Sen. Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton by a wide margin among N.H. voters aged 18-29 according to a UMass Lowell/7News poll. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo)
Bernie Sanders has done the once thought impossible and emerged as a legitimate threat for President of the United States. As the date of our Massachusetts primary looms closer, it is time we take a closer look at that old guy your friends won’t stop posting about. His sudden rise has been accompanied by much fanfare, which has also led to several misconceptions regarding certain issues and policies. That is where I come in. I am here to help clear up any misinformation or doubts you might have concerning the Vermont Senator when you come face to face with the ballots on March 1st.
“Students only like him because he’s promising free college, which he can’t pay for.”
What Bernie has actually proposed is for public colleges and universities to be tuition free, which is something Germany and other countries around the world have recently implemented. He would expand financial aid and work study programs to cover for room and board and significantly reduce the interest rates on student loans. A college degree has become equivalent to a high school degree when it comes to importance in jobs, yet many end up forsaking college because of the costs or spend their rest of their lives in debt. Education should be seen as an investment in our youth and everyone should have the chance to go to college, regardless of their family’s income. For those who don’t see college in their future, Bernie wants to expand vocational and trade schools as well.
This would be paid for via a tax on Wall Street speculation, a term many must be familiar with by now. What that means, is that there would be a tax put on financial transactions such as the trades of stocks, bonds and etc. This is again something that has already been implemented in various nations across the world. In the United States, this plan is estimated to bring in anywhere from $350 billion to $170 billion in revenue, more than doubling/tripling what the cost of Bernie’s college proposal would be ($75 billion per year). Bernie has in fact proposed comprehensive methods to pay for every single proposal he has introduced thus far.
“Yeah, he is going to pay for everything by raising taxes on me.”
Yes, Bernie is going to raise taxes. But not to the point to which you may have been led to believe. For example, as the only major country in the world without paid family and medical leave, Bernie has proposed 12 weeks of fully paid family and medical leave for all workers, done by increasing taxes. The amount? Only $1.61 per week for the average American worker.
Bernie also wants to implement a Medicare for All healthcare system, which would guarantee healthcare as a right to all citizens. Taxes would pay for it. However, since no one would have to pay premiums, copays and deductibles to private health insurance companies anymore, the average middle class family is estimated to save over $5,000 a year.
Bernie wants to expand social security, which can be done without taxing the poor or middle class a penny. Right now there is a cap on how much you pay into social security, meaning Donald Trump and someone making $117,000 a year pays the exact same amount. By doing away with the cap and making the wealthy pay the same percentage as those below them, social security can be significantly expanded.
Overall, he wants to end tax breaks for the rich and implement a progressive tax system, where the amount of taxes you pay increases in accordance to how much you can afford to pay. He is NOT going to drastically increases taxes on the poor and middle class.
“He just hates rich people.”
Believe it or not, Bernie is not anti-rich. What Bernie wants is for the rich and wealthy in this country to pay their fair share and be held accountable. A good example of this is how General Electric, Boeing and Verizon have paid a combined $0 in federal incomes taxes since 2008, due to stashing their profits overseas. It is estimated by Congress that the government loses close to $100 billion annually due to loopholes like this. Bernie plans to focus the revenue gained from ending those loopholes on job programs for the unemployed.
This leads towards one of the overall themes of Bernie’s campaign which is income inequality. To put that term in perspective, the percentage of wealth owned by the bottom 90% has dropped from 36% to 23% over the past forty years, while the average wealth of the typical middle class family has gone from $130,000 to $81,000 in just the last ten. Meanwhile, almost two-thirds of new income since 2008 has gone to the top 1%, while the fifteen richest people in the country have had an increase in wealth of $170 billion in just the past two years. That increase is more than that is owned by the entire bottom 40%. And these are just a few of many examples of the wealth gap, which has widened due to various laws that have been passed during this timespan. This is what Bernie opposes, not the rich themselves but a system designed to only work for them and not the majority of America’s population.
“He is a socialist, and I am for capitalism.”
