Bernie Sanders

Why I don’t buy into Bernie’s tuition-free plan

“College tuition.” It’s a nightmare phrase for any parent. I don’t have children, but I have plenty of close family and friends who do, and I’ve been with them when the ones on the lower end of the economic spectrum say “We just don’t know how we will pay for it,” and when the ones on the higher end say “We can make it happen but good lord! It’s so much money!” The cost of tuition has skyrocketed. According to the College Board, the average cost today for undergraduate students attending a four-year college or university in their home state is $18,943 with out-of-state students averaging $32,762.

To pay for these exorbitant prices, students (and their parents) take out Student Loans. Compounding the problem, interest rates on these larger loans have also shot up in recent years, ranging now from a little more than 4% to almost 7%, depending on the type of loan, according to the US Department of Education.

Do you know who sets the interest rates for Student Loans? Congress. The place where Bernie Sanders has worked for the past 30 years.

So I’m glad that Bernie Sanders (and Hillary Clinton) are making this an issue today, but where has he been? I hear people chanting about a Sanders/Warren ticket — that would be terrible!  Elizabeth Warren gets it — she understand the power she has in her Senate seat and she is working to change the rates on students loans from the place where it will happen. In Congress.

Back to Part 1: Tuition.  Comparing public colleges and universities in the US with those in Europe is apples and oranges. Just like when we compare test scores of US k-12 to those of Europe. The reason being, we don’t fund them nationally – we primarily fund education at the state level, unlike the European nations we like to hold up as models of success. “No Child Left Behind” failed because while it was nice to say that every child in America – from Maryland to Mississippi – will read at the same level, those children rely mostly on state funding of their schools, which is not the same in Mississippi as it is Maryland.

Full disclosure here: I work for a public university. And the cost of tuition at my school is ridiculously high and keeps increasing. Where does all this tuition go? Well, for one thing we are a Big10 school, and the football coach’s salary is about $2 million per year. The men’s basketball coach earns about the same. The women’s basketball coach makes just under $1 million. Then there’s the Stadium. And separate practice facilities. And cable sports contracts. College sports is a big money game,  (and we’re not even very good!) and until we shine the spotlight on that fact, this fantasy of “tuition free” public college and university will never become a reality.  Bernie Sanders’ plan, according to his website, puts the cost of making tuition free at public colleges and universities is $75 billion. I can’t imagine $75 billion would even come close to covering what the total of tuition at public colleges and universities across the US does today.

And lastly, here’s a point that I haven’t heard anyone make yet, and it bothers me. Let’s say that in some miracle, public colleges and universities in the US become tuition free.  Do we then have a society where you have the “public school” and “private school”? Without any attention to the reasons behind the increase in tuition – at all colleges and and universities – and without a change in the student loan rates, the rich will always be able to go to private schools and the 99% will always be restricted to public schools.

Another disclosure: both my undergraduate and my graduate degrees are from small private colleges.  My parents helped me pay for my undergraduate, along with student loans, and I paid for my graduate school – along with student loans that I am still paying off. There is a lot of benefit to going to a small private college or university, and it should be an option for everyone in the United States. Everyone.  Sanders’ wife Jane is the former president of Burlington College and provost of Goddard College, two small private colleges. Sadly, neither of these schools would become any more available to students under the “tuition free” plan. Burlington College would still cost $23,546 per year, and Goddard $17,640.

Making tuition affordable is a realistic goal. Promising to make it “free” is just a campaign slogan – it grabs the attention of those who are currently burdened with tuition-related debt, but fails to address the real issues that have caused that debt to exist in the first place.

The only thing I’m feeling is #heartburn


photo credit: Washington Post

So on the plus side, I’ve been having wonderful Facebook discussions with my nephew (who shall henceforth be known as Unnamed Nephew, or U.N.).  He’s a smart guy, who, like many his age, support Bernie Sanders’ message of bringing about a political revolution in this country. I get it. U.N. has grown up in a country of income inequality and of sky rocketing healthcare costs. In our Facebook back-and-forths, he makes well-reasoned arguments and backs them up with facts, keeps me honest by expecting the same from me. It’s a refreshing conversation in this current climate of name-calling and hyperbole.

But, I still think he’s supporting the wrong candidate. And I do sometimes feel like an awfully old fart for saying it. But the reasons I choose Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders is because she is stronger on these issues that I care most about:

  • gun control
  • women’s health
  • foreign policy
  • economic policy

In fact, though, Clinton and Sanders have voted the same way about 93% of the time. So they are not so different as you might imagine.

And you know what? Yes. Yes I DO want a woman in the White House, and don’t you DARE make me feel bad for saying that. You dudes have ruled the roost since Day One, and you have no idea what that feels like. To imply that this is the ONLY reason I would vote for Hillary Clinton is of course insulting and I wont imagine you will say that. But someone will. Because I wouldn’t differentiate between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, between Elizabeth Warren and Carly Fiorina. As if.

