BENNINGTON -- Sen. Bernie Sanders will host a film screening and interactive "tele-town meeting" this Sunday in four cities across in state, including Bennington.
The film, which will be shown simultaneously at locations in Bennington, Brattleboro, Middlebury, and St. Johnsbury, is the documentary "Inequality for All," which features former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and examines the widening income inequality in the United States. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and received a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking. The documentary was directed by Jacob Kornbluth and produced by Jen Chaiken and Sebastian Dungan.
After the film, the audiences will come together via video conference for a town meeting. Senator Sanders will be participating from the Middlebury location. According to Sanders, he hosted a film screening in Burlington last month, which over 500 people attended. The turnout, he said, "showed me how important this issue is to Vermonters."
"Of all developed countries, the United States has the most unequal distribution of income," says Reich, who is also a noted economist, professor, and author, in the film, "and we're surging towards even greater inequality. Who is actually looking out for the American worker? The answer is nobody."
"Income inequality is the great moral issue of our time," Sanders said in an interview, "More people are living in poverty than ever before. The bottom 60 percent of the population owns only 2.3 percent of the wealth." Sanders pointed to the Walton family, owners of the Wal-Mart corporation, who have more wealth than 90 percent of the population of the U.S.combined, and to statistics that show that vast majority of new wealth generated in the United States in the last 10 years has gone to the top-percentage earners.
Asked what role governments should play in combating income inequality, Sanders laid out a five-point plan. First, he said, the government has to eliminate tax breaks for large corporation, so that they "pay their fair share." Second, the U.S.government should create a large jobs program, which focuses on rebuilding infrastructure, such as roads. Third, said Sanders, is that the government needs to invest in renewable energy, which will create jobs, as well as reducing dependencies on foreign fossil fuels and decreasing long-term energy costs. Fourth, Sanders expressed the need for a federal minimum wage increase to at least $10.10 per hour, which he said would benefit over 30 million Americans, not just those working for under that wage. Finally, Sanders expressed the need to revisit foreign trade agreements that encourage companies to take their factories overseas, or allow companies to say to their employees, "You have to take a wage decrease, or we're moving to China." "We've got to end that race to the bottom," said Sanders.
Sanders stressed that the issue of income inequality is not just a moral one, but a political one as well. For example, Sanders brought up the Koch brothers, whose combined assets were estimated at being worth about $80 billion dollars by Forbes. "And you ask, what are they doing with that money? They are putting their money into politics," Sanders said, supporting candidates and policies that benefit the rich and the powerful. "It creates a political issue," he said.
"If tens of millions of people don't have disposable income," said Sanders, how can they be expected to purchase products that will keep corporations in business and grow the economy?
The free film screening will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. In Bennington, the viewing location will be the auditorium at Mount Anthony Union High School.
"It's really interesting," said Sanders, "and I think the people that go on Sunday will really enjoy it."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB