Bernie Sanders is not a new face in national politics. In his nearly 30 years in Congress, Sen. Sanders has developed a reputation for advancing social justice, countering economic exploitation by the capitalist class, thrusting single-payer health care to the national stage, liberating oppressed peoples by fighting for open borders, and sounding the alarm on climate change by revolutionizing our economy through the forced mechanisms of government. The overwhelming power of his message to inspire and motivate has not been overlooked, as young people across the nation have embraced Bernie Sanders and his championing of nearly all perceived pressing social issues of our time.
Given the urgency of issues such as health care injustice, economic injustice, climate injustice, racial injustice, immigration injustice, gender injustice, and the supposed miserable exploitation in which a large swath of the American populace lives, it is shocking to hear Hillary Clinton's recent remarks about Sen. Sanders.
She declared in a yet-unreleased documentary that “[Bernie Sanders] was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It's all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it."
Surely Bernie Sanders, someone who has fought so hard on so many progressive fronts, would be embraced by the Democratic Party: A political machine that has for decades championed social justice issues and advocated for the power of government to do good in the world.
It is therefore surprising that last week the Democratic Party changed the individual donor requirement for appearing in national debates, to the detriment of Sanders’ grassroots campaign and to the benefit of Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg, the former Republican mayor of New York City, has poured millions of his personal fortune into his campaign for the Democratic nomination.
This move by the national party to artificially tilt the scales in favor of an enormously wealthy former Republican white male may seem shocking and contradictory, given the party’s claims to uplift people of color and those of marginalized identities. However, a closer analysis of Sanders, and the danger posed by his recent rise, helps to explain the party’s moves and the threat to the long-term survival of the Democratic Party.
The most prominent cause that Sanders has campaigned on has been universal health care. This issue is not new, and it is generally accepted that our healthcare system needs reform given its wild costs and inefficiencies.
Despite the failings of the status quo, a newly released analysis by the Penn Wharton Budget Model found that, “taken literally, Sanders’ Medicare for All Act lacks a financing mechanism, which by long-standing Congressional Budget Office and PWBM convention implies deficit financing. Under deficit financing, the plan would reduce GDP by 24 percent by 2060, despite large efficiency gains from lower overhead and reimbursement costs.”
With this disastrous outcome, it is no wonder that mainstream Democrats have been averse to Sanders’ unrealistic and potentially dangerous ambitions. While promising to fix health care, Sanders has ignored the practical realities of who would pay for such a generous social program, which is unsurprising since the burden would inevitably fall on the average American whose well-being he claims to champion.
Although the rich would be less rich under such a plan, the poor would also be worse off, as a reduction in national output would disproportionately harm the most vulnerable Americans who are supposed to benefit from his program in the first place. According to a Heritage Foundation analysis, Medicare for All would make almost two-thirds of Americans financially worse off.
Perhaps the Democratic Party is afraid of the future consequences if Sanders’ plan were implemented, as hoards of distraught voters would have nowhere to turn as their living standards plunge. Sanders’ platform assumes voters will readily accept that the government will be able to ensure high-quality reliable healthcare to all Americans, despite the egregious incompetence and lapses of care exposed at the government-run Veterans Administration and Indian Health Service.
The proposed cost reimbursement style system ignores the reality that Medicare can barely afford 80 percent expense reimbursement in its current state, and has no mechanism to close the gap. Given our inability to finance even partial health coverage for portions of our population, it is unrealistic to believe the government will satisfy our desire for superb access to high-caliber healthcare at a lower cost for every American.
Sanders’ policies regarding the minimum wage would also greatly harm many Americans. The “Fight for 15” paints the minimum wage debate as a binary choice between supporting either the working class or employers, while ignoring the practical realities of labor markets and the real drawbacks of government price setting.
Although Sanders touts those who will benefit from a minimum wage increase, he fails to address the workers who will see their hours reduced, the small business owners who will be forced to shutter, the vulnerable Americans who will find it even harder to break into the workforce, and the millions of workers who will be ejected from the labor force entirely. Perhaps the Democratic Party is afraid of selling voters the message that unemployed at $15 an hour is better than gainfully employed at market rate.
Rounding out Sanders’ progressive agenda is a renewed focus on climate change, an issue that has drawn increasing passion and intense rhetoric by activists and politicians such as Sanders. He affirmed that he would go so far as to provide United States funding for abortions in third world nations as part of a comprehensive population control program to fight climate change.
Related rhetoric and climate lies, such as those by Sanders’ close ally Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who insisted “the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change,” have made it all but impossible to craft environmental policy that accounts for the nuances of global climate systems and the practical necessity of balancing human needs with those of the planet.
Securing the nation’s environmental future is an important bipartisan priority, but the Democratic Party knows that Sanders is setting voters up for embarrassing failures and disappointments as he makes promises that are both unrealistic and hamper the development of more realistic solutions and balanced debate that will allow us to meet our environmental objectives.
As Clinton suggested, Sanders does not have a history of crafting successful policy and developing the collaborative relationships necessary to execute on legislative aims. In this light it is unsurprising that his single-payer health care plan failed in his home state of Vermont, and that he claimed Senator Elizabeth Warren cannot win the presidency because she is a woman.
With no alternative, Sanders has chosen yet again to run under the banner of a party that has used its power to tilt the scales against him, and has made promises to voters that he has been unable to keep in the past, and will almost certainly be unable to keep in the future.
The Editorial Board of The Daily Pennsylvanian, in its endorsement of Sanders, wrote that “in the face of calamity … no one can succeed alone.” This is a true statement; however, after 30 years in Congress, Sanders has proven unable to rally others in solving the issues he has repeatedly campaigned on.
In almost 30 years, just seven bills Sanders primarily sponsored have been enacted into law. He has been scorned by the leaders of his own party, yet expects to pass sweeping and radical legislation as president. Multiple Democratic senators, including former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, have criticized Sanders for sitting on the sidelines while other party members carry out the difficult work of constructing sound policy.
The issues that Bernie Sanders speaks to reflect important contemporary challenges, but his heavy-handed government solutions would further bankrupt the nation and dim opportunity for those who need it most. The striking equity of the everyday American experience, as proven by the millions of free individuals who have voted with their feet to settle in our nation, provides a strong counter narrative to that of pervasive injustice and exploitation as propagated by Sanders.
Given his poor policy aims and failures as a career politician, Sanders is not the best candidate to lead the nation as our next president. Penn students should reject his candidacy.
COREY PAREDES is a Wharton sophomore studying Finance and Marketing. He is the Executive Director for College Republicans. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
CHRISTOPHER SCHILLER is a College sophomore studying English and PPE. He is the Vice President of College Republicans. His email is email@example.com