Why Thomas Paine’s Perpetual Inspiration Demands a Populist Revolution in 2016, as in 1776

Frances Chiu writes in Modern Prometheus: Thomas Paine and Our New American Revolution: It is time to feel the “democratic impulse and aspiration that he [Paine] inscribed in American experience,” to use Harvey Kaye’s words from his wonderful book, Thomas Paine and the Promise of America.

Like Paine, Bernie Sanders is aware that something is terribly wrong when the wealthiest and most advanced nation in the world harbors dire pockets of poverty–not to mention high rates of child poverty and hunger, “when 20 percent of the children in this country, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, are living in poverty” and “40 percent of African American children are living in poverty.”

Like Paine who drew attention to the numbers of poor youth sent to the gallows, Sanders knows it’s terribly wrong when “51 percent of African American high school graduates between the ages of 17 and 20 are unemployed or underemployed” and “the United States has more people in jail than China; a communist authoritarian country.”

Like Paine, Sanders knows that our system of taxation is anything but fair or equitable as the wealthiest pay a smaller proportion of taxes than those in the middle classes. For just as the 18th-century British economy was a rigged economy, designed to protect the interests of the landed elites, our economy is an equally rigged one, and according to Sanders, one “designed by the wealthiest people in this country to benefit the wealthiest people in this country at the expense of everybody else.”


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