Monday March 21, 2011

BENNINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will host a town hall-style meeting in Bennington Wednesday to hear the concerns of area residents and let them know they are not alone in their economic struggles.

The Bennington meeting is one of several to be hosted by Sanders in recent days. As the economic recovery slowly moves forward and lawmakers debate deficit reduction, Sanders said he is looking to hear from Vermonters directly.

A recent meeting in Barre provided evidence that people are still struggling in a down economy, Sanders said.

"When I asked people, as I will in Bennington, whether they think the recession is over, my strong guess is that the vast majority of the people there will say, ‘No, it’s not,’" Sanders said in a telephone interview. "I get sick and tired of pundits and economists telling me that the recession is over. That may make sense from a technical standpoint, but it sure does not make sense for millions of Americans."

Sanders said Vermonters have been telling him that finding jobs is very difficult, and finding "jobs that pay a liveable wage" is even harder.

"You’re going to hear people that have several jobs to cobble together a living," he said. "You’re going to hear from older workers that are scared because they can’t retire."

Congress is debating how to reduce the nation’s mounting debt. Sanders has lashed out at GOP plans to cut many programs, including Pell grants, Head Start and funding for Planned Parenthood.


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Sanders said he will encourage discussion on deficit reduction and seek "ideas on how to move forward." "Right now you have a middle class that is disappearing, and on top of that you have a $1.6 trillion deficit," he said. "Overwhelmingly, I think the people of Vermont believe that ... the deficit problem is real and must be dealt with."

Sanders said the meetings are helpful for him. But they also help the public understand that others are going through similar struggles. "The reason that I do these meetings is that I want people to know that they are not alone, that there are tens of millions of Americans that are hurting today," he said. "I certainly learn. My job is to represent the people of Vermont and I can’t do that very well unless I hear what they have to say ... I think it is important for people to know that they are not alone."

Wednesday’s meeting will be held at the Mount Anthony Union Middle School. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m., followed by comments and a question and answer period at 7 p.m.