Bernie Sanders’ Agenda Is Not Only Realistic, It Is Absolutely Necessary

Ever since Bernie Sanders first declared his intention to run for president, the narrative has been clear–“He’s great…but he can’t win,” “His ideas would be nice, but they’re unrealistic“–and, naturally, “A Socialist?? In America?”

The more often things are repeated, the more true they seem.

Now, let me tell you. I don’t believe in things like single payer health care, free college and a higher minimum wage simply because I am a starry-eyed idealist. Yes, I want justice, I want opportunity for all people, and I’m not super keen on people not being able to get medical treatment when they need it —but I also want to improve our economy. The systems we have in place right now are largely unsustainable in the long term. A system where the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer can’t even work for the rich for that long. A business can’t be successful if no one can afford to buy anything.

Even if you prefer Clinton in this match-up, which is fine with me, I’m going to ask everyone to stop saying these programs are “unrealistic.” Because let’s be real here–these are things we want, and by blowing them off, we drastically limit the chances of ever getting them. That’s not smart.

Let’s start off by talking about Single Payer Healthcare.

First of all, of course Single Payer is realistic–that’s why it’s the model followed by nearly every other industrialized country on earth. It’s also much, much less expensive than Obamacare and whatever bullshit we had before.

If you’ve ever joined Costco or BJ’s Wholesale Club, you understand why–things are cheaper when you buy in bulk. Say you pay retail for one thing that costs $100. You might be able to get a discount on that thing if you and a couple friends offer to buy ten of them. If you and a thousand friends buy that thing, you can use your bargaining power to get it for even cheaper. When you buy something from any store, you’re usually paying 55% more than the store bought it for–the store gets it for less than you do, because they buy more.

Now, insurance companies can bargain a little, sure. But imagine if the whole country was one big insurance company. We would then have more bargaining power. Not just for prescriptions, but also for things like exorbitant hospital fees. If you’ve ever stayed in a hospital, or know someone who has, you may have noticed that they charge your insurance company insane prices for things like Kleenex boxes (aka “mucous recovery systems”), the rubber gloves they use, alcohol swabs, etc. Sure, you don’t pay it, but it affects the cost of your premium. That is a thing we, as a country, could bargain down that your insurance company wouldn’t be able to. More people, more bargaining power.

While yes, Single Payer will cost more in taxes, you’ll be paying less on the whole. You will pay less in taxes than you would for your monthly insurance payments.

Single Payer will help us all out financially in other ways as well. Universal insurance means that our insurance is not tied to our employer. Therefore, we’d never have the issue of people not getting enough hours so a business owner could avoid paying for health insurance. You’d also never have the problem of sticking with a job you hate for fear of losing your insurance.

As of right now, we pay way the hell more for healthcare —and get way the hell less —than people in other countries. We pay more for prescriptions, and are essentially subsidizing the cheap cost of those prescription drugs in other companies. Martin Shkreli can charge us $700 for a life-saving drug, but would never be able to pull that in any other country.

We still have 29 million people in this country without insurance. That is unacceptable. If someone’s house is on fire, it doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor, the fire department comes. If someone’s been murdered, it doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor, the police department still comes. But if someone has a heart attack or gets hit by a car or comes down with a disease, if they don’t have insurance, they’re shit out of luck? That doesn’t seem right. That shouldn’t be who we are. No one thinks it’s CRAZY that our police departments and fire departments are “socialized,” you don’t see rich people crying about their tax money may go to put out a fire at a poor person’s house. Because when it’s a matter of life and death, that shouldn’t matter.

That’s 29 million people who could lose their homes, all of their money, everything, in the event of a medical emergency. Now, if you’re a giant asshole, your reaction to that is “So? Not my problem!”–but you would be wrong! People going into debt like that screws our economy. If you own or work for any business or company that relies on people buying stuff, you really don’t want people in horrible amounts of debt!

Now onto free college!

Man! Free college! That sure sounds like a wacky handout for all those greedy poor people who hate work and loooooooove government handouts! LOL, why don’t we just give everyone a pony and a day at the spa!

The reason we have public school to begin with isn’t because we’re nice and we want to help people get an education. The original purpose of public schooling was both to keep kids in line and encourage them to be responsible citizens–but also to create a workforce.

The United States started requiring students to attend school from K-12 fairly early on in the last century. By contrast, in Europe, education after the age of 14 was only available to the rich and upper classes for quite some time. The fact that we started educating everyone well before they did is a large part of the reason why we progressed economically, technologically, and scientifically at a much faster rate than other countries

Now, things have switched around, and lots of countries are offering free college to their citizens, while the United States restricts higher education to either those who are either able to afford it or willing to go into debt. The average cost of even state colleges for four years is $36,000–and we already pay for those with our tax money.

