Here is the reality of the American economy. Despite an explosion in technology and a huge increase in worker productivity, the middle class of this country continues its 40-year decline. Today, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages and median family income is almost $5,000 less than it was in 1999.
Meanwhile, the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well. Today, 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent, while the top one-tenth of 1 percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 40 percent. In the last two years, the wealthiest 14 people in this country increased their wealth by $157 billion. That increase is more than is owned by the bottom 130 million Americans -- combined.
Over the last 40 years, the largest corporations in this country have closed thousands of factories in the United States and outsourced millions of American jobs to low-wage countries overseas. That is why we need a new trade policy and why I am opposed to the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership now before Congress.
Large corporations and their lobbyists have created loopholes enabling corporations to avoid an estimated $100 billion a year in taxes by shifting profits to the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens. That is why we need real tax reform which demands that the very wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes.
Corporate America has mounted vigorous anti-union campaigns, making it harder for workers to collectively bargain for decent wages and benefits. That is why we must make certain that workers are given a fair chance to join a union.
As a result of the Supreme Court's disastrous Citizens United decision, corporations and the very wealthy are now spending billions to elect candidates who will represent their interests. That is why we need a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and move toward public funding of elections.
Instead of putting resources into innovative ways to build their businesses or hire new employees, corporations are pumping 98 percent of their record-breaking profits into buying back their own stock and increasing dividends to benefit their executives and wealthy shareholders at the expense of their workers. It is a major reason why CEOs are now making nearly 300 times what the typical worker makes.
We have got to demand that corporations stop manipulating their shares to reward their executives and billionaire shareholders through the use of stock buybacks.
We also must do a lot more to rebuild the middle class, check corporate greed and make our economy work again for working families.
We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next several years. With 70 percent of the economy dependent on consumers buying goods and services, the best way to expand the economy is to raise wages and create good jobs to increase the purchasing power of the American people.
We need to create millions of decent-paying jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure; our roads, bridges, dams, rail, airports, levees and dams.
We need to pass pay equity for women workers. It is not acceptable that women receive 78 cents on the dollar compared to male workers doing the same job.
We need to end the scandal of companies taking advantage of outdated rules to avoid paying overtime to "supervisors" -- often earning less than $30,000 a year -- when they clock 50 or 60 hours a week on the job.
We need to make certain that every worker in this country receives guaranteed paid sick leave and vacation time.
We need to encourage business models that provide employees the tools to purchase their own businesses through Employee Stock Ownership Plans and worker-owned cooperatives. Workers at employee-owned companies are more motivated, productive and satisfied with their jobs.
It is time to say loudly and clearly that corporate greed and the war against the American middle class must end. Enough is enough!
Bernie Sanders is an independent senator from Vermont.
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