Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
America is in crisis. We have 662 overseas bases in 150 foreign countries, we are engaged in military attacks on another 135 countries, and yet we feel less safe than ever before. Meanwhile, our schools are drastically underfunded, our infrastructure is crumbling, and our elected officials have been bought by the wealthy and powerful. Our police killed over 1,000 citizens last year, and we have almost three million people in jail or prison. One third of American children now live in poverty – a higher percentage than any other developed country and the highest since the Great Depression. Meanwhile, extreme weather caused by global climate change is threatening our cities while the federal government is enacting policies to stop the implementation of renewable energy sources and continue our reliance on fossil fuels.
However, the burgeoning candidacy of Bernie Sanders inspires hope in many of us. His work as a mayor, a congressman, and a senator gives him the experience to address these pressing issues, and his policy proposals, if enacted, will move us toward social justice and an environmentally sustainable economy. And the fact that his campaign is being funded primarily by small donations of $200 or less, unlike the campaigns of all the other presidential candidates, shows that American working people are excited about his stand on issues and want to see these changes happen.
Sanders sees that income inequality — the exaggerated power of the wealthy and of large corporations — is driving the overwhelming crises in the environment, education, foreign wars, race relations, healthcare, and government corruption. The concentration of wealth in this country is unconscionable and inconsistent with democratic principles: the top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Despite the widely publicized “recovery” of recent years, 58 percent of all new income since the Wall Street crash of 2008 has gone to the top one percent. We have a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages. We have the highest childhood poverty rate of any developed country on earth. There is something profoundly wrong in this country when one family owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million people.
What is the solution to this multi-faceted crisis in America?
Income inequality: Sanders will demand that wealthy families and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes. As president, Sanders will stop corporations from shifting their profits and jobs overseas to avoid paying U.S. income taxes. He will create a progressive estate tax on the top 0.3 percent of Americans who inherit more than $3.5 million. He will also enact a tax on Wall Street speculators who caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, homes, and life savings. He will increase the federally mandated minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2020. In the year 2015, no one who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty.
Crumbling Infrastructure: Sanders will put at least 13 million Americans to work by investing $1 trillion over five years towards rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, railways, airports, public transit systems, ports, dams, wastewater plants, and other infrastructure needs.
Unfair Trade Policies: Sanders will reverse trade policies like NAFTA, CAFTA, and PNTR that have driven down wages and caused the loss of millions of jobs. If corporate America wants us to buy their products they need to manufacture those products in this country, not in China or other low-wage countries.
Youth Unemployment: He will create 1 million jobs for disadvantaged young Americans by investing $5.5 billion in a youth jobs program. Today, the youth unemployment rate is off the charts. We have to end this tragedy by making sure that teenagers and young adults have the jobs they need to move up the economic ladder.
Gender Equity: He will fight for pay equity by signing the Paycheck Fairness Act into law. It is an outrage that women earn just 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.
College Costs: He will make public colleges and universities free throughout America. Everyone in this country who studies hard should be able to go to college regardless of income.
Senior Poverty: He will expand Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income above $250,000. At a time when the senior poverty rate is going up, we have to make sure that every American can retire with dignity and respect.
Healthcare Reform: He will guarantee healthcare as a right of citizenship by enacting Medicare for all single-payer healthcare systems. It’s time for the U.S. to join every major industrialized country on earth and provide universal healthcare to all.
Universal Childcare: Sanders will enact a universal childcare and prekindergarten program. Every psychologist understands that the most formative years for a human being is from the ages 0-3. We have to give every family the opportunity to send their kids to a high quality childcare and pre-K program.
Beseiged Unions: He will make it easier for workers to join unions by fighting for the Employee Free Choice Act. One of the most significant reasons for the 40-year decline in the middle class is that the rights of workers to collectively bargain for better wages and benefits have been severely undermined.
Wall Street Corruption: He will break up huge financial institutions. Seven years ago, the taxpayers of this country bailed out Wall Street because the financial companies were thought to be “too big to fail.” Yet, 3 out of the 4 largest financial institutions are 80 percent bigger today than before we bailed them out. Senator Sanders has introduced legislation to break these banks up. As president, he will fight to sign this legislation into law.
How will Sanders pay for these programs?
Sanders will cut the military budget – which currently represents over half of all discretionary spending. If the military budget were cut in half to about $400 billion, we would still have the most powerful force the world has ever known. More importantly, as president he will move away from a policy of unilateral military action and toward a policy of diplomacy. He will see war as a last resort, not the first. He will ensure that any military action we do engage in has clear goals, is limited in scope, and whenever possible provides support to our allies in the region. He will close Guantanamo Bay, rein in the National Security Agency, abolish the use of torture, and remember what truly makes America exceptional: our values. And finally, he will expand our global influence by promoting fair trade, addressing global climate change, providing humanitarian relief and economic assistance, defending the rule of law, and promoting human rights.
And most significantly, Sanders will raise the taxes on large corporations and people making over $250,000 a year. There is no excuse for 1% of the population living in extreme luxury while one third of our children are subsisting in poverty. Sanders will demand that the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share. As president, Sanders will stop corporations from shifting their profits and jobs overseas to avoid paying U.S. income taxes. He will create a progressive estate tax on the top 0.3 percent of Americans who inherit more than $3.5 million. He will also enact a tax on Wall Street speculators who caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, homes, and life savings.
Bernie Sanders has shown that he has the courage to stand up to the rich and powerful, and he has a vision for the future of America where hard work and community responsibility are valued.
Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate who represents the possibility of real change in America.
Note: Statements here of Bernie Sanders’ platform are summaries based on his website and public speeches. This article is the author’s personal interpretation and has not been endorsed or reviewed by Bernie Sanders or his campaign staff.