Can you feel the Bern?
As a journalist I’m told to keep my opinion private, to not let anyone on to my beliefs, but a man named Bernie Sanders has caught my attention and I’m not ready to be quiet about how much I believe in him.
For those of you who don’t know, he’s a democratic hopeful for the 45th office of the presidency, a U.S. Senator and former representative in the House of Representatives for the state of Vermont. Sanders has served on the U.S. Congress longer than any other independent, getting elected in 1990 to the House of Representatives and then moving to the Senate in 2006.
I don’t agree with Bernie’s entire platform, but there is no other candidate that I agree with more. I will be voting for Sanders because he doesn’t believe in large campaigns funded by big business, he wants to make higher education more attainable for all, he believes in equal rights and supports prison reform.
To begin, Sanders has decided to run his campaign without the support of Super PACs (a political action committee) and has only accepted donations from individual Americans. On his campaign website it clearly lays out rules for contributing to this campaign. The following rules are outlined:
- “This contribution is made from my own funds, and funds are not being provided to me by another person or entity for the purpose of making this contribution.
- I am making this contribution with my own personal credit card and not with a corporate or business credit card or card issued to another person.
- I am not a federal contractor
- I am at least eighteen years old.
- I am a U.S. citizen or lawfully admitted permanent resident (i.e., green card holder).”
According to The New York Times’ “Which Presidential Candidates Are Winning the Money Race” which gathered data from the F.E.C. and the I.R.S. Sanders has raised 41.5 million for his campaign and $0 of it is from Super PACs. Hillary Clinton on the other hand has raised 97.7 million of her own funds, but has received 20.3 million from Super PACs.
I should probably go over what a PAC is before discussing why I dislike them. A PAC or political action committee is an independent group of people that can raise infinite amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals for a campaign, but is not allowed to contribute or coordinate with parties or candidates directly. The Super PACs came into existence with the Supreme Court ruling on the case SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission in July 2010. Since the ruling corporations have been able to give freely and without limit to PACs under the law. This is why we get an exorbitant amount of commercials on TV that say paid for by groups like Restore Our Future or Priorities USA Action which helped fund Romney and Obama respectively.
Last time I checked the constitution, it read, “We the people …” not “We the corporations…” Corporations shouldn’t be able to give unlimited amounts of money to fund their agenda. WE THE PEOPLE of the United States should be the ones funding what we believe in as individuals and should be the ones telling the government what to do, not the corporations. Can we no longer speak our minds in this county? Well, not if the corporations continue to drown us out with their absurd amount of campaign funding.
Sanders not only wants to end the absurd amount of campaign money candidates receive, but wants to make voting easier for all. He would like to make Election Day a national holiday so everyone can go to the polls. In addition, he wants to make it so every American over the age of 18 is automatically registered to vote. Sanders, so much like myself, believes that citizens of the United States need to get more involved in the government. He is very much aware that the steps to participating in our democracy have made it hard for people to participate and wants reform.
In addition, Sanders wants to make college tuition at public colleges and universities free and lower interest rates on student loans. “We don’t have a strong economy, unless we have a very well educated work force,” Sanders said in his campaign video. Sanders isn’t just working to make this happen when he is president though.
On May 19 Sanders introduced legislation for tuition free college and lower interest rates in the Senate. The bill is called the “College for All Act” and would eliminate nearly $70 billion dollars of tuition at every four-year college and university in the United States. Sanders has set up the bill so that the Federal Government would be tasked with paying 67% of the tuition for college students and the other 33% would be covered by the states. A congressional committee is currently working through the bill.
In addition to Sanders’ plans on making college more accessible for all, he is a strong believer in equal rights for all races and for women.
“I believe that you are entitled to justice and to equal rights whether you’re black, whether you’re Hispanic, whether you are gay, whether you’re transgender. You are a human being!” said Sanders in his campaign video.
Sanders, since starting his political career, has fought for equal rights for all. He has been the forefront politician for equality of people of color and gay and transgender individuals. Actions he has taken for civil rights include membership in the Congress on Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, marching in the March on Washington for civil rights, running on a campaign to abolish all laws that discriminated against homosexuals in his first race as a political candidate, high ratings from the ACLU and NAACP, standing against police violence, support of voter rights and much more.
Sanders has also stood up for women’s rights. Love me or hate me, I’m a feminist, and therefore, I believe that women should have equal pay, have access to domestic violence support services, access to birth control and abortion and have access to medical services like Planned Parenthood. I strongly believe that women should have the control to make their own decisions free from the government about their reproductive health.
The government should also not allow health care providers or employers the right to refuse contraceptive coverage for moral reasons. I also believe that Planned Parenthood is good for our society, it provides a number of services such as cancer prevention and screening, STI and HIV testing and more to women and men who would otherwise not be able to afford it.
Sanders strongly believes these feminist values as well.
“We are not going to allow the extreme right-wing to defund Planned Parenthood, we are going to expand it… We are not going back to the days when women did not have full access to birth control… We will not go back to the days when survivors of domestic violence had no access to services or recourse against their abusers… We are not going back to the days when it was legal for women to be paid less for doing the same work as men,” said Sanders.
Lastly, I strongly support Sanders for his desire to reform our prison system. Sanders wants to end the private prison industry. The United States currently has 5% of the world population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners — most of those prisoners being repeat offenders. In 2010 the United States spent $80 billion on prisons (side note: that’s more than enough money to fund Sanders’ “College for All Act”). CNN Money actually did an article on each states cost per student vs. cost per inmate and in all states that statistics were gathered on the state spent much more money on inmates than students. 94,700 of the inmates in 2015 according to statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Prisons on July 25 are there for drug offenses. These numbers are evidence that our prison system is obviously broken. I believe that there needs to be more education and rehabilitation than retribution in prisons, as does Sanders.
“The measure of success for law enforcement should not be how many people get locked up. We need to invest in drug courts as well as medical and mental health interventions for people with substance abuse problems, so that people struggling with addiction do not end up in prison, they end up in treatment,” said Sanders on his campaign website, continuing with, “For people who have committed crimes that have landed them in jail, there needs to be a path back from prison. The federal system of parole needs to be reinstated. We need real education and real skills training for the incarcerated.”
Honestly I could not think of a better candidate to spearhead and tackle the issues of campaign spending, the high costs of higher education, equality and prison reform. That’s why I’m voting for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election.
“Today in America we have enormous problems — they are solvable problems,” said Sanders in the closing statements of his official campaign video, “This country belongs to all of us. We want to make policy that improves the lives of all of our people — that’s how we transform America.”
And I think Sanders is just the man to transform America for the better.
- Free tuition at public colleges and universities
- Lower interest rates on student loans
- Universal health care as a right
- Urgent action to combat global climate change
- Create 13 million jobs rebuilding America’s infrastructure
- Pay equality for women
- Raise minimum wage to $15/hour
- Campaign finance reform
Issues Bernie Sanders wants to address:
- Reduce income and wealth inequality
- Getting big money out of politics
- Creating decent paying jobs
- Racial Justice
- Fighting for women’s rights
- A fair and human immigration policy
- A living wage
- Real family values
- Climate change and environment
- Reforming Wall Street