Sunday, December 12, 2010

Filibustering His Way Into Twitter Heroism

Over the past two days, I developed a staggering respect for Bernie Sanders.

To explain this properly, let me explain filibustering.  (Or just watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.)

The point is to stop a vote from passing, in this case, in the Senate.  Historically, even as far back as Cato in the Roman Senate, who had a few issues with ceding more power to Julius Caesar, what you do is this:  you gain the floor and then you talk as long as you are physically able, thus preventing anyone else from doing so.  This procedure didn't change much until the 1970s, when, after a few modifications earlier on by  Woodrow Wilson, suddenly all that really needed to happen was that one senator had to stand up and say "I AM GOING TO FILIBUSTER".  At this point, all that really needs to happen to stop a bill from passing is that 41 senators put up their backs against it, which represents as little as 12.3% of the United States population.  Cool, right?

Yes, if you're on the side of the 12.3%.  The other 87.7% of the country can spontaneously combust for all it matters to this method of filibuster legislation.

Well, Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, took the floor at 10:25 AM Friday the 10th, 2010, and spoke nearly nonstop for eight and a half hours.  (The record is 24 hours, although that senator apparently sang a bit so as to pad his time.)  Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) spoke for 45 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively, to support him and give him a bit of a break, but Bernie Sanders had to remain standing, could not leave the floor, and could not take a bathroom break or eat anything.  Apparently, he sipped a bit of water.

Y'all.  That is hardcore.

What was he championing, you ask?  That is an excellent question.

Senator Bernie Sanders was protesting Obama's recent decision to extend the tax cuts for all earning classes temporarily, as a result of well-known shall we put it?  Ostriches.  That's a temperate word.  Republican ostriches with their heads firmly in the sand, insisting that it's much better down there for everyone else, too.  Senator Sanders insisted, for eight and a half hours, that this scheme would essentially damn the poor and the working class, whose taxes would apparently actually rise slightly under the tax extension proposals.  He brought in letters from constituents, reading them aloud and giving pride of place to those letters from people who could not pay their heating bills in the Vermont winter.  He pointed out that these new tax cuts will cost us $900 billion that we do not have, that we will have to borrow from China, and that this whole mess will, while enriching billionaires and impoverishing the poor and the working class, drastically increase our national debt and put us under the thumb of another country.

The only advantage here is that a lot of very rich people will be able to stay extremely rich, instead of being a little bit less than extremely rich.  Trickle-down economics?  Right.

If I made an incredibly large amount of money and did not feel like giving to charities, I'd salt my money away and the money that I did spend would go towards things like an expensive library, a nice house, and gorgeous clothing.  Maybe some gourmet food, too.  None of it would go to the most massive employers in the nation, because I happen to despise WalMart and most of the restaurant chains that employ so many.  (For example, Chili's corn chowder tastes more like corn syrup than soup.)  Not a cent of my money would go to buying anything from the meatpacking industry or the commercial food industry; I'd stick with local and organic.  And the rest would go into my bank account, real estate, and into the stock market.  The people who stay rich for generations are not those who spend all of their money.  You give the very wealthy more money, and that much more will go into either savings or services that low-income or middle-class people do not provide.  At some point, this money will get stuck, somewhere between the wealthy and the upper middle class.

Trickle down, my foot.  If you want to make sure that money goes to the people who need help, then give it to the people who need help, not people who are not guaranteed to give them help.

Does this sound like a fair compromise to you?  Never mind fair, actually; does this sound ethical to you?  Does this sound like a process that will enrich the entire country and knock our 10% unemployment rate down to nothing?

If it does, please explain this to me, because even after listening to hundreds of arguments from many, many Republicans, I cannot understand how they pass this kind of legislation and live their lives without even the slightest twinge of guilt, nay, with the conviction that they are doing the best for their country.

All of this, of course, is coupled with the firm belief that they should not be responsible for others, and that coldly calculating millions of people out of their homes is what's best for the country's free market.

Senator Bernie Sanders?

Thank you for being the only senator who will speak up so passionately against something that is a disgrace to us as a nation and as a people.

As one of the lower-income citizens you were fighting for, I was cheering for you.  As someone who hopes to make a very comfortable amount of money someday, I was still cheering for you.

And you're the most awesome Twitter sensation I've ever seen.