Sen. Bernie Sanders stopped in to Reddit late this afternoon for an AMA, the site’s informal Q&A format where Redditors are invited to ask a notable individual or an individual with notable circumstances to “ask me anything.”
As the most prominent socialist in American government today, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is one man willing to assume a title that is quite reviled in American politics — usually conflated with Communism and a word generally employed as a pejorative. Without apology.
Over on his AMA today, Sen. Sanders used the forum to spread his socialism to Reddit, explaining his take on the biggest issues facing Americans in the wake of the Great Recession. (And okay, I will admit it — the title is misleading on purpose, I am also a libertarian socialist.)
If what Sanders describes is socialism, a lot of Americans would do well to quit hiding under their beds from it and embrace the concepts Bernie advocated in his Reddit AMA — alas, many would find the nomenclature off-putting enough to outright reject the Senator’s sense making ideas.
Sen. Sanders announced his AMA on Facebook, saying:
Here are a few of the most socialisty socialist comments made by the Senator from Vermont in his AMA.
Q: … I just wanted to let you know that you are a hero for us American people. How can the bottom 99% gain control of daily life in America?
“The fact of the matter is that tragically this country is moving toward an oligarchic form of society in which a handful of billionaires have enormous power over the economic and political life of this country. I am extraordinarily concerned about the obscene level of income and wealth inequality, which is worse today than at any time since the late 1920s. Further, it is totally absurd that in recent years the top 1 percent have earned 95 percent of all of the new income created in America. In order to turn this around, we need a level of grassroots activism that we have not seen for many decades. We need 10s of millions of people to become actively involved in the political process and to demand that Congress and the president respond to their needs and not just the needs of billionaires and large campaign contributors. So in a variety of ways we need to educate, we need to organize and we need ordinary people to get politically involved.”
Q: The current capitalistic system is considered a failure by many whether because it is crash prone, the disparity between rich and poor, or a large number of other reasons.
What would be the three main things you would change about the current system?
“I applaud the recent statements by Pope Francis, in which he levels strong and appropriate criticism of unfettered capitalism. No. 1, we need to invest significantly in the social safety net to make sure that every person in this country lives with dignity. It is an international embarrassment, for example, that the U.S. has, by far, the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. No. 2, we need to move toward a national health care system which guarantees health care to all as a right and which, in fact, would be much more cost effective than the current dysfunctional system that we have. No. 3, we need to move toward a system of progressive taxation which makes certain that the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations start paying their fair share of taxes. Finally, we need real campaign finance reform which stops big money from buying elections.”
But it gets really socialist when Noam Chomsky comes up.
Q: Linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky often talks about the importance of workplace democracy and trying to create a decentralized socialism (often referred to as libertarian socialism ). In other words, a democratic economy based on cooperatives and more participation at the local level.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree that there should be more focus on things like worker ownership etc. and creating a more participatory democracy?
“For millions of Americans, a job means not only inadequate wages but also no control over how they spend 40 hours a week of their lives. They are, in truth, cogs in a machine over which they have no power. In Vermont, we have made modest progress in the concept of worker ownership and companies with have strong employee stock ownership plans. When I visit those companies, where workers really do have a say over the nature of their job it is clear to me that those workers feel much better about their work life. I have also introduced legislation which would make it easier for businesses to sell their companies to their own employees.”
In all honestly, choosing the highlights of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Reddit AMA is sort of like telling you which one of my kids is the more awesome one. You can read it over on Reddit (link above), or click through here to read his responses without other comments.