Posted by: ericgrimsrud | December 29, 2015

Why I love and respect Bernie Sanders

First, let’s get past that “gotcha” label, “but he is a socialist!’, that sometimes terminates serious discussions of Bernie. Come on, get real!  We have serious problems today that must be addressed by methods that work and some of those ideas will come from the Left as well as the Right as the pendulum of political dominance swings back and forth – usually in order to combat over-corrections of the past.

In addition, most of the Americans on the Left as well as the Right believe in a successful and strong private sector, as Bernie does. But they also favor a government that achieves broad public objectives, including a clean environment, wide access to education and health care and, I believe, even regulations that might strengthen the bargaining power of those who don’t have much capital and live hand-to-mouth on low to modest wages.  Call this “income distribution” if you like, but yes, this goal is also appropriate today in order to correct a too-far-to-the-Right swing of that pendulum in recent decades.  Look around you.  If you don’t see the need for such improvements, you aren’t paying attention to what’s happening in our country and possibly even to what’s happening within your own family.

Within my own family, for example, I see clear evidence of these needed improvements. My wife and I did everything we could to help our four children be successful in the modern American landscape.  An important component of that preparation was their educations, all of which extended beyond the college level.  And while on those paths, we did not want their choices to be limited by the large debt typically associated with today’s college experience.  For covering those college expenses, loans are easy – far too easy – to get, in my opinion.  They are recommended by college recruiters, but saddle our young folks with a level of debt that limits their options upon graduation.  For that reason, my family did not take them.  With the assistance also provided by their grandparents on both sides, we were able to get our kids past the college years without accumulating any personal debt at all.  From that point on, they were on their own but free to take advantage of the many post graduate opportunities before them – instead of having to enter the work force at that point in order to begin paying off large college debts.

So yes, the current American system works pretty well if your family happens to have enough financial capital to get your kids near the good jobs of America before they are obliged to pay off their college bills. Completing college without large loans is unusual today, however, and that fact robs our nation of the full potential of its human capital.  So while Bernie’s quest for free public college tuition to all American students might sound too generous to some, it doesn’t to me.  Instead, I believe it constitutes a wise form of income redistribution, if you wish to call it that, but one that would pay big dividends to our country.  We need this government-managed form of “trickle-down” economics.

Another example of what I would call a wise investment while others might dismiss as wealth redistribution is Bernie’s preference of a single payer health care system.   In this instance, some of my advice has come from a couple of those kids described above who are now working in the area of health care and wonder why the insurance industries are needed for the payment of patients’ fees.  Couldn’t that function be served at a lower cost if the government managed one big single pool without the assistance of insurance companies?  After all, many other basic public services are managed without the middle management of insurance companies, including our public schools, police departments, all branches of our military and the Medicare programs of our retired folks.  Bernie is a financial conservative who does not like to see waste and inefficiencies.   I agree with him that a National Single Payer Health System would result in far more bang for our health care buck.

And I really love Bernie, of course, for the courage he has shown in taking a very strong stance on climate change. Unlike any other candidates in either party, Bernie knows that the first thing that must be done in combating man-caused temperature increase  is to establish a carbon tax on fossil fuel use so that the alternate forms of energy production become competitive and are developed much more rapidly than they are.  Given my frequent explanation of the central importance of this tax, I’ll not repeat it here – other than to say that Bernie is the only one to really “gets it” so far.  The “all of the above” approach currently in favor in the USA is suicidal.  Carbon Dioxide levels will continue to increase as long as fossil fuels remain cheap.  The use of fossil fuels must be taxed at an annually increasing rate large enough to cut CO2 emissions to near-zero by mid century.  This will be very hard to do primarily because the Business-as-Usual forces will strongly resist and label this tax to be just another “wealth redistribution” plan. Only Bernie seems to have the determination necessary to bust through this high political barrier.

Of course, there are also other important issues on the table today and I generally support Bernie on these as well. Concerning the events related to ISIS terrorism, for example, Bernie thinks the appropriate response is to have the Muslim nations of the world attend to those military operations with assistance and advice provided by the USA and its western allies – when and if requested.  Because of the strong financial ties between our military and industrial complex, I can image that Bernie’s detractors will also claim that this policy constitutes a “redistribution” of wealth.  If so, I would hope that we would all favor less use of those funds for body bags.

While I will admit that Bernie is no “spring chicken” anymore, I still think he is the best, the brightest, the most connected to humanity, the most credible, the most energetic, and the most determined of all candidates for the Presidency in 2016. Better than anyone, I think, he represents what America can and should be.  I hope the rest of the country also falls in love with him during the remainder of the primary and national elections.

On the other hand, if Hillary gets the nod in the Democratic Primaries, that’s OK too. She also deserves it and is very well prepared.  She is not as strong a Bernie on Climate Change and that intangible link Bernie has to the public.  Nevertheless, we are very fortunate to have two such stellar candidates to choose between and I hope they both are given appropriate roles to play in the next decade.

Meanwhile, I see no improvements being made on the Republican side. All of their leaders are still so scientifically brain-dead as to not even know who their own experts are on the subject of climate change.  I suspect that Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party and also the founder of our National Academy of Sciences in 1862 is already turning his attention to the Presidential Election of 2020. Being an intellectually astute person, I suspect that Abe would be content to see either Bernie or Hillary in charge until then or even 2024.


  1. Eric,
    “With the assistance also provided by their grandparents on both sides, we were able to get our kids past the college years without accumulating any personal debt at all.”

    Bully for you! Your rich parents spoiled you and had enough left over to spoil your children too.

    Too bad that you don’t work for a university that takes education seriously. My university (Duke) pays 80% of the fees for two children taking four year degrees. That benefit could amount to $200,000.

    [Response by EPG: Peter, My suggestion of investing in your kids assumes they are worth investing in. And I am aware of the aid Duke University gives to some of its students – one of my sons is on staff there.]

  2. “Meanwhile, I see no improvements being made on the Republican side. All of their leaders are still so scientifically brain-dead as to not even know who their own experts are on the subject of climate change.”

    “Climate Change” is not about science; it is an example of what governments do when they get control of the media. In a word “Propaganda”.

    Nobody believes in “Global Warming” any more in spite of the current warm weather caused by El Nino. Nobody cares about “Climate Change” becasue it will happen no matter what humanity may do.

    On the other hand when a politician says that “Common Core” is toast and the control of education will be returned to the local community he will have my vote. Such a politician will have much more than my vote; he will have my passionate and unshakable support. I will devote all my spare time to such a candidate.

    [Response from EpG: Peter, So you have given up on combating climate change and are going to spend the rest of your life battling the Common Core. That is, you are giving up on the substantial challenge and going to focus on the more trivial. While my priorities differ, its good that we have people working on all issues, big and small. But perhaps there is a more appropriate web site for sharing your future discoveries.]

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