A conservative friend who doesn’t particularly like President Trump told me he couldn’t possibly vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders if he becomes the Democratic nominee. Why? Well, he believes capitalism has served this nation well for many decades and Sanders is a socialist.
Leaving aside the fact that Sanders’ policies don’t actually fit the definition of socialism, I advised my friend that Republicans were driving this nation toward embracing the democratic socialist programs that Sanders champions. After giving him some examples, he replied “You mean by what they don’t do for people?” I said, “Precisely.”
Recent Census Bureau statistics indicate that around 88 percent of Americans have a high school diploma and 33 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. No doubt, the roughly two-thirds who lack a higher education have diminished chances for a decent paying job in today’s high-tech economy.
The old days of graduating high school, joining a union and getting a job where your dad labored for decades are gone forever. Union membership fell to a record low of 10.3 percent of the workforce in 2019, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Which political party has done everything in its power to stymie organized labor, including promoting charter schools in an effort to weaken the large teachers’ unions? The GOP.
Unions wouldn’t be so important if the U.S. had a decent minimum (living) wage. But Republicans strongly oppose raising it from today’s $7.25 per hour rate, which keeps many American workers below the poverty level.
To make matters worse, today’s job seeker faces an environment where companies are automating the repetitive jobs that require minimal skills. That means even the human jobs remaining in the workplace require a much higher level of education than in the past.
Having a college degree is no guarantee of a secure future but it sure helps. Yet, college is very expensive and classrooms aren’t always accessible, particularly in many rural areas. If parents can’t afford the tuition, borrowing to go to college entails a significant risk. Just ask one of the many individuals attempting to pay off part of the $1.5 trillion in student loans. And some of them didn’t even graduate.
Trump’s latest budget, however, proposes cutting the Department of Education budget by 8 percent. This includes eliminating $3.9 billion from the Pell Grant program, which helps low income families afford a higher education. And some Republicans advocate eliminating this agency and its job training programs completely.
What is so obvious though, is that GOP policies favor corporations and the wealthy. The prime objective of the Trump/Republican 2017 tax cut was to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, while significantly benefitting the rich and giving meager cuts to almost everyone else.
Ordinary taxpayers weren’t fooled and they aren’t happy with it at all. And there are good reasons for their anger. Corporations didn’t invest in new plants and equipment and create good paying jobs as Republicans promised; they mostly bought back their stock and increased shareholder’s dividends. This drove the stock market to new highs, which greatly benefited the top 10 percent of the wealth holders who own around 80 percent of the shares.
Well, what about the not so rich? According to the Census Bureau, approximately 50 percent of households have a 401(k) plan through their employer where they “might” own stock. For those under the age of 44 who have a retirement account, the average value is $66,250, according to a recent article in TheStreet.com. Let’s just say that stock market gains haven’t enriched the vast majority of Americans very much.
Then there’s the cost of health care that millions of Americans under the age of 65 struggle to afford. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) significantly increased the number of our citizens who have health insurance from private insurers and Medicaid. Even more would have coverage if 14 states controlled by Republicans had agreed to expand Medicaid. Georgetown University researchers reported that children in these states were more likely to be uninsured, thereby missing the medical care that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises is critical for a child’s development in the first six years of its life.
Which political party has worked ceaselessly to repeal Obamacare, greatly cut funding for Medicaid and turn Medicare into a premium support program? The GOP.
But I think the annual survey on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households released by the Federal Reserve last May tells the real story of the inequality that Republicans have helped create with their focus on the wealthy. It revealed that almost 40 percent of households would have to borrow or sell something in order to pay for an unexpected $400 expense and some would not be able to cover it at all. Another disturbing revelation from this report indicates that 64 percent of non-retired adults don’t believe their retirement saving is adequate and one-quarter of these “have no retirement savings or pension whatsoever.”
I do not support Sen. Bernie Sanders nor to I believe this nation is ready for his “revolution.” But as I advised my conservative friend: If Republicans keep exacerbating an already serious inequality problem by favoring the rich and taking government support away from everyone else, democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will run for president sometime after she is eligible in four years – and she will win in a landslide.