Why the 21st Century Needs Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders is a self-described socialist running to be the President of the United States of America in 2016. There are few nations with a greater aversion to socialism than the US, yet the effect of Sanders is the exhalation of moral courage to a nation — a global leader — in the face of systemic challenges. The candidate calls for a political revolution against the billionaire class and stands in stark contrast to other competitors in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Sanders’ populist proposal of tuition-free public universities, single-payer healthcare, and a $15 minimum wage, could attract millions of disillusioned voters back to the polls. Repetitive Bushs, Clintons, and Kennedys do not inspire those on the margins — citizens America needs in order to establish change — to vote. Bernie symbolizes a sentiment of change that transcends the boundaries of the nation-state. The United States today is the globe’s sole hegemonic power. Its military reach, by land air, or sea, extends to every corner of the world and its economic prowess fuels the international systems of world trade and industry. Its cultural and political influence is so extensive that most international institutions reflect American interests. Yet its influence is controversial and has caused grief questionably to a degree equal to its comfort. By leading shallow monetary trade agreements, neglecting to ratify or stabilize a platform of Climate Change action, and perpetually prioritizing the 1%, America has led the world only to a state of loneliness in solving global issues. Through reformation of American approaches to inequality, climate change and foreign policy, Bernie Sanders faces and thus offers head-on reassurance to a steaming global climate. The world needs Bernie Sanders.
Sanders envisions an America with functioning democratic socialism, which involves government injection into the financial system and control of natural resources to help the broader populace before private profit. Satisfying this goal mandates reduction of economic inequality by removing the rigid influence of the rich on the American political system. The Vermont senator has advocated taxing the wealthiest Americans and lessening the tax burden on the middle class — a Sanders takedown to the Senate Budget Committee over the Republican myth about “job creators” deserving huge tax breaks. Sanders’ Republican rivals propose lowering taxes on the rich, touting “trickle down” economics — a shallow conceptual legacy of former President Ronald Reagan. The argument is that if the wealthy succeed, their money creates jobs and eventually ‘trickles down’ to those less fortunate. However, even Forbes magazine has rejected the theory emphasizing its inaccuracy in explaining current economic climates. Sanders addresses the plight of the American middle class, as transfers of wealth have allowed the top 1% to own as much as the bottom 90%, by proposing tax policies directed at the top 1% as method to transfer the wealth back and create a vibrant middle class.
Sanders insists on breaking up the big banks of Wall Street that perpetrate a system of state capitalism. Politically, he wants to fight for American democracy through furthering the one-person-one-vote principle by getting the big money that the Roberts Court introduced through Citizens United out of political campaigns and supporting publicly funded campaigns. Under this system, politicians would no longer have to spend most of their time begging the rich for money and could instead campaign for the popular support of the people themselves. Many Americans are speculative as to what a tax-the-rich plan could actually achieve despite claims from experts that such a method can accomplish quite a lot economically. The massive surplus that has traveled to the individuals at the tip of the income pyramid has economists beginning to make the case that the government could raise large amounts of revenue exclusively from this small group, while still allowing them to take home the majority of their income. The problem with such extreme concentrations of wealth in America is that the 1% influences the global system disproportionately — what is good for them is not necessarily good for everyone else. Because their incomes fuel political campaigns, American domestic and international policy inevitably reflects their desires. Due to the extremity of American global influence, an American president focused on redistribution of wealth is crucial in order to adjust an international system that is dictated by the priorities of corporatism; inevitably ignoring poverty and climate change.
In addition to unequal wealth distribution, climate change is one of, if not the most, paralyzing issues of the 21st century. Ironically, it is blatantly ignored by one of the world’s most influential states — one that has not even ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The US maintains levels of consumption, expulsion of CO2 emissions, and fossil fuel extraction that impede global climate change action in a major way. This is partially due to a political system committed to the lobby interests of fossil fuel corporations. A recent study by the IMF attempted to estimate the subsidy that energy corporations receive from the American government. The total was approximately $5 trillion annually — a number which has little connection to capitalism itself and everything to do with the American version of State Capitalism. There is a strong consensus among scientists who say that a large majority of the remaining fossil fuels — perhaps 80 percent — must be left in the ground if we hope to avoid a temperature rise of lethal proportions. State Capitalism actively prevents the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth, in leading the international community to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Sanders would inevitably change this, and has already made attempts as a Senator. He introduced the gold standard for climate change legislation with Sen. Barbara Boxer to tax carbon and methane emissions, led the opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, and secured $3.2 billion in the economic stimulus package for grants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He is also notably the only candidate in the democratic debates that addressed climate change as a security crisis. Sanders proposes taxing carbon and would do what it takes to reduce emissions in a country that emits far more per capita than practically any other industrialized country. Climate change and inequality are an intertwined global issue as the latter enables the former by depriving those most at risk of the resources they require to avoid and mitigate disaster.
Finally, one area where Sanders’ political philosophy outshines his opponents, particularly from that of his main opponent, Hillary Clinton, is trade. Like her husband and Obama, Hillary Clinton is an avid supporter of free trade agreements. Agreements—such NAFTA, CAFTA, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that is currently under consideration— which give polluting companies the power to undermine environmental regulations in signatory nations. As secretary of state, Clinton actively supported the TPP despite its controversy and secrecy. Sanders’ is one of the most skeptical members of the Senate on trade agreements and, as Congress is currently on the verge of taking up the corporate-friendly Trans Pacific Partnership, he is pushing the chief trade representative for the United States to turn over the full text of the proposed trade agreement. Critics urge that the TPP poses threats to civil liberties, workers’ rights, public health, food safety, and global financial stability. According to Doctors Without Borders, “The TPP will still go down in history as the worst trade agreement for access to medicines in developing countries.” Though the final text of the agreement will not be available for at least another month, Wikileaks confirmed that the TPP would drive up costs of the most expensive drugs on the market to developing countries. One of the biggest sticking points in the negotiations had to do with data protection for biologic drugs. Sanders is the only candidate with the political motivation to assure the US does not engage in trade agreements that impede the well-being of humans for the benefit of corporations.
Sander represents a candidate whose platform goes beyond domestic politics, with a vision for an America that lives up to its leadership roles in critical global issues of the 21st century. What this means in practice, though, is not easy to predict. Despite his massive momentum, the national polls of the presidential race still give Clinton a sizable lead over Sanders. But Bernie remains the only candidate in the 2016 United States Presidential election that offers pragmatic American leadership to a century defined by global crisis. His model of democratic socialism tackles domestic politics in a manner which transcends national boundaries by influencing international trade, environmental policy and global inequality, providing a basis for America to exercise its influence through pro-active leadership on global issues.