As we all know, implementing public policy is about compromise, and nobody knows that better than presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Yesterday, on Meet the Press, acknowledging the importance of deficit reduction, Sanders said; “So is deficit reduction important? Of course, it is…But so is creating the millions of jobs we desperately need…I want to invest a trillion dollars in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. I do want to do that because I think that will create up to 13 million jobs.”
Sanders’ political story is about his lifelong struggle for economic fairness “by standing up for working families, the middle class and being prepared to take on every aspect of corporate America; whether it is Wall Street, whether it’s the Military Industrial Complex, whether it is drug companies and talk about what has to been done to turn around the collapse of the American middle class and the outrageous level of income and inequality that we have today.”
Sanders has promised to introduce legislation investing $1 trillion over 5 years “to modernize our country’s physical infrastructure, creating and maintaining at least 13 million good-paying jobs while making our country more productive, efficient and safe.” He argues this will not add to the deficit, but will be paid for “through higher taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations that keep profits outside the country…You take a hard look at our tax system…”And you say, ‘You know what? Corporate America, you aren’t going to stash your money in the Cayman Islands and not pay any taxes at all…If you are very, very wealthy, as Warren Buffett reminds us, you know what? You’re not going to continue to pay an effective tax rate lower than middle class people.’
Sanders argues that the real unemployment rate is much higher than the “official” figure typically reported in the newspapers and it’s worse for young people. A recent study found that over 50 percent of young African Americans and more than one-third of white and Hispanic youth are looking for full-time work. “We are in the midst of an ongoing unemployment crisis, and we must take bold action to address it,” Sanders said. In his attempt to address unemployment among young people, Sanders has introduced ‘Employ Young Americans Now Act’ with Rep. John Conyers. It would provide $5.5 billion in immediate funding to employ one million young Americans between the ages of 16 and 24, and would provide job training to hundreds of thousands of others.
Part of the struggle on behalf of the middle class and for that matter, all American people, has been to secure healthcare, and part of the healthcare struggle includes a promise to do something about the staggering cost increases in generic drugs. A single-payer healthcare system – what Sanders calls “Medicare-for-all insurance system” – would extend the very successful and beloved government social program to cover all Americans. He says, obviously referring to Republican attacks on Obamacare; “My Republican friends want to throw millions of more people off of health insurance…And what I want to do is have the United States of America join the rest of the industrialized world, every other country in guaranteeing health care to all people.”
He sponsored the American Health Security Act S. 1782 in December 2013, legislation that would provide every American with affordable and comprehensive healthcare services through Medicare. Sanders has argued that absorbing the cost of insuring everyone is the morally right thing to do for a nation as wealthy as ours. However, for those worried about the actual cost of his program, he believes that the cost would be recouped from the savings on private insurance and will not only be enough to upgrade benefits for everyone, but also sufficient to cover the 44 million Americans still uninsured. Unfortunately, the bill is currently sitting in committee.
The idea is that Bernie Sanders’ lifelong support for the working class is what is needed to get this country back to work. Millions of Americans are working for totally inadequate wages, and millions more are looking for work. At the same time, the top one-tenth of 1% of earners and corporate thieves stash disgusting amounts of money away in the Cayman Islands. Spending $1 trillion over 5 years to employ 13 million people – funded by changes to the way income is distributed – is not only the morally the right thing to do, but it makes sense from an economic standpoint. No hardworking American should live in poverty. Healthcare, infrastructure, corporate tax evasion- all these factors combine to take money out of the pockets of the American middle class, and Bernie Sanders is determined to put it back.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.