By Senator Bernie Sanders
President Trump has stated over and over again that this country faces a national emergency. But it’s an emergency and a crisis that he himself has created.
As we speak, some 800,000 federal employees, people who are our neighbors, friends, and family members, are going without pay. As working people, many of them are wondering how they will pay their mortgages, how they will feed their kids, and how they’ll be able to go to the doctor. These are people in the FBI, in the TSA, in the State Department, in the Treasury Department and other agencies who have, in some cases, worked for the government for years.
Our federal employees deserve to be treated with respect, not held hostage as political pawns.
Further, if this government shutdown continues, and Trump has indicated that he is prepared to shut it down for months, if not years, millions of Americans including the disabled, the children and the elderly may not be able to get the food stamps they need in order to eat.
On December 19, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to keep the government open. Unanimously. No Democrat or Republican opposed the bill that passed the Senate.
It was widely expected that the following morning, December 20, the House would do the same – and the government would remain open.
President Trump, who started receiving criticism from an assortment of right-wing ideologues, changed his mind about the agreement and said that he would not sign any bill unless it included $5.7 billion for a wall on the southern border.
In terms of this shutdown, President Trump has made it very clear who is responsible. At a very public meeting he held in the oval office he said, "I am proud to shut down the government. ... I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you (Chuck Schumer) for it."
On January 3, 2019, the Democrats in the House passed legislation to re-open the government. This was exactly the same bill unanimously passed by the Senate.
I urge Senate Majority Leader McConnell to allow that bill to come to the floor to get a vote.
Trump has told the American people several hundred times that Mexico would pay for the wall. That is a lie. If this wall were to be built, Mexico would not pay for it. American taxpayers would.
Trump said that thousands upon thousands of terrorists are entering the U.S. from the southern border. That is a lie.
According to a State Department report released in September, “At year’s end there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have … sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.”
Trump recently said that some ex-presidents told him that they should have built a wall. That is a lie. All four living ex-presidents stated that they never talked to Trump about their desire to build a wall.
Trump said that we need a wall to prevent heroin, fentanyl and other illegal drugs from coming into the country. Another lie.
According to the DEA, the most common method Mexican cartels use to transport illegal drugs over the Southwest border is through legal ports of entry using passenger vehicles.
In terms of immigration, what we need to do is stop wasting billions of dollars on a wall, and address the need for comprehensive immigration reform – including improved border security. Sadly, what President Trump is trying to do is to create fear and hatred in our country. Instead of trying to bring us together as a people, he is trying to divide us up. And, in the process, divert our attention away from the real crises facing the working families of this nation.
Here are some real crises. At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, tens of millions of workers in our country are earning starvation wages and are unable to adequately provide for their families.
You want a national emergency? Thirty million Americans have no health insurance and many more are underinsured. Thousands die each year because they don’t go to a doctor when they should and our life expectancy is actually in decline. While the pharmaceutical industry makes tens of billions a year in profit, one in five Americans can’t afford the medicine they need.
And here’s another crisis. Too many of our seniors are living in desperate poverty, and about half of older Americans have no retirement savings. Hundreds of thousands of kids cannot afford to go to college and over 40 million are trying to deal with outrageous levels of student debt.
And, maybe, here’s the biggest crisis of all. Climate change is real and is causing devastating harm to our country and the entire planet. We know that if we do not transform our energy system away from fossil fuel the nation and planet we will be leaving our kids and grandchildren may well be unhealthy and even uninhabitable.
We don’t need to create artificial crises. We have enough real ones.