But only if you have time after Basket Weaving 230 and Queer Theory.
By now it is somewhat easy to pinpoint who exactly is behind the #FeelTheBern campaign pushing for a Sanders 2016 Democratic ticket; young (and old) white liberal anti-corporate activists with a populist rage who aren’t particularly familiar with how government works.
As someone who has attended a Sanders rally right in the heart of the nation’s capital, interviewed numerous “supporters”, and endured pressure from colleagues on social media to cave into supporting the candidate, I can say with confidence that the bastions of the Sanders campaign certainly do feel a strong connection with him and feel he is “the one” Why? Because he’s speaking on issues that affect young people – higher education, economic inequality, and racial injustice.
But Sanders grassroots plan to “change Washington” unfortunately falls short when it comes time to check back into reality.
Congressmen, senators, and special interest groups introduce bills. In this country, we have a system that proposed bills need to go through (think of it as a dreaded obstacle course) before they are signed into law by the President. Historically speaking, roughly 90% of all bills do not make it to the Presidents desk, meaning they die on the floor. Recent numbers from the 112th Congress show that only 561 bills were passed of the 6,845 introduced (meaning 92% of all bills fell flat) Very dysfunctional, I know.
As you can already see, Sanders fantasy of “changing Washington” isn’t going to happen unless Republicans get what they want, or more.
Let’s look at three of the biggest issues that the Sanders campaign is focusing on radically reforming: economic inequality, racial injustice, and higher education. All of Sanders positions are from FeelTheBern.org
Sanders plan for dealing with economic inequality is simple in theory. Expand the social safety net, create more well-paying jobs, and reform systems that perpetuate inequality like a broken criminal justice system. His five step plan for this hits a massive barrier at step 2 where he calls for fixing the tax code for Citizens, Corporations, and Banks. Contrary to popular belief, both parties agree that the current tax code is in dire need of reform. In fact, it has been Republicans who have introduced several rational tax reform proposals in recent years such as the one linked above. Even the CHAIRMAN of the Ways and Means Committee (chief tax-writing committee), Paul Ryan, has introduced a comprehensive, fair, competitive, and simple plan which was voted down in the Senate by a vote of 57-40 (thanks, Democrats) If Sanders thinks that the super-rich, large corporations, and banks don’t already pay enough in taxes (keep in mind that the U.S. has the highest statutory tax rate in the free world) he has more problems than we thought. Either way, the ideological divide has always and will continue to win.
Sanders plan for actually dealing with racial injustice is quite blurry, but it includes a total rehaul of prisons, creating more well-paying jobs, and expanding social programs like nutritional assistance. For starters, government doesn’t “create jobs”, the private sector and free-market do. Even when avoiding recent anecdotal examples to support this, the Communists tried with their five-year plans, and it didn’t work. Corporations produce goods and services, not government. Sanders tax plan and desire for complex regulations of large corporations and banks would rather slow job creation. Now to his stance on a total rehaul of prisons. Sanders recently joined three House Democrats in introducing the “Justice is Not For Sale Act of 2015” bill aimed to ban private prisons by federal, state, and local governments. By proposing this, Sanders is ultimately duping his supporters into thinking that private prisons actually play a significant role in incarceration rates. According to Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report 2015, private prisons housed 141,921 (roughly 9%) of the total 1.57 million federal and state inmates in 2013. How does banning private prisons improve the livelihood of the remaining 91% in federal custody? By overcrowding them even more? Don’t expect Sanders to answer that. I urge those who disagree to follow this bill and see how far it gets in Congress. Lastly, Sanders stresses that safety net programs such as nutritional assistance (SNAP) are underfunded and should work to get families of color ahead. If you look at welfare spending graphs over the past 50 years, you see that spending on these programs has surged despite poverty rates hovering at around 15%, now with 46 million Americans living below the poverty line. President Obama has already drastically expanded both eligibility and spending in his FY 2011 budget. Sanders bland plan clearly need revising.
Sanders believes that all students deserve the opportunity to receive an affordable, quality education – like everyone and their brother. I urge all Sanders supporters to actually read his stance on education and see just how vague his positions are. He goes as far as to suggest that students should not have to reapply for financial aid every year. This may actually hurt just as many students as it could potentially help as federal student aid is adjusted year- to- year based on a family’s EFC (estimated family contribution) Sorry to anyone whose parent loses their job and can’t resubmit a FAFSA because of their prior year’s FAFSA information already being locked in. Republicans and Democrats both disagree on how to cope with the student loan crisis. This is nothing new. Sanders and liberal comrade Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have pled to get her budget amendment passed which would allow students to refinance their students loans at a lower rate. Sensible or not, it’s on Congress. Unfortunately, ideology wins here as well – not Sanders or any of his rhetoric.