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Why Bernie Sanders Will Win: Most Americans are Democratic Socialists
Democratic Socialism is the Politics of FDR and LBJ, Not Marx and Stalin
Bernie Sanders Needs to Position Himself as the Next FDR
In 1928, the United States operated under laissez-faire capitalism. There was no Social Security, no Medicare, no Medicaid, and any sort of a welfare system was relegated to local charities and nonprofits. Public K-12 schools existed, but access was far from equitable and little effort was made to prevent students from leaving prior to earning a high school diploma. Though public universities did exist, access was limited, primarily to white men of privilege. There was no federal minimum wage.
Then the Great Depression happened, and America overwhelmingly chose a progressive Democrat in the 1932 presidential election, sweeping Republican Herbert Hoover out of office in a landslide. The new president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, passed numerous liberal reforms between March 1933, when he took office, and his death in April 1945. Elected to four terms in office, FDR was America's longest-service chief executive. He helped usher in Social Security in 1935, a federal minimum wage in 1938, and the G.I. Bill in 1944.
In 1964 and 1965, president Lyndon B. Johnson, the former U.S. Senator (D-TX) who served as John F. Kennedy's vice president, ushered in Medicare, Medicaid, and important public education reforms as part of his Great Society and War on Poverty initiatives.
These two presidents, FDR and LBJ, instituted nationwide reforms that critics would likely deride as "socialism." They involved taking money from all citizens, but particularly higher earners, to pay for goods and services utilized by those who needed them: The elderly, the poor, the parents of school-age children, and college students. These reforms helped prevent many from falling into abject poverty and allowed millions to pursue upward mobility.
Our economic productivity soared as millions of teenagers and young adults could pursue education, credential, and job skills. Instead of "wasting" money, the reforms of FDR and LBJ dramatically improved our nation. Money kept flowing even when people lost their jobs. Families could send their children to school even when times were tight. Older workers could afford to retire, allowing fresh graduates to enter the work force.
But that system is starting to break down. Real wages are eroding, a retirement crisis looms, and the cost of both health care and higher education have soared beyond the reach of millions of citizens. Many politicians do not want to talk about the dangers facing our economy - they want to pretend that we do not need substantial reforms. They want to maintain the status quo.
The presidential candidate who want to reset America's economic growth through significant reform is U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Pursuing the Democratic nomination, Sanders has proposed instituting both universal health care and tuition-free public higher education. These wide-ranging reforms would free up billions of dollars in consumer spending and would guarantee increased access to both vital markets. However, Sanders faces tremendous opposition: Even fellow Democrats often mock his proposals as extreme.
His chief rival, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, has accused Sanders of economic fearmongering.
Up until early October, Sanders was gaining ground in the polls. As Clinton's status as frontrunner slowly eroded due to her festering e-mail server scandal, populists and progressives grew optimistic that America as ready to "feel the Bern." However, as the middle of October rolled around, starting with the first Democratic debate on October 13, Clinton stabilized in the polls and began to appear a stronger candidate. The decision of vice president Joe Biden to not pursue the Democratic presidential nomination, which was announced on October 21, further strengthened Clinton.
The next day, Clinton outlasted an eleven-hour grilling by Congressional Republicans during her Benghazi panel testimony, adding to her popularity.
Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, has an important task ahead: Now more widely known to the public, he must explain what he means when he says he is a "Democratic socialist." Though Sanders' individual proposals have been highly popular with Democrats, moderates, and independents alike, his open admission that he is a "Democratic socialist" has made him a political target. Unfortunately, many Americans still link "socialism" with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR.
Critics, obviously, want to maintain that false link and portray Sanders as a modern-day Joseph Stalin, seeking class warfare and an abolition of private property.
With Clinton back on high ground, Sanders must find a way to explain his brand of politics and economics to the bulk of America's voters. Many are intrigued but are hesitant to ally themselves with any political position that uses the word "socialism." Both Republicans and Hillary Clinton will, if they can, use that word as a cudgel to pummel Sanders.
