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US Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont launches Progressive Democrats of America 10th anniversary in Northampton

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.<br/>

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.<br/>

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday at The First Churches in Northampton. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.<br/>

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, speaks during an interview by John Nichols, right, who is the Washington correspondent for "The Nation", Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.

    JERREY ROBERTS
    Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, speaks during an interview by John Nichols, right, who is the Washington correspondent for "The Nation", Friday at The First Churches in Northampton. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.<br/>
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.<br/>
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.<br/>
  • JERREY ROBERTS<br/>Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, speaks during an interview by John Nichols, right, who is the Washington correspondent for "The Nation", Friday at The First Churches in Northampton.

Though he finds that many people who call themselves progressives believe they are in the minority, he does not believe this about himself, he said.

“Every idea I ever espoused, I believe, is what the vast majority of our country believe,” Sanders told a crowd of around 400 people who filled the sanctuary at First Churches Friday for “A Conversation with Senator Bernie Sanders,” an event sponsored by The Nation magazine, Progressive Democrats of America, and radio station WHMP.

“The Koch brothers and their friends are a small minority. Never, ever forget that,” Sanders said.

The independent senator was invited to Northampton by Tim Carpenter, founder of the Progressive Democrats of America, to speak as part of the national organization’s 10th anniversary celebration. Carpenter, of Florence, died April 28 at the age of 55.

Friday’s event featured a dialogue between Sanders and John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation, on what the senator believes to be the important issues facing this country. Audience members were also given the opportunity to ask questions.

Sanders, 72, drew national attention when he told Nichols in a March interview that he is “prepared to run for president of the United States,” including a petition organized by Carpenter urging Sanders to run.

During Friday’s conversation, Sanders spoke about growing up in a working-class family in Brooklyn, and expressed his support for expanding retirement benefits and making sure everyone has access to health care and education.

“In the U.S., we spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense,” Sanders said.

He pointed to a growing income disparity between social classes in the United States, alluding to a statistic on his website showing that the top 1 percent of American income earners owns more than 35 percent of all of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom 60 percent owns only 2.3 percent.

He said he believes the most important current issue is overturning Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that removed limits on political spending by corporations.

While he does not believe Scandinavian countries such as Norway have created “utopia,” he said, he believes the United States can learn from these countries’ abilities to offer strong retirement programs and free college education.

He criticized the media for not showing this, and added that in his 23 years as a member of Congress — 16 in the House and seven in the Senate — no reporter has asked him what he is going to do to eliminate poverty and to make sure everyone has health care.

When Sanders noted the rising cost of college education and attributed it to increasing student debt, audience member Johanna Hibbs, who came from Stafford Springs, Connecticut, for the event, called out that she is now $100,000 in debt after obtaining bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

In an interview outside the sanctuary, Hibbs, 29, said she took the first full-time job she could after finishing school, but at $30,000 a year, still could not pay all of her bills. She has since had to move away from that job because she could not pay the rent, and now works part-time jobs, she said.

Michelle Serra of Florence, a member of Progressive Democrats of America and an event organizer, said she believes Sanders is able to present complex issues in a straightforward way.

“I just really feel that he is the real thing,” she said. “He’s talking about issues that affect all of us.”

On Saturday, the Progressive Democrats of America will also sponsor an all-day celebration of their 10th anniversary beginning at 9 a.m. at First Churches. Speakers will include Sanders, Jim Hightower, Rep. James McGovern, Thom Hartmann and others who will talk about topics such as health care, the media and Congress. There will be a memorial for Carpenter from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Comments
Legacy Comments4

Thanks to John Montanari's waspish assessment of Bernie Sanders' views and long service to his city, state and nation, I had almost thought that he and his fellow Tory-like thinkers within academia, had dropped off the face of the earth. Sigh, Mr. Montanari, there are a hell of a lot of people, even those who enjoyed your radio show and the years you put into making sure it stayed on the radio, notwithstanding all the many attempts by righties to kill NPR altogether, and probably would have, had it not been for Bernie Sanders and more men and women like him on Capitol Hill to make sure NPR survived. By the way, Mr. Montanari, since you worked for NPR, or was it UMass/Amherst, I'm sure most of your salary was "taxpayer paid" for viz private donations. No doubt most of todays actual workers, many of whom like classical music, too… wish they could find more time to listen to some, and who didn’t always land such a cushy employment job had to settle for some eye-ball-rolling when they read of today's Tories, living in largely taxpayer subsidized for comfy burghs like Amherst and Northampton, sneer at the rest of the world which doesn't enjoy the same benefits, though its workers might actually be physically and mentally working harder than a retired classical DJ whose pension they're paying for.

You may believe that "the vast majority of Americans agree with most of what he says," but there is no evidence to prove this. Indeed, in most polls and election results I've seen over the years, his signature issues, e.g., income inequality, campaign finance, "free" (i.e., taxpayer-paid) health care, are losers with American voters, except in a few select enclaves. As long as Sanders aims his message at his faithful followers, he'll earn himself lots of applause. Elsewhere, not so much.

Such Tories like John Montanari will always be among us. Anytime he cares to ply his skills as a classical DJ in the realm of the for-profit radio, he's welcome to try. In the meantime, he ought to look at the bigger picture concerning health care, especially in light of the fact Obamacare exceeded its enrollment predictions and 85% of those who did sign up are paying their bills. Does NPR enjoy the same success? It's not that I have anything against public radio, classical music on the airwaves (Montanari deserves credit here!) but he ignored the much wider appeal of Bernie Sanders' views, positions and acts he's supported in DC when he sniffs down at Sen. Sanders' record as the longest serving independent in Congressional history, presumably all because Bernie Sanders just happens to live in very liberal, and liveable, college-town/city of Burlington, VT, ...which Sanders served as its mayor before being elected to the House and Senate. BTW, anybody ever heard Montanari complain about Bernie Sanders voting to at least maintain "i.e. taxpayer paid" funding for NPR during the past twenty years? Maybe Mr. Montanari happened to catch this little gem written about NPR and Sen. Sanders, by Tim Graham, appearing in Newsbusters.org "NPR's Diane Rehm Honors Bernie Sanders, Insists Public Radio and TV Have Socialist Impulses." Read more: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tim-graham/2011/04/05/nprs-diane-rehm-honors-bernie-sanders-insists-public-radio-and-tv-have-s#ixzz31KkJUFX8 It's not difficult to disagree over policies, political principles, (yes there are some principled people in politics!!) . . . but don't ask this writer to tolerate snobbishness. Tories. Will they ever change?

I believe Bernie Sanders' contention is correct, that the vast majority of Americans agree with most of what he says, and the Koch Brothers and their ilk are the fringe. If his work to help eradicate Citizens United is successful, the US could enact reforms that would provide a sound health care system, affordable higher education, an end to endless war, and help Americans to realize they can have more of what makes America great- "socialist" programs such as Medicare, Social Security, quality public education, etc. There is a reason why the so called "socialist" countries of Scandinavia come out on top of most studies of which people are happiest on Earth. Electing and supporting Bernie Sanders will take more people being more open and being involved more in their own political destiny.

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