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Socialism and Bernie Sanders


Democratic Socialism and Bernie Sanders      Gerry O'Shea

Bernie Sanders is an anomaly in American politics. First elected as a congressman without major party affiliation in Vermont in 1990, he  has continued as an Independent, although he has always caucused with the Democrats. In 2012 he was re- elected to the Senate in his home state with an astonishing 71% of the votes cast.

He continues to define himself proudly as a democratic socialist, in line with the powerful Social Democratic parties in Europe, and he is running for re-election under that banner in November. He is the doyen of progressive causes in the US Congress: advocating for campaign finance reform, supporting parental leave and LGBT rights and opposing corporate welfare and tax breaks for the wealthy. However, his voting record in the senate is not much different from progressive senators like Sherrod Brown from Ohio, Jack Reed from Rhode Island or Kirsten Gillibrand from New York.

Sanders ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 and surprised many by winning 23 primaries or caucuses and  no less than 43% of the delegates at the Democratic Convention. He opposed Hilary Clinton's nomination and there were understandable tensions between his campaign and hers, but he gradually came to support her enthusiastically because he saw the major danger to progressive causes of a Trump presidency.

Senator Sanders' signature issue, the one he addressed most often at his rallies, was health care. He denounced the fact that so many millions of Americans  have no health coverage. He called for Medicare for all; only a Canadian-type system that covers everybody is acceptable to him. He supported Obamacare  but only as a stopgap measure because he argued that it does not provide universal coverage and is too tied to  profits for private insurance companies.

Young people in their twenties and thirties showed up in massive numbers for Sanders' rallies, which he preferred to dignify as political meetings. Far fewer came to Hilary Clinton's campaign gatherings.

What was it about the Vermont senator that attracted the exuberant support of so many young people? Is it possible that  college students and other young people see a bleak future for themselves and their friends and families? Many are looking at accumulated student loans that for some may reach the vicinity of six figures, and they have to deal with  tax laws and government benefits that compare poorly with their counterparts in Europe, especially in the Nordic countries.

The social democratic government model, lauded regularly by Senator Sanders, is supported by the various left-wing parties in the European Union. It has many attractions for people of all age groups, but especially for the youth and the elderly.

 The college graduate in Europe  may have a small loan to pay back, but she has no worry about healthcare and will  have a generous paid parental leave entitlement when she starts a family. In addition during periods of unemployment she will get a substantial check every week while she is out of work.

 And generous government retirement benefits for all workers ensures that poverty is rare among old people, which, unfortunately, is not the case in America where Social Security payments are a big help but inadequate for many seniors in meeting their monthly bills.

Of course, taxes of various kinds tend to be higher in Western Europe than in the United States. The social contract between government and citizens is all-encompassing, cradle to grave, and everybody understands that there are serious costs involved. A recent United Nations study rated the northern European countries as the places where people live the most contented lives.

In another recent survey 44% of centennials - young Americans in their twenties -  opted for a socialist model of government over a capitalist one by 44% to 42%. Statistics like these would be unthinkable even 20 years ago.

Socialism has a bad name since Stalin and Mao, both of whom forced a ruling system of collective ownership  of farm land and factories, killing millions of their citizens in the name of socialist planning and development.

 The social democratic brand of socialism bears very little resemblance to Stalinism; instead its proponents argue for a mixed economy where wealth is distributed based partly on need instead of greed - a variation of Marx's famous utopian dictum, "from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs."

As inequality grows in America with more and more wealth going to the top ten per cent, and increasing millions of citizens lacking basic health insurance, the social democratic model advocated by Bernie Sanders, whether or not it is called socialism,  is likely to become much more popular among many citizens.

 




Gerry O'Shea blogs at  wemustbetalking.com
Democratic Socialism and Bernie Sanders      Gerry O'Shea
Bernie Sanders is an anomaly in American politics. First elected as a congressman without major party affiliation in Vermont in 1990, he  has continued as an Independent , although he has always caucused with the Democrats. In 2012 he was re- elected to the Senate in his home state with an astonishing 71% of the votes cast.
He continues to define himself proudly as a democratic socialist, in line with the powerful Social Democratic parties in Europe, and he is running for re-election under that banner in November. He is the doyen of progressive causes in the US Congress: advocating forcampaign finance reform, supporting parental leave and LGBT rights and opposing corporate welfare and tax breaks for the wealthy. However, his voting record in the senate is not much different from progressive senators like Sherrod Brown from Ohio, Jack Reed from Rhode Island or Kirsten Gillibrand from New York.
Sanders ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 and surprised many by winning 23 primaries or caucuses and  no less than 43% of the delegates at the Democratic Convention. He opposed Hilary Clinton's nomination and there were understandable tensions between his campaign and hers, but he gradually came to support her enthusiastically because he saw the major danger to progressive causes of a Trump presidency.
Senator Sanders' signature issue, the one he addressed most often at his rallies, was health care. He denounced the fact that so many millions of Americans  have no health coverage. He called for Medicare for all; only a Canadian-type system that covers everybody is acceptable to him. He supported Obamacare  but only as a stopgap measure because he argued that it does not provide universal coverage and is too tied to  profits for private insurance companies.
Young people in their twenties and thirties showed up in massive numbers for Sanders' rallies, which he preferred to dignify as political meetings. Far fewer came to Hilary Clinton's campaign gatherings.
What was it about the Vermont senator that attracted the exuberant support of so many young people? Is it possible that  college students and other young people see a bleak future for themselves and their friends and families? Many are looking at accumulated student loans that for some may reach the vicinity of six figures, and they have to deal with  tax laws and government benefits that compare poorly with their counterparts in Europe, especially in the Nordic countries.
The social democratic government model, lauded regularly by Senator Sanders, is supported by the various left-wing parties in the European Union. It has many attractions for people of all age groups, but especially for the youth and the elderly.
 The college graduate in Europe  may have a small loan to pay back, but she has no worry about healthcare and will  have a generous paid parental leave entitlement when she starts a family. In addition during periods of unemployment she will get a substantial check every week while she is out of work.
 And generous government retirement benefits for all workers ensures that poverty is rare among old people, which, unfortunately, is not the case in America where Social Security payments are a big help but inadequate for many seniors in meeting their monthly bills.
Of course, taxes of various kinds tend to be higher in Western Europe than in the United States. The social contract between government and citizens is all-encompassing, cradle to grave, and everybody understands that there are serious costs involved. A recent United Nations study rated the northern European countries as the places where people live the most contented lives.
In another recent survey 44% of centennials - young Americans in their twenties -  opted for a socialist model of government over a capitalist one by 44% to 42%. Statistics like these would be unthinkable even 20 years ago.
Socialism has a bad name since Stalin and Mao, both of whom forced a ruling system of collective ownership  of farm land and factories, killing millions of their citizens in the name of socialist planning and development.
 The social democratic brand of socialism bears very little resemblance to Stalinism; instead its proponents argue for a mixed economy where wealth is distributed based partly on need instead of greed - a variation of Marx's famous utopian dictum, "from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs."
As inequality grows in America with more and more wealth going to the top ten per cent, and increasing millions of citizens lacking basic health insurance, the social democratic model advocated by Bernie Sanders, whether or not it is called socialism,  is likely to become much more popular among many citizens.
 
Gerry O'Shea blogs at  wemustbetalking.com



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