Fortunately for Sanders, most Americans are socialists, whether they believe it or not. They benefit from, and even eagerly seek, access to socialist programs. These include public schools, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, public colleges and universities, and employment with government agencies. They enjoy the safety afforded by publicly-funded emergency responders and a large and powerful military. Employment in the public sector, including the military, often comes with secure retirement benefits.
Over ninety percent of Americans are socialists who send their children to public schools.
One-sixth of all Americans received some form of Social Security benefits, either retirement or disability.
Medicare and Medicaid cover more than 32 percent of Americans, providing them with government-paid health care.
Almost three-quarters of college students attend a publicly-funded college or university. Most of these students, plus most students of private colleges and universities, must rely on government student loans to fund at least part of their education.
The vast majority of Americans, therefore, enjoy socialist reforms that have proliferated since the dawn of the 20th century, especially since the beginning of the Roosevelt administration in 1933.
However, more reform is now needed. Though K-12 education has been almost entirely socialized, higher education remains considerably privatized...and costs have soared since 1980. The vast proliferation of federal student loans has allowed colleges and universities, both private and public, to drastically increase their tuition. Tuition and fee increases have far outpaced inflation, requiring greater and greater amounts of citizens' real income to pay. As a result, America has a student loan debt crisis.
Student loans are now the greatest source of debt outside of home mortgages, even greater than credit card debt. Such debt is harming the macro economy by preventing young people from buying homes, new cars, and other durable goods. The reason for this growing debt crisis? Colleges and universities, even public ones, operate primarily as profit-seeking institutions, raising tuition and fees with little limitation or government oversight.
Only Bernie Sanders' proposal of tuition-free public higher education can end this horrible problem. Colleges and universities will be required to accept all students who meet set requirements and educate them within fixed budget parameters...the same way public K-12 schools do! Though many Americans will undoubtedly grouse about some inevitable cutbacks and limits on which colleges students may attend, the system will work. Despite all the complaining, public K-12 education works.
Public colleges and universities would be forced to "make mission" within reasonable budgets and would be prevented from raising administrator pay by relying heavily on wage-slave adjuncts and graduate students. Educators would regain power and authority and administrators would no longer be able to give themselves unlimited raises from students' tuition payments.
How many American families would benefit tremendously from tuition-free public higher education? How many students would be motivated to excel academically if free college was a reward for a 3.0 high school GPA? Currently, the only financial motivation most students have is the chance to win or retain scholarships, most of which only pay a fraction of students' costs. How many students underperform because they feel that college is out of their financial reach any way?
Health care costs have also skyrocketed since 1980, with the sector now equal to twenty percent of the entire U.S. economy. Despite spending the most money per citizen on health care, the U.S. does not necessarily rank well among other developed nations in terms of life expectancy or quality of health. Rather, America does health care inefficiently. While our Western allies allow all citizens to receive quality health care through "socialized medicine," we continue to let profit-seeking medical providers and insurance companies rule the roost.
How many Americans suffer from untreated illness and injury because they are uninsured or because profit-seeking health insurance companies deny their claims? Though Obamacare forces all Americans to buy health insurance, it does not prevent those insurance companies from raising their rates or denying claims. It also does not prevent medical providers from raising their prices, putting pressure on uninsured and insurance companies alike. And even if citizens have good health insurance, they must cover their deductibles and copays before the insurance kicks in.
Implementing universal health care would finally allow our nation to control health care costs and ensure that all citizens have access. This is both a humanitarian and an economic necessity. How are we supposed to remain economically productive if our workers cannot afford medical treatments? Ironically, we provide socialized health care for our retirees...but not our working citizens.
We enacted tuition-free public K-12 education and America prospered. We enacted Medicare and Medicaid and America prospered. The vast majority of Americans enjoy these reforms and are thus Democratic Socialists. Bernie Sanders must remind Americans of this and explain how Democratic Socialism is the politics of FDR and LBJ, not Karl Marx and Joseph Stalin.