Look, I used to like Bernie. But as the campaign progresses, I see the politician in him come out more and more. Because let’s face it, he is a politician. He’s in been in Washington for 25 years, and he’s been heavily involved in state politics since the early 1970’s when he came in off the commune.  He has been a politician longer than Hillary, yet he’s selling this image of being an “outsider” just like Donald Trump is doing. Sanders is using the political “establishment” infrastructure just like every other candidate on the Democratic and Republican side. He’s using Democratic consultants and powerful Democratic campaign staff.  Why not run as an Independent? Because he needs the infratsructure of the establishment in order to get elected.

Lastly, Sanders started this campaign saying he wouldn’t make personal attacks on Clinton, that it will all be about substance. But eventually he says thing like “well, maybe the inevitable Democratic candidate realizes she is no long inevitable.”

He said it again just the other day.

I’m sorry. WHAT?  Only a tone deaf man would think that anyone who lived through what Hillary Clinton lived through in the 2008 election would in any shape or form believe their nomination was inevitable.  When I heard him say that, I took it as a personal insult, because I, too, felt the wrath of 2008 as a Clinton supporter – insults and misogyny. Nasty, nasty stuff. Primarily from Obama supporters.  No one who went through that thought this was going to be a coronation and I just cannot believe Bernie Sanders would stoop to this now.

The revolution will not be televised. It will not be at the Iowa Caucuses, the  presidential debates, or the Democratic National Convention. It WILL be at the City Council, the Mayor’s office, and the Governor’s mansion. You want a revolution? Start at the local level and make some real change. You want Americans to get scared on Election Day and vote in a Republican?  Support the guy with Socialist tags all over him instead of the woman who has worked to bring us the massively improved health care system we have today.

I am so tired.

I am so tired for Hillary Clinton. Here is this incredibly smart and capable woman, and no matter what she does it is never enough.  She has spent her entire life working toward the goal of making the world a better place. She was focused. She had goals. She had ambition. She achieved. But now – just like 8 years ago – America’s Democrats have collectively said, “Oooh! Look! Shiny object!”

Before I go on, let me state that I have been an admirer of Bernie Sanders for many years. I appreciate that he has been a voice for progressive ideas in politics for a long time, and when he was elected to the Senate I was overjoyed. We need his voice in the Senate.  But Commander in Chief? Uh, no.

Can we take a moment to compare the resumes of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton? Without delving into books written and classes taught (they’ve both done several of each), my quick googly research came up with this:

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 10.09.00 AM

So, Bernie has a BA in Political Science, and so does Hillary. (Actually, I do, too!) But Hillary goes one step further and gets a Law degree. From Yale.

After graduating from Law School, Hillary works her way up as a Congressional staffer, then co-founds a nonprofit, is appointed to the LSC by President Carter, and becomes a Partner at a Law Firm.

After graduating with his B.A., Bernie goes to live on a kibbutz for a while, and then moves to Vermont and … well it’s unclear. Everything I can find says things like, “Bernie worked in various jobs as a carpenter and filmmaker.”

To be fair, after I graduated with my B.A., I also puttered around for a while without a lot of direction for a while. But you know what? I’M NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT!

So, here’s where Bernie supporters are going to get mad at me, and correctly point out that I have left a lot off of the chart above. It’s true, Bernie was very active in Vermont politics the 60’s and 70’s. If you look at his own website, it seems the 1970’s was pretty much occupied with running for political office, and the 60’s, well, nothing even mentioned after he graduated from college.

So first of all, I maintain that Hillary Clinton is the better qualified of the two to be President of the United States. That does not mean that I dislike Bernie. This is not about “liking” at all. It’s about who is better qualified to handle foreign policy, to stop the militarization of this country, and yes, to work with the other side of the aisle. If you think a President Sanders is going to get anything through a Republican Congress, I believe you are greatly mistaken. Sure the Republicans like to attack Hillary Clinton now, because she is a familiar name and recognizable to their base. But Bernie Sanders is the Tea Party equivalent, and every policy he tries to put forth will get overridden. On the other hand, we have Hillary Clinton who has sat across the table with world leaders as Secretary of State, has built alliances, and has negotiated with the toughest.

Secondly, even if Bernie gets the Democratic nomination, he won’t get elected. Look, I understand the appeal of the outsider, the Mr Smith Goes to Washington persona. But that attitude is what gets us people like Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, etc., etc. I get that you want to elect someone you feel is free from the corrupting powers of politics, and Bernie seems like a down-to-earth, honest guy. And he is the  progressive’s progressive. But you know what’s going to kill his chances? His proposal to increase the payroll tax. No matter how great the payoff sounds, when middle America goes to the voting booth and is faced with “the guy who said he will raise taxes” versus “the guy who said he won’t raise taxes,” guess who gets elected?

This post isn’t intended to be a deep look at the policies of the two candidates. There will be another debate tonight, and hopefully both candidates will release more specific information on all of their proposals in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses.

Look at the two resumes above. It’s only for leader of the free world.  Go ahead. Pick the mediocre white guy.