By Matthew Rothschild on September 19, 2011

I heard Sen. Bernie Sanders speak a couple of times this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin, and he was inspirational.

He went after “the crooks on Wall Street.”

He assailed the giant corporations.

He denounced the rise in poverty as a moral disgrace.

He said the rightwing was going after Social Security because “it’s such a success,” and it undermines their argument that the government can’t do anything good.

He called for a redistribution of income and wealth.

He skewered the corporate media for caring “more about Kim Kardashian’s wedding than the collapse of the middle class.”

He bemoaned the drift of the Democratic Party. “There was a time when we had a center-right party in this country and a center-left party,” he said. “Now we have a rightwing extremist party, and a centrist party. And Democrats are proposing ideas that ten years ago no Republicans would propose.”

Sanders didn’t shy away from criticizing Barack Obama.

He blamed Obama for continuing “the Bush trade policies,” saying, “Free trade has been an unmitigated disaster for American workers.” He noted that 50,000 factories have closed down here in the last decade.

And he noted “without pleasure that the President of the United States was talking about cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.” Sanders said, “FDR and Harry Truman would be rolling over in their graves.”

Sanders argued that such talk from the Democratic President “is not only horrible public policy, it is bad politics.” If both parties are advocating cutting these social programs, “The average person is going to say, ‘Where is the difference between the two parties?’ I don’t know who you think is going to vote for you when you say you’re going to cut Social Security and Medicare.”

Sanders said he’s “been in meetings in the White House where there have been very straightforward conversations with the President” about why he’s giving up so much ground. Sanders said he wasn’t sure what Obama’s motivations were but that the President has “a desire not to be confrontational.”

For his part, Sanders doesn’t back away from confrontation. He recommends it.

His advice for Obama: “Fight for a progressive agenda, and do not equivocate. You’re not going to be able to win unless you’re prepared to fight.”

Addendum: After Pres. Obama released his budget-cutting proposal on Monday, Sen. Sanders issued the following statement:

“At a time when 25 million Americans don’t have a full-time job and when millions of middle-class Americans have slipped into poverty, I am glad that the president has listened to the American people and will not balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children, and the poor. With the wealthiest people in this country becoming wealthier and large corporations enjoying huge profits, it is time that we end tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations and have them pay their fair share.

“President Obama is on the right path in calling for the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, for limiting deductions for those making more than $250,000 a year, and for closing special-interest tax breaks.

“He also is right in seeing that ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can save our nation an additional $1 trillion.

“I welcome the president’s decision to let states seek health care waivers in 2014, three years earlier than under the health care law. This will give needed support and encouragement to Vermont as we seek to lead the nation in health reform.

“As chairman of the Defending Social Security Caucus, I am pleased that the president has listened to many of us in Congress and to people around the country and will not cut Social Security benefits of raise the Medicare eligibility age.

“I do, however, have serious concerns about some of the president’s proposals. For example, while it is true that middle class and working families need tax cuts, I disagree with taking the funds from Social Security. If this part of his program were enacted, nearly $300 billion would be diverted from the Social Security Trust Fund over a two-year period.”

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Bonnie Urfer, Jailed Anti-Nuclear Activist, Defiant."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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