Category Archives: Bernie Sanders

What is Real and What is Fantasy?

People want to get back the things that we seem to have lost such as: security in the form of jobs that last a lifetime, pensions that don’t disappear (pouf) (thank you, Rachel), social security we don’t have to feel guilty about, medical care that we can afford from cradle to grave, ascendancy on the world stage, no environmental ax hanging over our heads, and no illegal immigrants taking our jobs and using our tax dollars.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both promise that they can deliver these things although, I assume, using totally different methodologies. Donald Trump’s alleged ‘plain-speaking’ hints at an agenda that will keep America mostly white and speaking English. If will be an America that employs all citizens who can work and an America that is feared and therefore respected around the world. He believes that building an enormous military force armed to the teeth with the very best weapons willing to fight anytime and anywhere will insure that our nation remains a ‘safe space’ for American citizens.

But Donald Trump is a true patriarch and, as a CEO, he is used to being large and in charge. His governance sounds much more like a dictatorship than an exercise in the checks and balances as set forth by our forefathers in our Constitution. Donald Trump sounds like the candidate you might want if you need to answer the question “who’s your Daddy”. How much freedom do we give up as citizens if we let Donald Trump set things right for us? Will our losses equal our gains? He tells us what we think we want to hear, but can he deliver? Does just having a big mouth and a flamboyant, overly confident personality win the day around the globe? Will our enemies be shaking in their boots or will they resent us returning to our interfering and often mistaken ways.

Bernie Sanders offers us many fine things, rights that working people in other advanced nations have already won, rights that support people who work, especially women (although increasing numbers of men find themselves in need of at least the parental rights); things like universal pre-K, family leave, sick leave, closing the disparity between male and female pay, between rich and poor. Bernie Sanders seems to favor turning illegal immigrants into an innovation advantage through education and programs that ferret out people with special talents or abilities or high levels of intelligence. Bernie Sanders is mostly focused on America’s economy which is certainly where we would like to have power focus right now so that the middle class does not continue to lose ground. What is Mr. Sanders foreign policy? At least Bernie will fight to keep our planet healthy. Will he be overcome by the socialist label which he does not seem to mind, but which most Americans fear (or have been taught to fear)?

Electing Bernie Sanders would be like electing the best union organizer of all time. We have never had a union organizer as a President. It sounds like Bernie Sanders is a very democratic socialist and will not take us to places we do not want to go. However, we have to ask ourselves if the state of our current finances and the extreme opposition to left wing reforms that benefit workers who don’t seem to have jobs, is practical and doable and a road that will lead us to prosperity, or if this too is just what the media is calling “magical thinking” and Bernie’s agenda is really just a fine example of promises that cannot be fulfilled. Boy, I hate to think that that is true. Perhaps instead of giving up on these kinds of middle class rights we need to choose someone who will take baby steps until the economy and our rights reach a peak at the same moment. It is really hard not to want it right now, but we have some other people in America who need a leader who will also fight for their rights. Can Bernie fight on all the fronts we need to fight on right now?

Donald Trump’s focus seems to be on forces outside of America and Bernie Sander’s focus seems to be on forces inside America. I like some of what each has to say, although, of course, I lean more towards Bernie Sanders. I like that Trump says he will make America great again, but, in truth, I do not agree with any of the ways he will go about it. Each of these candidates suggests the possibility of instant answers and that I cannot believe in. It appears to me that our culture and our economy is in a transitional age, which is why Americans cannot decide whether to be cautious or bold, inclusive or isolationist? We will, most likely, wend a careful path through some kind of middle way if we can ever get our nutty relatives on the right to make sense again.

We need training; we need education. If we are going to be a nation with fewer public jobs and fewer corporate jobs, we need to raise a generation of entrepreneurs schooled by people who already know the ropes. One reality show called The Apprentice is not nearly enough to get us an America full of thriving small businesses that succeed and grow into big businesses.

