LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Bernie Sanders addressing nation’s woes

The Jan. 2 Opinion piece titled “Much of the country will need fixing in 2016” details several issues negatively affecting ordinary Americans. These include high college tuition rates and crushing student debt. The author referenced a published statistical review showing an unprecedented increase in mortality rates among white middle-aged Americans ages 45-54 and naming suicide and substance abuse as rising causes of death with a corresponding rise in illness.

The increase in mortality was particularly acute among the rural, poor and uneducated. The author of the Opinion piece attempted to lay blame with a decline in religiosity and an increase in single-parent homes, but I believe the rise in preventable death in this age group — and the high levels in all groups — is more likely related to lack of opportunity, unhealthy lifestyles and lack of access to health care.

I was further dismayed to read the Opinion author’s description of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as “hysterically screaming” and likely to “spend the nation into oblivion.” In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Careful examination of Sanders’ proposals reveals that he actually has sensible plans to pay for the policies he is proposing, and not only that, but his policies provide viable answers to the aforementioned problems faced by ordinary Americans.

Sanders proposes a no-tuition policy for public colleges, which would provide equal access to education regardless of socioeconomic status. Many developed countries offer no-cost college education to their citizens, including France, Germany, Scotland, Norway, Finland, Argentina, Denmark, and Brazil. Why should post-secondary education in the U.S. be less accessible than in other developed nations when a highly educated workforce is key to our global and personal success?

Sanders proposes to pay for this policy with a small tax on Wall Street speculation, which, in retrospect, is fair, considering the enormous price tag paid by taxpayers in the 2008 bailout of Wall Street banks. Sanders also proposes to prevent future risky behavior on the part of Wall Street banks by reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act.

Sanders proposes the institution of a single-payer health care system for the United States, similar to the programs successfully implemented by most other modern countries today, including Canada, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Scandinavian countries and many others.

While the Affordable Care Act has provided needed health care coverage to many who couldn’t previously obtain it and has importantly done away with pre-existing condition barriers, the law has simultaneously angered individuals who find the law — and the tax for opting out — unconstitutional. Others find that health insurance through the ACA is still not affordable for them.

Health care costs in general have skyrocketed in the US, and Americans pay more for health care and prescription medications than citizens of any other developed nation. Large sums of money are being wasted by health insurance companies on advertising, exorbitant CEO salaries, and employing scores of people whose job it is to ensure compliance with complex regulations, deny claims and pass on huge bills to consumers.

A landmark study in 2013 by Gerald Freeman, professor and chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, shows a savings of $592 billion could be attained by switching to a single-payer health plan. Sanders proposes to fund this program with a small progressive payroll tax based on income (approximately $17.30 per week for people with annual incomes below $53K), which would replace the exorbitant premiums, deductibles and co-pays that most of us and our employers are currently forced to pay.

This plan would save most people and employers money while giving us better access to health care and providing a healthier workforce better able to compete in a global marketplace. Specific information is available via a simple Internet search for “Physicians for a National Health Program” and “H.R. 676,” the current single-payer health care bill introduced to the House of Representatives.

Leading ecomomists such as Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and political economist Robert Reich (among many others) agree that Sanders’ proposals and analyses are sound, yet, uninformed individuals would prefer to believe that he is simply promising “free stuff” (as Jeb Bush has claimed), the costs of which will bankrupt the country. Sanders is actually not talking about “free stuff” at all. He is advocating for our tax money being used to benefit us, the citizens of this country, instead of being used to fund tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations.

Donald Trump has falsely claimed that Sanders proposes to tax ordinary Americans “at 90 percent” when Sanders has specifically stated that he would not raise the top marginal tax rate as high as the 92 percent it was under Republican president Eisenhower.

For those who are unsure what that means, the top marginal tax rate refers to the tax on incomes in excess of $388,350 per year — clearly not a bracket that ordinary Americans fall into. Historically, a high top marginal tax rate (above 50 percent) has correlated positively with increased economic stability. We had a high top marginal tax rate from 1930 until the 1980s (when Reagan drastically lowered it) of between 63 and 92 percent, and those 50 years were arguably the most prosperous and economically stable in our history.

Perhaps most importantly, Bernie is the only candidate who proposes overturning Citizens United, the disastrous Supreme Court ruling which allows big-money interests to secretively invest in political candidates in a virtually unlimited fashion. As proof of his dedication to removing the corruption from politics, Bernie has run a presidential campaign funded by millions of ordinary Americans who have sent him small donations averaging less than $30 apiece instead of being financed by a Super PAC, as other candidates are.

He states he has done this because he wants to represent the interests of ordinary Americans. He has succeeded in creating an unprecedented level of excitement and political involvement among his supporters, setting records for number of individual donors contributing to his campaign.

Sanders’ proposals would lead us to an era of economic justice, equal opportunity, and stability. The extremely wealthy in this country have for too long taken advantage of tax havens and loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of the expense of maintaining our democracy, and the load has fallen on the shoulders of the middle class. The super-wealthy have been using their windfalls to purchase politicians, who in turn enact more laws to benefit their wealthy donors, and this un-virtuous cycle continues to spiral out of control as inequality grows.

Studies have shown that high levels of wealth inequality in a nation correlate positively with high levels of political polarization, and I believe that is what we are seeing in this country today. People are angry, disenfranchised, and highly politically polarized. Most people seem to have their finger on the problem but disagree on the solution.

Candidates like Trump attempt to blame immigrants and minorities for our nation’s troubles. Sanders’ message, in contrast, is one of inclusiveness and of all citizens standing together to create a better future.

I hope that readers will look into Bernie Sanders’ proposals. They are sound, and he proposes sound means to pay for all of them. His proposals will save money and provide a better quality of life and better opportunities for our future.

Most importantly, to me at least, is Bernie’s plan to remove the disgusting level of corruption from our government processes. Ordinary citizens should have an equal voice in our democracy, and our politicians should be passing laws that benefit all of us, not just a super wealthy minority. Only when this has been accomplished will the people of this nation feel that our government is working for us again.

The 2016 presidential primaries are rapidly approaching in Delaware, scheduled for April 26. You must be registered as a Democrat by April 2 to vote for Bernie Sanders in Delaware’s primaries. Regardless of which candidate you support, please be sure your voice is heard by registering to vote and showing up to vote in our state’s primary elections!

Tanya Karaman
Smyrna

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