Columnist: How Sanders’ proposals add up
I have long applauded Bernie Sanders, and thought he is just what the country needs. Over his more than 35 years of public service, no one has had reason to question his honesty, integrity, intelligence, good judgment or devotion to the welfare of this country and its working people.
His first important electoral victory was in 1981 when he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and became wildly popular there as he turned that city into one of the most livable and admired in the nation. Then Vermont sent him to Washington, D.C., for 16 years as their congressman, and finally in 2006 to the U.S. Senate, where he remains today.
I don’t have room here to even mention his many accomplishments in all those years because I want to get to the program he is putting forward in this presidential campaign, and how he plans to pay for it. But before I move on to that, I just have to mention that he was one of very few who had the good sense to vote against invading Iraq in 2003. He cautioned, as did Colin Powell, that it is foolhardy to destroy a regime, however dictatorial, without knowing what will replace it.
(I would like to add that if a nation isn’t able to organize its own revolution against a dictator, it’s probably not going to be able to fill the resulting vacuum with something better than chaos.)
But on to Bernie’s program — which he admits he will be able to implement only if we can send him a supportive Congress as well as electing him president. So we have a lot to do to bring this “political revolution” of his to fruition.
First, I will discuss his big-ticket items in terms of their expense and how he plans to pay for them.
He wants to spend $1 trillion over 10 years rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and putting 13 million Americans back to work. The money will come from changing laws allowing corporations to shelter their profits in offshore havens, and closing other loopholes allowing corporations and the wealthy to avoid taxes. The Congressional Research Service estimates this will bring in the needed $100 billion per year.
His plan to offer free tuition at public colleges and universities is expected to cost some $75 billion per year, which is way more than offset by the $300 billion per year that would be brought in by his small tax on Wall Street very short-term trading (speculation).
Expanding Social Security benefits and extending the program’s solvency would cost about $1.2 trillion over 10 years. And it’s clear that can be obtained by lifting the cap on taxable income for the program to ensure that the well-off pay the same percentage of their income as lower-income working people.
His $2.5 billion per-year youth jobs program would be paid for by ending the “carried interest” loophole that allows billionaire hedge fund managers to pay a lower tax rate than working stiffs.
And the $110 billion over 10 years he wants to invest in renewable energy would easily be paid for by ending tax loopholes that are giveaways to fossil fuel companies amounting to more than $130 billion every 10 years.
He also plans to raise about $21 billion per year by raising estate taxes on inheritances over $3.5 million.
He would pay for his Medicare-for-all program with small premiums on households of about 2.2 percent of income, small premiums for businesses and higher marginal tax rates on the wealthy as follows: 37 percent for incomes between $250,000 and $500,000; 43 percent for the $500,000 to $2 million bracket; and so on, topping off at 52 percent for incomes of $10 million or more. Raising taxes on capital gains to the rates paid by workers and limiting other tax deductions benefitting the rich would add to the pot.
Reputable analysts say that in return, the average middle-class family would pay $5,000 year less for health insurance, and businesses $9,000 per year less. This would be due to the elimination of private insurer profits and the greater simplicity and lower administrative costs of such a single-payer program. He would also ensure Medicare could negotiate down drug prices.
His revenue-neutral (or favorable) proposals include reversing our trade policies (eliminating NAFTA, CAFTA and TPP) for new policies ensuring that if corporations want to sell their products here, they need to manufacture those products here. And he would break up any and all banks “too big to fail” while also improving worker and union rights, and raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
His website shows his programs in much fuller detail — berniesanders.com. I’m all in. How about you?
Mary Boland’s column appears on the second Thursday of each month. She is a retired teacher and journalist, a proud grandmother and a longtime resident of Carbondale.
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