use of identity politics. Weak.

  5. TedWa

    I for one sincerely appreciate Bernie’s bravery and honesty in holding up a mirror to the hypocrisy in both parties. Speaking truth to power puts one on national security lists and he has no fear in that regard. No one else does it like Bernie and if he runs for Prez, he gets my vote. He’s the closest fit to fearless about Wall St and crony capitalism we’re going to get. The only other I can think of is Alan Grayson and he gets no air time.

  6. Mark Anderlik

    The impact of a speech like this must not only be measured by its influence on legislation and other politicians, but also on the average citizen. With the intentional grinding of legislative processes to a halt, we are left with transforming our oligarchy through a mass social movement. I, for one, will share Sanders’ speech with the low wage workers I am organizing who, on the whole, better understand what he is talking about today than they did 10 years ago. They are sick and tired of being sick and tired. And they are building their power to make the changes they need to live a more human life.

  7. Jim Haygood

    What’s telling is that although Bernie Sanders and Angus King are independents, both are obliged to caucus with Democrats.

    It’s because the Depublicrat duopoly controls the committee structure in Congress, where legislation actually gets crafted. Without getting slotted into the committee structure, an independent legislator would be unable to accomplish anything.

    Nothing in the constitution authorized the duopolistic takeover of Congress. But it is used very effectively to keep independents like Bernie Sanders on a short leash, and to discourage others from showing up.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Agree with RUKidding, good points to keep in mind when criticizing Sanders or the like. But it remains that this artificial construct of being able to criticize exclusively the opposing party (kept on a short leash) puts a dent in the verisimilitude.

    2. bmeisen

      agreed, the Constitution says nothing about parties. in federalist 10 madison suggests that separation of powers and democracy are the antidote to fractions. i suppose he carried the day. a fateful omission that Founders of other democracies have learned from, i.e. more advanced democracies establish a role for political parties in their constitutions, e.g. by setting an electoral results threshhold for admission to a legislature. interestingly washington warned against regional parties in his farewell address. the duopoly is the bad seed of electoral mechanics – first past the post aka single member district pluralities in virtually all federal races (potus being the big exception) – and manipulation of districting and voter registration. the end of the duopoly could be achieved i believe by introducing citizen registration which would streamline all government services including voter registration. doable without an amendment i bet. but the dems and gop are not able to place the good of the country above their own ultimately financial interests.

  8. RUKidding

    It’s good to highlight a speech like this, if for no other reason than to have it get a wider audience. Speaking only for myself, I’m not a huge Bernie Sanders fan, but whatever… I like what he says, but I don’t see him doing very much. One can argue that point, I’m sure.

    That said, given that a Senator is making these comments bears some repetition if only because it’s an antidote the corporate fascist propaganda, which cries poor mouth about the corporations and how the “free market” is the solution to absolutely everything.

    Do I expect a speech like this to make a difference in people’s opinions? No. But if no one ever says anything like this – eg, the TRUTH – then we’re really cooked.

    That said, yes, what can WE, the 99% do to make effective changes? Waiting for our putative “leaders” to do something for us is a fool’s errand. At this time, I am out of solutions, myself… sadly.

    1. steelhead23

      What can we do? Well, the ultra-conservatives in the Republican camp moved their party to the right by fielding and supporting Tea Party candidates within the party. Why couldn’t populists do similar? We don’t have the Koch’s money, but we do have the numbers to change the Democratic party. How? Vote for Sanders in the primaries and vote for a third party populist on the general election if the Dems don’t nominate him. Our tendency to vote for the lesser of the two evils (e.g. Clinton over Bush) is completely counterproductive. Always, always, always vote for the person you most want to be in office – regardless of the polls and pundits. That’s what I do. Not that the candidates I have voted for have won, or my vote for Nader in 2000 changed the party, (well, they did nominate Obama – which has turned out to NOT be an agent of change), but it has made me feel like I am in the fight. Thin grits, I know, but that’s what I do.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Apart from partisan political activities by those interested, it seems that one of the most urgent tasks of our era is to better understand, describe, and articulate economics and it’s implications.

        Sanders, like Warren and Sherrod Brown, has a remarkable ability to synthesize and explain.
        That’s a rare gift, and it must require a tremendous focus and effort by Sanders to have these stats so well thought out and organized.

        We’ve been functioning for at least 30 years under ‘trickle down’ policies, which not coincidentally were accompanied by the growth of tax havens and offshoring. There are still many people – including probably the Republican members of the Senate committee – who actually believe that ‘investment and capital’ are the key drivers of job creation and prosperity.

        This is bogus — see today’s posting about Ireland and the Celtic Tiger for more evidence. Or see Cyprus.
        What’s urgently needed currently are new ways of understanding economics, and more people passing along the kind of knowledge that Sanders has assessed and articulated.

  9. Benedict@Large

    Whenever I see news coverage of the Democratic nomination that refers to who is or might be running, Bernie’s name is NEVER mentioned. Not even in passing. And yet, to watch Bernie over the last several months, it’s very clear that he is running, and everyone in Washington knows this, and openly acknowledges it. Everyone, that is, except the mainstream press. Once again, our media is telling us who we are allowed to vote for.

    You might love Bernie or hate him or not care a whit, but there’s no way that a man who’s spent half his life in Congress should be ignored by the media when he runs for President on the left side of the ballot while any clown on the right who can rub two nickels together gets star billing.

    1. RUKidding

      You also make a good point. I cannot say for certain whether Sanders is attempting to run for Pres or not, but I quite agree that the 1%, who owns the propaganda Wurlitzer, will certainly give top billing to any loon on the right who wants to spout word salad about running for Pres. Someone who has even marginal lefty & truly populist viewpoints? Fahgeddaboudit. You won’t hear bupkes about him/her. Just like you won’t hear anything about any of the misleadingly called “third” party candidates. OR if something somehow gets published about the Greens, or whatever, it’s done in point & mock style with a lot of derision thrown in for good measure.

      If you think you have a real “choice” for US Pres?? Well guess again…

  10. Llewelyn Moss

    Thanks for posting Bernie’s speech. Sadly it will only be seen by people who have the time and inclination to seek out alternate sources of news (like NC). You’ll never hear these words on the Teevee Nightly News. I’d really love to see Bernie as POTUS and use the Bully Pulpit to tell Mericans to “Wake The F**K Up!”

  11. dannyc

    Sanders says, “… and the wealthiest family in this country — ONE family — owns more wealth than the bottoms 42 percent of the American people.” Isn’t he referring to the Waltons? And didn’t Hillary have an internship with them at some point?

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