Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the current runner-up in the Democratic presidential primaries, has been making a splash nationwide. Despite not coming anywhere near the needed level of support to usurp former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee for president, Sanders has energized many on the left, specifically many young people. He has filled stadiums and changed the conversation within the political party that currently occupies the White House and has won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. But Sanders, despite his newfound popularity, is not a good fit for the Democratic Party. In fact, in many ways, he is anathema to its principles.
You may have noticed the little “I” in the parenthesis that appears next to his name in the preceding paragraph. It’s an “I,” not a “D.” This is because Sanders has been elected twice to the senate not as a Democrat, but as an independent. Specifically, Sanders declares himself to be a “democratic socialist.”
Admittedly, Sanders’ politics are a far cry from European socialism. As has been pointed out already in the press, Sanders does not want to “nationalize the steel mills.” However, words matter, and the word “socialist” has some very ugly associations. In a campaign that obstreperously heralds revolution, Americans would be remiss not to think of the benefits of a capitalist economy.
“Capitalism allows for people to work hard to achieve success, which is the premise of the American dream,” said Samantha Minkowitz, a member of the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right think tank active on campus, as well as a Student Government representative for the College of Liberal Arts. “As a country that champions hard work and is founded on the American dream, we must make sure that we remain a land of equal opportunity.”
Indeed, eschewing capitalism has been anything but a Democratic value of late. But perhaps Sanders’ most telling departure from his ostensible compatriots has been his platform’s fiscal irresponsibility.
Sanders’ proposals, which include single-payer health care and free college for every American, among other ideals, have an estimated price tag of $18 trillion over a decade. (That’s about the size of the entire U.S. national debt.) Now, single-payer health care and free college are not necessarily bad ideas. The rest of the industrialized world has largely implemented them in some form, even capitalist power centers such as Germany and Japan. The big problem with Sanders’ ambitious platform is that there is no proposal to pay for it.
The same estimates show that only $6.5 trillion in new revenue would be raised. That’s an extra $11.5 trillion in the debt, for those of you playing at home. And, despite what right-wing demagogues may incessantly fib about, Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility.
A Democrat, President Bill Clinton, was the last chief executive to balance the budget. And the current commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, has slashed the deficit by more than two-thirds since taking office. His signature policy achievement, Obamacare, actually reduces the deficit! (Again, don’t believe the lies on Fox News.) Time and time again,
Democrats have stood firm as the party of low deficits and responsible solutions. When the deficits run amok, it is usually due to unneeded tax cuts by Republican presidents, not outlandish spending by Democrats.
Bernie Sanders would change that tradition.
Horwitz is a government senior from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz.