Bernie Sanders was born on September 8, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York to Eli Sanders and Dorothy Glassberg. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland whose family was killed in the Holocaust and his mother was born in New York City.

His political career began with his election to be mayor of Burlington, Vermont on April 6, 1981. He was later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and then won his seat in the U.S. Senate in 2006 where he is now the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Budget.

On December 10, 2010, Sanders delivered an 8½-hour speech against the H.R.4853 – Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 [Full Text of H.R. 4853] that extended the Bush-era reduced tax rates, saying “Enough is enough! … How many homes can you own?”

A long speech such as this one is often called a filibuster, but because Sander’s speech did not block action, it was not technically a filibuster under Senate rules. As word of his speech spread on social media, the Senate television website crashed because of the huge number of people who wanted to watch the speech live. The number of Americans following Senator Sanders on social media more than doubled in the week following this speech.

H.R.4853 did pass and was signed into law, but Sanders says “Was my eight-and-a-half-hour speech worth the effort? Absolutely! If this country is going to move forward in a new direction, if we’re going to save the middle class and change our national priorities, we have got to cut through the fog and obfuscation of the corporate mainstream media and start focusing on the life-and-death issues that working families really care about.

H.R. 4853 December 10, 2010 Speech Highlights


  1. The truth is–and I don’t think anyone disputes this, the infrastructure in the United States is crumbling… All you have to do is get in your car today and drive someplace.
  2. …we remain far behind most other countries around the industrialized world. China is exploding in terms of the number of high-speed rail lines they have. We have to do better. Our airports need work. Our air control systems need to be updated in terms of the technology they need to make our flights safe.
  3. …not unimportantly, when you invest in infrastructure, you are improving the future of this country. You are making us more productive. It is not just creating jobs, it is creating jobs for very specific purposes, which makes our Nation more productive and efficient.
  4. This fight is not going to be won inside the Beltway in a Senate debate. It is going to be won when the American people stand and say: Wait a second. We cannot continue to give tax breaks to people who are doing phenomenally well right now. We cannot give tax breaks to the rich when we already have the most unequal distribution of income of any major country on Earth.
  5. …what you will be seeing within a few months are folks coming on the floor of the Senate, and this is what they will say: “You know what? The deficit is high. The national debt is too high. And, yes–oh, yes–we drove the national debt up by giving tax breaks to millionaires. That is the way it goes. But we are going to have to deal with our national debt.”
  6. Let me also say there is no doubt in my mind what many–not all but many–of my Republican colleagues want to do; that is, they want to move this country back into the 1920s when essentially we had an economic and political system which was controlled by big money interests; where working people and the middle class had no programs to sustain them when things got bad, when they got old, and when they got sick… That is what they want.
  7. This is a transfer of wealth. It is Robin Hood in reverse. We are taking from the middle class and working families and we are giving it to the wealthiest people in this country.
  8. When we talk about tax breaks for corporations and companies, what we should be aware of is that corporate America today — today — is sitting on close to $2 trillion in cash. The problem is not that they do not have the money, the problem is that working people do not have the money to buy the products these guys are producing.
  9. How many times have we been here on the floor hearing our Republican colleagues give long speeches about the danger and the unsustainability of a $13.8 trillion national debt and a $1.3 trillion deficit? That is their mantra. If they believe that, why are they voting for a proposal that substantially increases the national debt for the very unproductive reason of giving tax breaks to the richest people who don’t need it?
  10. China is a Communist totalitarian society, much larger than the United States, which is a democratic society. We have more people in jail than China and more people in jail than any other country. So what we end up doing, which seems to be not terribly bright, is spending perhaps $50,000 a year keeping people in jail because they dropped out of school. They never found a job. They got hooked on drugs or whatever. We pay to put them in jail rather than investing in childcare, in education, in sustaining their families.
  11. The irony here is that there are plenty of millionaires out there who say: I don’t need it. I am more worried about the crumbling infrastructure or our kids out there than giving me a tax break I don’t need. Thanks very much. That is what Warren Buffett has said. It is what Bill Gates has said. Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s has said it. Many millionaires have said it. We are giving some of these guys something they do not even want.
  12. How do you become a great economy if you don’t have the scientists, the engineers, the teachers, the professionals out there, and many other countries around the world are having a higher percentage of their high school graduates going to college? That is something we have to address. Anyone who comes forward and says cut education is moving us in exactly the wrong direction.
  13. It is literally very hard to find a product not manufactured in China. It is very hard to find a product …manufactured in the United States of America. I think people understand instinctively that this country will not be a major economic player in years to come if we allow our manufacturing base to continue to decline.
  14. If you were a health care lobbyist this year [2010], trust me, you are doing very well. They were all over this place, making sure we did not pass a strong health care bill, for example, a Medicare for all, a single-payer program, which I support.
  15. So I hope this issue is not one just progressives or moderates feel strongly about. I hope honest conservatives, who in their heart of hearts believe this country is seriously in danger when we have unsustainable deficits and a huge national debt, will tell their elected officials here in Washington not to pass a piece of legislation which increases the national debt significantly…

Top photo shared by Michael Vadon under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license.
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