You can find socialism in action all around America today. Medicare, social security, public parks, schools and highways are all examples. Socialism is NOT everyone pooling their resources together and then dividing them up equally. What Bernie wants to do is to take the socialism concepts already used by America and apply them towards things such as higher education, healthcare and etc. He is also a Democratic-Socialist, which is a term that many use to describe arguably the most successful President of all time: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In terms of capitalism, the current system we have isn’t capitalism. There are too many systematic advantages that allow the rich to stay rich and get richer, with too many barriers that prevent others from advancing upward. What Bernie would do for capitalism is use socialism to bring America back to a place where everyone has equal opportunity to succeed, which is the fundamental principle of capitalism.
“His ideas are too radical and won’t pass.”
It is understandable to believe Bernie won’t be able to implement every policy he has proposed. I will guarantee you he won’t. Same goes for the other candidates. No President has ever accomplished exactly what they originally set out to do. Congress makes the laws, goals and direction are the most important aspects a President brings to the table. Even if Bernie can’t get us free tuition or paid leave, he is going to get us the closest thing possible to it and set us forward on a path towards that goal.
Neither Bernie or Hillary will get anything done if the Republicans keep the majority. 63% of Americans didn’t vote in the last elections when the Republicans took control, with only 20% of young people voting. Even his harshest critics would acknowledge the amount of enthusiasm behind Bernie’s campaign, evident by the most individual donations in U.S. history and enormous crowds. It is logical to think that he has the best chance to draw people to the polls, especially the young people and retake Congress. People have become disenfranchised with the political establishment, which is part of the reason for the success of Bernie. His stance against the big money that funds candidates such as Hillary has struck a chord with voters. Another establishment candidate would do little to change the political apathy that has lost the Democrats control of the Congress in recent elections.
As for his ideas, they may seem radical to us but they are moderate compared to the rest of the world. Like mentioned before, his plans for free tuition, a Wall Street speculation tax, healthcare and paid leave are ideas that are already prominent throughout the world. For those fearing higher taxes on the rich, the wealthiest Americans used to have a top income tax rate of 91% between the 1950’s and 1960’s, less than what Bernie plans to do. His plan to separate commercial and investment banking is something that was enforced in United States until as recently as 1999. No country in the world has prescription drugs prices as high as they are in America, which is why one-fourth of prescriptions are not even being fulfilled. As the richest nation in the world, we should be ahead of the curb on concepts such as these, not lagging behind countries with less resources than us.
“Okay, I like him but he can’t win.”
Almost every poll has Bernie outperforming Hillary when matched up with the Republican candidates in the general election (with Bernie winning all matchups on average and Hillary losing a few). This is because, whether you agree with the reasoning or not, Hillary is one of the most polarizing figures in America today. She has the 3rd highest unfavorability rating of any Presidential candidate in the past 25 years (within single digits of #1 Donald Trump), was GQ’s 5th Most Hated Person of 2015 (ahead of Bill Cosby, Jared from Subway and Roger Goodell) and polls have only 35% of Americans viewing her as trustworthy. It is hard to imagine someone with such a negative perception drawing a big voter turnout or getting any swing votes. Even if she wins, it is harder to imagine her being able to draw a big turnout of people (especially young people) to regain Congress when even Obama couldn’t do it. In an ironic twist of fate, Hillary seems to be the less electable candidate and the less likely to actually implement her ideas if elected.
Skeptics were saying the same things regarding Bernie’s electability since he began his political career. He was elected four times as Mayor of Burlington, followed by winning eight consecutive terms on the House of Representatives, with seven of those victories coming via blowouts. Bernie then was elected Senator with 66% of the votes in 2006 and was re-elected in 2012 with 71%. These were all done while running as an Independent, meaning he had to beat out both the top Democrat and Republican candidates in his state. His consistency on the issues have been remarkable, you can find videos of him in the 80’s and 90’s addressing many of the same issues he is talking about today. His success clearly shows that the message of Bernie Sanders has been resonating with voters for the past 30+ years and there’s no indication that it will stop resonating in 2016. He is the Democrats’ best chance to retain the White House and retake Congress.
If you have not yet registered to vote, you can register or change your voting address/party at https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ovr/. The last day to make any changes is February 10th.