In last week’s New University issue, the College Republicans at UCI (CRUCI) authored an op-ed piece attempting to dismiss an article I’d previously penned entitled “A Vote for Sanders is a Vote for Yourself.”
While I respect the opinions of my Republican friends, I must disagree with them.
The op-ed, authored by Mr. Robert Petrosyan, dutifully calls on students to think for themselves. I’d like to remind Mr. Petrosyan that he is the head of the College Republicans — a partisan organization. By definition, a political party is the consolidation of a narrow ideology, and the party machine is quick to scorn members straying from the belief of the day.
While he is running as a Democrat, Bernie Sanders, conversely, is an Independent, taking on experienced favorite Hillary Clinton for the nomination of a party he doesn’t belong to. The success of his campaign is entirely dependent on the will of the electorate to reject classical partisan ideology and and make informed decisions, which is why, unlike Republicans or Democrats, I urge students to inform themselves as much as possible, which brings me to my first point.
Mr. Petrosyan referenced an article published by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) asserting that Sen. Sanders’s plans for single-payer healthcare, public works, tuition-free public college and expanded social security would cost roughly $18 trillion dollars over ten years.
He forgets to mention, however, that Gerald Friedman, the economist whose research the WSJ based their story on, wrote an open letter to the Huffington Post condemning the WSJ for misrepresenting facts and ignoring his research’s conclusion. Friedman concluded that Sanders’s plan for single-payer healthcare (based on H.R. 676) will save the United States a net sum of $5 trillion over ten years in reduced administrative waste, lower medication and medical device costs and lower medical inflation rates in comparison with the inefficient health insurance system currently in place.
Additionally, removing the current health insurance burden allows businesses more money to invest in living wages for their workers. Instead of allocating $4,000 to $5,000 on health costs per employee, these funds will go directly into the people’s hands. Paying workers a fair wage is, by proxy, an investment in impoverished communities and the first step to ending the nearly-inescapable cycle of poverty and institutional racism entrapping people of color.
Mr. Petrosyan raises a valid concern that a $15 living wage may lead to job loss for unskilled workers. While this is possible, particularly in the fast food industry, these potentially-vulnerable jobs pay too little to feed a family, too little to pay rent and too little to give all peoples equal opportunities.
Sen. Sanders’s plan to modernize the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, including roads, bridges, dams and airports, offsets any potential job loss by creating and maintaining 13 million new and decent paying jobs over a five-year span.
These public works projects cost approximately $1 trillion under Sen. Sanders’ proposed “Rebuild America Act,” $700 billion cheaper than the Iraq War — $6 trillion cheaper if you include interest payments owed on loans that financed the conflict. However, in this instance, America receives jobs and safe roads instead of death and tragedy.
Ironically, CRUCI is absolutely right that the United States has one of the most progressive tax system in the world — on paper.
The Forbes and Washington Post articles by Tim Worstall and Dylan Matthews which Mr. Petrosyan cites are both missing crucial information, absolutely misrepresenting US taxation policy. It is unsurprising, considering the former uses data from the hyper-partisan conservative Tax Foundation, and the latter is a blog post which utilizes 8-year-old data.
According to the IRS, the 2015 personal income tax rate for the top one percent of Americans is 40%; however, only a tiny percentage of their income is legally considered “personal income.” Rather, their primary source of profit is capital gains — profits generated via investments and real estate sale.
Capital gains are subject to the capital gains tax instead of the personal income tax. At most, capital gains taxes are only 20% (five percent lower than what individuals making $37,000 pay), but the actual amount paid is far less when that wealth is “donated” to charities, hidden in offshore tax shelters or reduced for individuals owning more than one home. Assuming the one percent isn’t taking advantage of these loopholes is naïve.
In other words: No, CRUCI, the United States does not have one of the most progressive taxation systems in the world. The United States has one of the most regressive taxation systems in the developed world, where the poor pay far higher taxes than the rich. For Sen. Sanders’s programs to succeed, we do not need — as Mr. Petrosyan claims — to tax the middle class more, we need to tax them less. We need to make sure that the richest people in this country are paying their fair share just like everyone else.
As far as the hypocrisy of UCI endorsing a candidate, individual administrators and employees from the University of California are collectively Hillary Clinton’s ninth largest donor, ahead of Lehman Brothers and 21st Century Fox. Whether we like it or not, the university is already invested in this election. We can be complacent, or we can demand that the university listens to us.
A vote for Sanders IS a vote for yourself. It is a rejection of failed capitalism and a rigged economy. It is an affirmation that, yes, Black lives matter. That healthcare and education are not privileges, but rights. That we will not watch our people starve and die in poverty, and that we the people have the will and the courage to fight — and defeat — the power of money.
Ryan Toves is a second-year literary journalism major. He can be reached at email@example.com.