In a rally for the progressive movement in Kentucky on Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) for “working overtime” for corporations and the wealthy, while working to “undermine” the lower and middle classes.
“I’m here today because Mitch McConnell is working overtime to represent the needs of the wealthy and the powerful and to undermine the needs of working families,” Sanders said, while drawing attention to McConnell’s leadership in opposing proposals like the American Rescue Plan, a $15 federal minimum wage, universal child care, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the For the People Act.
“The question, I think, that people should be asking is, ‘why is Mitch McConnell doing what he does?’” in blocking legislation that would improve the lives of working Americans while working to help the wealthy, Sanders said. “The answer is pretty simple: follow the money.”
Sanders pointed out that McConnell often receives large sums of money from Wall Street, health care companies, pharmaceutical companies, the National Rifle Association and fossil fuel companies. These groups oppose proposals like raising the minimum wage and reducing the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, among many things, he points out.
“Mitch McConnell’s top campaign contributors want to do exactly the opposite of what the American people want and need. And so does Mitch McConnell,” said Sanders.
Sanders went on to criticize McConnell’s hypocrisy in whingeing over government spending for the working class while working to provide tax breaks for the rich.
“This I will never forget: On New Year’s Eve, Mitch McConnell blocked legislation I was offering to provide working class Americans with a $2,000 direct payment because, get this, he claimed it was ‘socialism for the rich,’” said Sanders.
“In Mitch McConnell’s world, if you are a multi-millionaire campaign contributor, it’s okay to receive a $1.4 billion tax break,” as the Koch family received as a result of Republican tax cuts in 2017. “But if you are a working-class person, apparently, it’s not acceptable to get the help you so desperately need,” Sanders said. “If you are a teacher or a construction worker who makes $75,000 a year, a $2,000 direct payment is, according to McConnell, ‘socialism for the rich.’”
Sanders pointed out that the ideology of the GOP as a whole is not actually about limiting government, as they claim — rather, it’s about who can help them raise more money on the campaign trail.
“The difference in ideology between Senator McConnell and myself, between the Republican Party and the progressive movement, is not a question of big government versus small government,” the senator went on. “It’s a question of whose interests the government represents. It’s a question of whether you fight for the needs of the wealthy and large corporations who fund your campaigns, or the working families of our country.”
By contrast, Sanders said, the progressive movement is fighting for the interests of the working classes, who have suffered during the pandemic.
“What I want to do now — which, I think, as a nation, we don’t do enough — is to simply compare Senator McConnell’s ideology, his Republican ideology, his votes, his actions, and his vision for America with the progressive vision for America,” said Sanders. “And our vision is that the government should represent all of the people, not just the 1 percent. Our vision believes that the foundations of government should rest on the pillars of justice — economic justice, racial justice, social justice, environmental justice.”
“While tens of millions of Americans have been living in economic desperation, the wealthiest people in this country have become obscenely richer,” Sanders noted. “We have a worse level of income and wealth inequality today than we’ve had since the 1920s. In America today, two people now own more than the bottom 40 percent of our nation, while the top 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 92 percent.”
Indeed, economists have shown that the top 1 percent of households own a hugely disproportionate share of wealth in the U.S., and that share has continually been growing over many decades. A recent study showed that the billionaires’ profits from just the pandemic alone amount to over $1.6 trillion combined, or a growth of 55 percent in a little over a year.
“This is a pivotal moment in American history,” Sanders said. “In the coming months, we have a fundamental decision to make. Will we build a government, an economy and a society that works for all of us and not just the 1 percent? Or will we continue the drift towards oligarchy and authoritarianism in which a small number of incredibly wealthy and powerful billionaires own and control a significant part of the economy and exert enormous influence over the political life of our country?”