Don’t Get Berned: Sanders Is Not the Answer to American Problems

By Robert Petrosyan

Over the the summer, a new presidential candidate took the country by storm. With a dedicated group of followers, lengthy promises, fiery rhetoric and anti-establishment  zeal, this man has become a serious contender for his party’s nomination. This candidate, of course, is Bernie Sanders.

It’s hard to be in college and not see fellow students sing his praises on social media and share his promises to transform the country. Sanders’s platform of free college tuition, expanded social programs and economic equality seems perfectly-tailored for the college demographic. Videos of his rallies in packed stadiums can be seen all over the web. An editorial in the New University from two weeks ago asked Chancellor Howard Gillman to give Bernie Sanders a formal endorsement on behalf of UCI.

Before delving into why Bernie Sanders is the wrong candidate to solve America’s problems, let’s probe into the irony of UCI formally endorsing Bernie Sanders. One of the most common reasons college students have for supporting Sanders is that he is anti-establishment. He doesn’t take money from major financial/business institutions or political action committees. So how hypocritical would it be to have UCI, an establishment that we all go to for educational purposes, endorse a candidate on behalf of its students?

It should be known that public institutions are not permitted to formally endorse candidates for public office, as stated by the IRS. Additionally, we should learn to think for ourselves individually instead of asking the university to endorse someone on our behalf. In a democratic society, political choices are individual decisions, not “one-size-fits-all” propositions.  

One of Senator Sanders’s most popular propositions is a plan for a nationwide minimum wage of $15 per hour. This issue has been trending in these last few years, especially in California, where the minimum wage will be raised to $13 in two years, and where both San Francisco and Los Angeles will have $15 wages by 2018 and 2020, respectively.

The problem with mandated wage hikes is that there is only so much money a business can spend on labor costs. The marginal cost principle is one of the most basic theories in economics, and it shows that businesses hire fewer employees and select those capable of doing more work to compensate for the lower number of employees. This policy would deliver its biggest blow to the unskilled workers it claims to help. It is a contributing reason for why San Francisco has a very high rate of homelessness despite having a “living wage”.  

Even if some states or counties could afford a higher minimum wage, $15 in California is different than $15 in Tennessee, or any other state where the cost of living is much lower. According to the Department of Labor, a federally-imposed $15 dollar minimum wage would more than double the minimum wage in 21 states and three territories. Such a dramatic rise would cause serious damage to both employment and inflation rates. This would only elevate rates of inequality and act as a barrier to entry for unskilled workers looking to gain valuable experience.

As for Senator Sanders’s other policies, it would seem his only solution to our nation’s problems is increased spending, whether it’s on single-payer healthcare, free tuition, or an expansion of the welfare state. He supports the idea of a European social democratic model of free education, single-payer healthcare and a progressive tax model.

However, given Europe’s fiscal state, is it wise to attempt to emulate their system? The European Union is now in its sixth year of a major debt crisis that is the result of unsustainably-high spending, despite not having America’s high military expenditures. For example, over the summer, Greece was on the edge of a financial default that brought Europe to its knees over fears of severe economic downturn. Bernie Sanders’s plans, which are quoted by the Wall Street Journal to cost $18 trillion over ten years, would double our debt and tip the US towards serious fiscal jeopardy.

Ironically, the Scandinavian countries that are doing better than the rest of Europe have taken reforms that are the opposite of Sanders’s proposals. Scandinavia now relies on a private school voucher system for education, which Sanders opposes. In addition, Sweden has increased autonomy and choice in its healthcare system over the last few decades, reducing both cost and wait times for patients.

According to Forbes and the Washington Post, Sweden’s tax burden is spread evenly throughout the population, whereas the United States has one of the most progressive tax systems in the world. According to the same report, the top ten percent in the US own a third of total income and 45.1% of taxes. To maintain such a large welfare state, the money of the rich isn’t enough, and large amounts of money will need to be taxed away from the middle class to make the numbers work. This European combination of higher taxes and economic crisis is hardly a direction we should be pushing our country in. As Bobby Jindal said, “Don’t turn the American dream into the European nightmare.”

A vote for Sanders is not a vote for yourself. It is a vote for more poverty and less freedom. It is a vote for an unfeasible economic system that has repeatedly failed to prove its merits. It is a vote for a system of socialism that brings neither progress nor liberty.

Our message is simple. As college students, this is our time to gain a sense of independence. Thus, we shouldn’t give up our freedom for government dependency. I would like to kindly advise our fellow students: don’t get Berned.

 

Robert Petrosyan is a third year political science and business economics double major and serves as the president of the College Republicans. He can be reached at rpetros1@uci.edu.