What is Bernie Sanders’ Real Voice?

Vermont’s Socialist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has shaken up Hillary Rodham Clinton’s bid for the Democratic nomination and there’s good reason why.

In this version of Agora, TNH Executive Editor Constantinos Scaros and his occasional nemesis, author-historian-poet Dan Georgakas give their versions of Sanders.

GEORGAKAS PRESENTS HIS POINT OF VIEW

Dino, I think Bernie Sanders is by far the most attractive candidate in either party. Rather than speculate on his chances or campaign style, I am going to concentrate on some of his economic proposals. I know you respect his integrity, but I wonder what you think of his economic agenda.

Sanders believes every American who works full time should be paid enough to live without needing federal assistance such as food stamps and earned income tax credit. He also thinks that any unemployed American able to work should be employed by the government.

As Franklin Roosevelt did with the New Deal, Sanders would hire the unemployed to repair and modernize America’s decaying infrastructure.

Total cost to the government would not be much different than subsidies and the improvements would be immediate and long-term boosts to the economy. Full employment would also strengthen Social Security and Medicare with new funds.

Rather than extending the Social Security eligibility age to 70, Sanders would return it to 65. As detailed in previous agoras, billions could be saved by seriously cracking down on cheaters. Additional income would come from raising to $125,000 the income at which payments cease. Such actions would add to the 20-year surplus now in place.

Sanders advocates universal health care such as that found in all other advanced nations. Just eliminating the profits of insurance companies would generate 20% savings.

Allowing Medicare & Medicaid to bargain with pharmaceutical companies over price, as is done by Canada, would save additional billions as would seriously addressing fraudulent claims. The system would be stabilized with no cut in services and possible falling rather than rising fees.

Unlike those who have forgotten the financial crisis of 2008 caused by greedy bankers and other lenders, Sanders wants more controls over financial behemoths and their brethren. He believes that companies considered to be too big to fail are too big to tolerate.

Taking a page from Republican Theodore Roosevelt’s programs in the early twentieth century, Sanders would force the financial fortresses to divide into smaller units. This would greatly lower the likelihood of taxpayers again being obliged to bail out the super-rich.

Sanders believes there needs to be prosecutions of individuals whose reckless and unethical behavior was responsible for the crisis of 2008. Borrowers lost their homes while lenders were granted public funds for recovery. Along similar lines, Sanders advocates closing the tax loopholes and subsidies that allow corporation to pay an ever declining share of taxes and often no taxes at all.

He questions the ethics of firms that resist raising wages at time when the ratio of executive pay to employee pay is the highest in the world and ten times greater than in any previous time in American history. It is not coincidental that Sanders is the only candidate financed by small donations rather than corporate funding.

Drill, baby, drill and constructing dangerous pipe lines do not seem very wise at a time when there is a global glut of oil. Sanders would refuse to open more public areas to drilling.

Instead, he would put more support into solar and wind power, domestic industries that employ Americans and are environmentally far sounder than fossil fuels. Sanders notes that nations such as Denmark and Holland are far in advance of us, often selling alternatively-generated energy back to the European grid.

This is just a taste of Sanders’ vision of a better America. His views on other topics have the same blend of determined change with fiscal responsibility that benefits the many rather than the 1% elite.

SCAROS RESPONDS

Dan, while I don’t think there is any realistic chance of Bernie Sanders becoming our next president, he is certainly an interesting candidate with some good ideas – and some bad ones.

Ron Reagan Jr. gave a moving eulogy at his father’s funeral, and reporters asked him whether he – a good speaker with as good name recognition as one could hope for – would run for president. His reply: “I am an atheist, and America will not elect an atheist president in my lifetime.”
Similarly, America will not elect an avowed socialist in Bernie Sanders’ lifetime.

That said, I will focus on Sanders as a candidate vis-à-vis the four issues I consider of primary importance: national security, immigration, the wealth gap, and non-toxic foods and pharmaceuticals.

Sanders comes across as a “sweet old man” – a guy most people would be happy to hug and call grandpa. Unfortunately, I think that’s how Vladimir Putin, ISIS, and all the rest of the world’s troublemakers will see him, too. I want a president who will make those guys quake in their boots, and I don’t think Sanders is it.

That type of president probably isn’t going to be very nice. He or she will be like a Doberman Pinscher – the kind of dog you have standing guard at the gate. A Golden Retriever may be great for sitting in with the family by the fireplace, but not for protecting a household.

Only in rare instances – Ronald Reagan most readily comes to mind – can the kindly old grandfather types also cause other world leaders to quiver.

Next, there is immigration. I continue to be astounded at how people don’t understand the difference between xenophobia and lawlessness.

To say that someone is anti-immigrant because he or she opposed unlawful entry or stay in the United States would be like saying that you want the half-Irish, half-Italian burglar who broke into your house to be apprehended makes you anti-Irish and anti-Italian. Sanders, I’m afraid, wouldn’t fix the problem – one this is rampant and ruinous.

On the other two issues, though, Sanders fares better. I think more than most candidates, he would care about reducing the wealth gap. He wouldn’t necessarily be the best to achieve such reduction, but at least his heart is in the right place.

I’m not sure raising the minimum wage so dramatically would do anything more than cause employers to lay off more workers, and/or raise the prices of their products to make up the difference.

But I do think he would crack down on tax cheats and clean up Wall Street, and he would understand that economic success needs to be examined through a microeconomic lens as well as a macroeconomic one.

Finally, better than anyone running in either major party, Sanders understands the danger of GMOs and other toxic methods of mass producing food, and the risks of unrestricted overindulgence of pharmaceuticals and vaccinations.

An infant needs some inoculation from disease, but not need 20 vaccinations in its first year of life – they can be staggered. A patient needs some prescription drugs, but not ones that cure post-nasal drip but cause heart disease and can lead to a stroke.

And we – every single one of us – have a right to know whether our foods contain GMOs. Like cigarettes, such foods don’t have to be banned – just labeled. And I think Sanders would be a champ regarding those causes.

Therefore, while I applaud what I think President Sanders would do regarding the latter two issues, I shudder to think how the first two would fare with him at the helm.

That’s why I am happy he won’t be our next president, even though I continue to admire him and believe that he adds a necessary perspective to the collective political roundtable.

WHAT’S YOUR OPINION?