Senator Sanders published on campus

  Bernie Sanders wants to hear from you. Sander’s bi-monthly e-newsletter – “The Bernie Buzz” – will comprise students’ reflections in a college edition, with articles about the state of the economy and Sander’s vision for job growth, sustainable energy, and measures to combat rising education costs.            The Vermont senator has set up a discussion forum on his website hoping to generate feedback from students across the state as they prepare to enter into the working world and navigate the pitfalls of today’s volatile job market, Sanders said.  The website polls students on their experiences, providing the opportunity to share stories about how the economy – in its most severe recession since the Great Depression – has affected their lives and what they think Congress should be doing to address the issue.              “I think the voices of young people are not heard enough,” Sanders said. “You’ve got a lot of students worried about their future, paying off student loans, [wondering] whether they can live on their own. There are a whole lot of issues and we’d love to enter into the dialogue with them.”      Sanders said he has fought on behalf of students as an outspoken advocate of college aid programs, most recently lobbying Congress in September to save Pell Grants – federal money allocated for financially needy college bound students – from congressional budget cuts. The maximum annual award of $5,500 stood to be slashed by $3,400 in a proposal authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).             “We want to encourage young Americans to get the best education they possibly can regardless of income,” Sanders said. “The idea that Republicans wanted to make substantial cuts to Pell Grants, which would make it more difficult for families to afford a college education, made no sense at all.”             “Real” unemployment – that is, the percentage of Americans unemployed or underemployed – is 16.2 percent nationally, according to Sanders’ website. While teen-specific data is harder to collate, unemployment affects young workers even more, Sanders said. During the recession, Vermont has trended below the national unemployment average. Statewide unemployment in August was 5.9 percent, but marked a two-tenths percent increase from figures in July, according to the Vermont Department of Labor website. Compared to other states, Vermont has the sixth lowest unemployment rate, indicating the severity of national unemployment numbers.  Asked his impressions of the grassroots “occupy Wall Street” movement, which is gathering momentum across the country and has made its way to Burlington, Sanders said he was impressed with the initiative taken by citizens and thought they deserved credit. He thought that the movement was a positive step in effecting change and was not surprised by its proliferation.             “The protestors are calling attention to the greed on Wall Street and incredible amount of economic and political power that a small number of very wealthy people have,” Sanders said. “Calling attention to the fact that the richest people in America are becoming richer and the middle class is collapsing is a very positive step.”             But, the senator emphasized, it’s important to not only call attention to the greed but to develop specific strategies to address the issues and create the millions of jobs needed. In response to those millions of needed jobs, President Obama has sought help from an unlikely source in General Electric Chairman Jeffrey Immelt, who heads the President’s Council on Jobs and Competiveness. The President hopes to gain non-partisan advice from the captain of one of America’s leading companies and to regain the country’s footing in global industrial competition and create long-term jobs.             Yet criticism of the newly formed council stems from Immelt’s willingness to outsource American jobs for cheaper labor.             “I support the goals of the President but I’m not all that impressed with some of the CEOs he’s asked to serve because in the past years they’ve been laying off American workers,” Sanders said. “The key is energy transformation, infrastructure, health care; putting people to work in those areas can improve quality of life.”             Central to Sanders’ job growth initiative is the alternative energy sector, from which he believes Vermont could emerge a national leader and help in transitioning the rest of the country from conventional energy sources to cleaner ones, he said. As a way to both create jobs and ensure a sustainable future, Sanders stressed that more money ought to be invested in wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass energy technologies.          “I would say that young people are now living through the worst economic period since the great depression,” Sanders said. “It is very hard to find work for young people. We think the opportunities are there.”             Students are encouraged to visit the website and take part in the dialogue at http://sanders.senate.gov/college/.