Synopses & Reviews
On Friday, December 10, 2010, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders walked on to the floor of the United States Senate and began speaking. It turned out to be a very long speech, lasting over eight and a half hours. And it hit a nerve. Millions followed the speech online until the traffic crashed the Senate server. A huge, positive grassroots response tied up the phones in the senators offices in Vermont and Washington. President Obama reportedly held an impromptu press conference with former President Clinton to deflect media attention away from Sander' speech. Editorials and news coverage appeared throughout the world.
In his speech, Sanders blasted the agreement that President Obama struck with Republicans, which extended the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, lowered estate tax rates for the very, very rich, and set a terrible precedent by establishing a "payroll tax holiday" diverting revenue away from the Social Security Trust Fund, threatening the funds very future. But the speech was more than a critique of a particular piece of legislation. It was a dissection of the collapse of the American middle class and a well-researched attack on corporate greed and on public policy which, over the last several decades, has led to a huge growth in millionaires even as the United States has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. It was a plea for a fundamental change in national priorities, for government policy that reflects the needs of working families, and not just the wealthy and their lobbyists.
Finally, Sanders' speech-published here in its entirety with a new introduction by the senator-is a call for action. It is a passionate statement informing us that the only people who will save the middle class of this country is the middle class itself, but only if it is informed, organized, and prepared to take on the enormously powerful special interests dominating Washington.
In the wake of President Obama's deal with congressional Republicans to preserve Bush-era tax cuts--tax cuts that gave colossal breaks to the wealthiest Americans--Senator Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, publicly denounced the deal as an "absolute disaster" and decided to do something about it.
On Friday, December 10, 2010, Senator Sanders galvanized millions of Americans with an eight-and-a-half-hour filibuster decrying the tax deal and all it symbolized: the bankrupting of the middle class, corporate greed, and the impotence and corruption of today's Congress. As Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel noted, "The good Senator from Vermont spoke for millions of struggling working and middle class people who feel their voices aren't being heard in a system dominated by well-funded lobbyists and corporate insiders."
Reprinted in its entirety and with a new introduction, The Speech is a People's State of the Union address, an anatomy of working and middle-class America rarely heard in the rarefied walls of the Senate.
About the Author
Senator Bernie Sanders is the longest-serving Independent in the history of the United States Congress. He has represented Vermont in the Senate for four years and in the House for sixteen years. He served four terms as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, during which time the city was recognized as one of the most livable cities in America.