By Audrey Garces
The United States needs a political revolution, and to students, this becomes more evident every day.
This country has more income inequality than the top 20 major developed nations, Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook reported in 2015.
Students leave college with tens if not hundreds of thousands in debt. Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget office reported that the federal government estimates making $127 billion over the next 10 years from student loans.
Though the richest country in the world, the United States has the highest childhood-poverty rate of any developed nation, UNICEF data shows.
Most economic decisions affecting millions are made by corporate executives tainted with conflicts of interest and beholden only to a handful of wealthy stockholders. Meanwhile, average Americans, earning less yet working longer, are left without enough money to live.
We honestly need to ask ourselves, is the system really working for the average U.S. citizen?
America does have programs and laws proven to lessen economic inequality, such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the minimum wage and the 40-hour work week. These are all socialist programs, seen as radical ideas when they were first introduced.
A common misconception about socialism is that it facilitates an omnipotent government bureaucracy, but if implemented by a democratic political system, that is not the case. Democratic socialism—the term presidential candidate Bernie Sanders openly identifies with—is ballot-box socialism in which individuals vote on how to work together for society’s common good.
Socialist ideas help to distribute wealth and benefits more equally through a fairer tax system which closes loopholes that benefit only corporations and the wealthiest. National Public Radio reports millennials earn less money than their parental counterparts, have higher student loan debt, and are unable to buy houses as quickly. Consequently, a positive capitalist association with the “American Dream” isn’t calling young Americans.
Fearmongers paint democratic socialism as an evil, stripping away every capitalistic morsel in this country. In reality, private corporations would not disappear, but rather work alongside socially-owned businesses managed by worker and consumer representatives. The government could use added regulations or incentives to encourage companies to act responsibly.
Some question whether the wealthiest will be cheated by having the highest-tax rate despite reaping the benefits of social programs the least.
To illustrate, in 1960, U.S. CEOs made 20 times more than the average worker, AFL-CIO federation of unions reports. Today, the average CEO makes 331 times more than the average worker. Are they are working 331 times harder?
Bernie Sanders’ social programs would benefit all members of society, including targeted programs for specific groups like free public college as a long-term investment in our country’s future.
Qualified students don’t deserve to be excluded from college just because they are economically disadvantaged.
Countries like Sweden, Finland and Denmark demonstrate how democratic socialism is not scary. Finland charges no college tuition fees and has “the best education system in the world,” the Economic Intelligence Unit for Pearson reported in 2012. All three are reported among the top six overall happiest countries worldwide. This outcome is no coincidence.
Bernie proposes closing corporate-tax loopholes and stopping offshore-tax havens, imposing a small Wall Street transactions tax and raising tax rates for the wealthiest.
The New York Times estimated the federal government would collect an additional $157 billion yearly just by raising the top one percent’s tax rate from 34.9 percent to 40 percent. To put that in perspective, Bernie’s free public college tuition plan would cost about $47 billion yearly.
Bernie’s democratic socialist proposals would grant free public college to those willing to work for it, establish a full-employment economy by rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, give paid family and medical leave, and attempt to boost U.S. manufacturing instead of outsourcing that exploits low-wage workers overseas, just to name a few.
Maybe socialism isn’t such a dirty word after all.
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