At the same time, in our post-industrial economy, there are increasingly fewer jobs that pay a living wage and require only a high school diploma. Certainly not a lot of jobs that one can support a family on. The average salary of someone with a high school diploma is $28,763, while the average salary of someone with a bachelor’s degree is $50,916.

Were we to pay for college for those who wanted to attend? We’d have more people in this country able to earn a living wage. This would mean the following things:

  • They would earn more money, and thus pay more into the system, increasing our overall tax-revenue.
  • They would be more able to obtain higher paying jobs, which would in turn mean less money spent on other social services.
  • We’d have more people contributing to technological and scientific advances, being able to open businesses, and thus creating jobs.
  • More people having more money means more people spending money. More people spending money means a robust economy. It means more money for everyone.

If we want to sustain our economy, if we want to be able to continue to compete with the rest of the world, this is a thing we actually need to do.

We can raise about $300 billion a year to help fund this and health care by instituting a Robin Hood Tax of 0.5 percent tax on most stock transactions ($0.50 for every $100), and a 0.1 on bond and derivative trades. Given the amount of money rich people make off of us, and given the fact that they pay less in taxes on the money they invest (capital gains) then in the money we work for? I think they can swing it. Besides, it’ll benefit them too, in the long run.

But what about that $15.00 minimum wage?

Say you own a business, and you need your employees to have enough money to get to work, eat so they don’t pass out at work, pay their rent, pay for the hot water that allows them to shower and do laundry so they don’t smell bad at your business and put off customers. But gee! Paying them enough to do all of this would sure cut into the amount of money you get to keep for yourself!

Solution? Just pay them the current minimum wage, and let the taxpayers take care of the rest! It’s a business subsidy that you don’t even have to waste your time applying for! You get the benefits of paying a fair wage without having to pay it yourself. Convenience! And no one’s going to refer to that as a handout to you, they’ll just shame your employees and whine about how they are all probably using that government assistance to buy fancy steaks and whatnot!

Of course, for any other standard business expense, you’d either have to foot the bill yourself or take out a loan! You couldn’t just ask the government to pay for them and then keep all of the profits to yourself. Which is basically what happens with paying the current minimum wage.

However, if you ask me, we should raise the minimum wage and business owners can either pay their workers a fair wage, or they can just not have the privilege of getting rich off of a business in this country.

Isn’t this just about giving people free stuff ?

No, no it is not. It’s about sustaining ourselves as a country. Even if it was, rich people advocate for free shit for themselves all the time. Tax breaks, subsidies–hell, if you own a football team the government will pay for your damn stadium. Yet they have the nerve to whine about how much “free stuff” poor people are getting? Pssht.

How are we going to afford any of this? 

The real question is–how can we afford not to? We’ve put ourselves in a situation where the divide between the rich and the poor is constantly expanding–and the fact is, it can’t keep expanding ad infinitum. Eventually we’ll get to a point where even if someone has the greatest business plan in the whole world, they won’t be able to make money off of it, because no one besides rich people will have money to spend.

These programs will be largely paid for by the super-rich–who would not be the super rich were it not for all the not-so-super-rich people in this country who have made them that way. Not only by buying stuff from them, but also by contributing their tax dollars to the roads that allow people to get to their businesses, to the public schools that give many of their employees at least a high school education, etc. etc. No one gets rich in a vacuum, and it’s time to pay it back.

We’ve tried it the other way–where tax breaks for the rich are supposed to “trickle down” to the rest of us. We’ve been trying that for the past 30 years. In case you haven’t noticed, it has yet to result in more jobs or higher wages for anyone.

The GOP prefers to refer to the rich as “job creators.” They have promised us for years that if we give them lower taxes, if we don’t unionize, if we support political measures that benefit them, that they will in turn provide us with the jobs we need in order to become one of them. You see that happening? I don’t see that happening. They take care of themselves, it’s time for us to take care of ourselves.

It’s very, very, very convenient for all these people to be framing Sanders’ agenda as “pie in the sky” and totally unrealistic, and there are those of us out there who will just go along with that because “Sure! Why not! That’s what people are saying so we might as well go along with it!”

But give yourself a moment to step away from the party line, and really think about it. Are you saying this because you really believe it, or because it’s been repeated so often that it just sounds like the truth? Like how everyone thinks Marilyn Monroe was a size 16 and Mussolini made the trains run on time, despite the fact that neither of those things is true.

Things can be better here, they can be better for all of us. But we have to be willing to give it a shot. Whether you’re voting for Sanders or not, don’t shoot us all in the foot by saying all these things are impossible.