Saturday, May 14, 2016

Why I Do Not Support Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Nomination

I have several reasons for opposing Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee for President.

1. Economic policies: the numbers don't add up. Bernie's economic policies are based on false assumptions. Four previous Chairpersons of the Council of Economic Advisors -- Alan Krueger, Austan Goolsbee, Christina Romer, and Laura Tyson, issued an open letter on February 17, 2016 warning that Sanders' economic policies were as "fantasical" as those of supply-side Republicans. They warned:
"We are concerned to see the Sanders campaign citing extreme claims by Gerald Friedman about the effect of Senator Sanders’s economic plan—claims that cannot be supported by the economic evidence. Friedman asserts that your plan will have huge beneficial impacts on growth rates, income and employment that exceed even the most grandiose predictions by Republicans about the impact of their tax cut proposals.
As much as we wish it were so, no credible economic research supports economic impacts of these magnitudes. Making such promises runs against our party’s best traditions of evidence-based policy making and undermines our reputation as the party of responsible arithmetic. These claims undermine the credibility of the progressive economic agenda and make it that much more difficult to challenge the unrealistic claims made by Republican candidates."

The conclusions of these leading economists have been supported by Nobel prizewinner Paul Krugman and Pulitzer Prizewinner Steven Pearlstein. Clinton's economic proposals are not only extensively detailed, they are also "supported by economic evidence," unlike Sanders' policies.. 

2. Health Care Policy: the "public option" is not politically feasible. Sanders' health care policy prescriptions are not feasible at this time. The Vermont Senator supports a single-payer system, "Medicare for All," which is fine in theory but impracticable to implement. The theory is that if the government paid for all health care, we could do away with private health insurance companies, which would save money because it would eliminate the cost of profits, administrative costs and advertising spent by insurance companies. There are two practical problems with this theory. First, in our health care system the insurance companies ration health care; they are the ones who say "no" to expensive or unnecessary care. In Europe the government plays that role of gatekeeper. Someone has to play that role. It is one thing to do away with private health insurance; it is another to establish government agencies that will decide what our society is willing to pay for and what it is not. It is not responsible to create a "public option" that lacks economic controls. The second problem with implementing "Medicare for All" is that it would require a monstrous increase in taxes to pay for it. Sanders rightly points out that the premiums that employers currently pay and the co-payments that individual workers currently pay would be eliminated, and he estimates that these savings would be greater than the tax increases necessary to pay for "Medicare for All." Suppose that is true. It would still require Americans to pay vastly more in taxes than they do now, and in light of the fact that employers currently pay for most people's health insurance, most working Americans would pay far more in taxes than they would save in health care co-payments. This is the conclusion that Vermont -- Senator Sanders' own state -- came to. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 gave states the option of creating a "public option" using the funds that the people of the state would otherwise be entitled to under the Act. State of Vermont studied the "public option" for four years, and on December 30, 2014, Governor Peter Shumlin issued a report in which he stated:
"I have supported a universal, publicly financed health care system my entire public life, and believe that all Vermonters deserve health care as a right, regardless of employment or income. Our current way of paying for health care is inequitable. I wanted to fix this at the state level, and I thought we could. I have learned that the limitations of state-based financing – limitations of federal law, limitations of our tax capacity, and sensitivity of our economy – make that unwise and untenable at this time."
If the State of Vermont believes that the public option is "unwise and untenable" at this time, it is difficult to conceive why Senator Sanders is so insistent that it should be the model for the American health care system. If organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers and the United States Chamber of Commerce were willing to support single-payer as a way of helping employers to escape responsibility of paying for health care, then the proposal might stand a chance. Short of that, it's a pipe dream. Americans just aren't willing to trade health care premiums for taxes. For now, let's continue to broaden and improve the Affordable Care Act. Let's follow the example of the Obama administration, as Hillary Clinton would.

3. Anger. I don't care for Sanders' attitude. He is constantly angry. He is constantly yelling. He is constantly castigating certain elements of society as the source of all our ills. He never engages in a calm, respectful discussion of policy, recognizing that the people with whom he disagrees may have just as much information and just as much integrity as he does. No, if someone disagrees with his conclusions, that person is misguided, they are disingenuous, they are corrupt. Remind you of anyone? Donald Trump does not have a monopoly on anger and scapegoating this year. Now, Trump is a racist, misogynist, zenophobic, religious bigot -- he is infinitely worse than Bernie Sanders, and I would work to the utmost to defeat Donald Trump regardless of whether the nominee is Clinton or Sanders. But Sanders' attitude puts me off.

4. His past support for communist governments. Forty years ago, in the 1970s and 1980s, Bernie Sanders made many public statements praising the culture and the governments of communist countries like Cuba and Nicaraugua. See these stories in Slate, The Week, and the New York Post, In 1980 Sanders served as a delegate to the Socialist Workers Convention. This was at a time when our country was fighting a worldwide Cold War against communism. Sanders has not renounced his prior views and affiliations, and in any event it is too late for him to do that effectively. Few Americans of my generation could enthusiastically support anyone who so frequently and vociferously expressed these views. Again, he is much better than Trump. But he is much worse than Clinton. 

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