I am a proponent of a classic curriculum, of what used to be called the liberal arts (before liberal became a ‘suspect’ word and before ‘political correctness’ limited free speech and thought). I am, however, open to the argument that perhaps a liberal arts education is a ‘frill’ right now for those who need to go right out into the world to work. This means we need all sorts of educational environments from schools to one-on-ones and we need all kinds of programs from skill training to college degrees to apprenticeships. As far as I know the world will need people who can fix things for many, many years to come and we will need even more of them than the number of geniuses that we will require (although can a culture ever have too many geniuses). I tend to believe that education and small business and public programs are the ways out of our current impasse.

By Nancy Brisson

Our Daenerys Targaryen

I love Bernie Sanders, but I’m a girl and I want us to have a girl for President. We have to break this particular “glass ceiling” and we need to do it now. Hillary is the woman who is most prepared to lead America at this particular moment in time. We are in a gender runt. Even women seem unable to accept that a woman could run America.

Bernie Sanders would make a great President but he is definitely not female. If he wins, Hillary can’t and then how long will we have to wait. Gender should not be an issue in electing the American President yet unless we break the male dominance now we may not break with tradition in my lifetime.

Of course if Hillary is considered truly incompetent to lead America then she should not get to be our President regardless of her gender. Fortunately, Hillary has a resume that suggests that she is more than qualified to be our President.

Our Presidents never govern alone anyway. As we have seen clearly in recent years Congress can act as a check on a President. In fact we have watched a Congress that interpreted checks and balances to mean blockades. If President Obama overstepped his powers (which I do not believe he did) Congress has definitely overstepped theirs. If both Parties had acted equally to control the President’s executive powers that might read as appropriate, but to have one Party (the Party out of executive power), erect an ersatz wall against the exercise of the executive and to, in fact, execute what appears to be a plot against the executive power. This does not read as appropriate at all.

If the Republicans don’t win, if Hillary wins, will obstruction continue for four more years at least? Will Hillary be able to buck the obstruction which has become the way Congress conducts itself.

Well, we already have the NRA getting their way through mad intimidation tactics (in the sense of insane) and we have the climate deniers using this same tactic to halt actions designed to counteract climate change. We have Grover Norquist, large and in-charge, and the hot and stubborn tea party and Republicans in Congress, all digging in and winning by turning into immoveable objects. This may not make you nervous, but it makes me very nervous. It smacks of anything but democracy.

Hillary seems mild and too light-hearted to handle these people, but I’m not sure Bernie Sanders is tough enough either. I’m not sure if any Democrat is. But Hillary is up. She’s the next metal marble in the chute of the pinball machine that has become our government. She’s up next to beat back the right wing beasts or tame them from dragons into pussycats. Perhaps she is our Daenerys Targaryen.

Therefore it is Hillary for me even though I would normally be torn between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Since we really need a Democrat to win this one, and the outcome is anything but certain, and many people continue to “dis” Hillary, I will do what I have in the end.

By Nancy Brisson



A Cynical Attack on Bernie Sanders

An article in the Daily Beast last Sunday, which sports the title Why Free College is Really Expensive by Dmitri Mehlhorn states an opinion shared by many media people, that free tuition at public colleges should not be a high priority idea for the 2016 election.

One problem with the free tuition plan, the article points out, is something we know is true in our American economic system which hates regulation and which immediately upon being subjected to any rule or regulation choses to believe that such “obstacles” to free trade simply offer opportunities to creatively work around these regulations. Just like trying to shove a down comfortable back into the plastic bag it came in, so neat and rectangular with the nice zipper, you find yourself stuffing a handful in on one side while it pops out another. We saw this with health insurance (and we continue to see it). Companies keep finding ways around attempts to control costs and, while Obama’s ACA may have contained costs for a while, we suspect the insurance industry is, even now, working on some ways to raise profits without disobeying the letter of the rules they signed onto when they agreed to the ACA in the first place. We often call this American ingenuity, but sometimes it just looks a lot like greed.

Dmitri Mehlhorn says that this is the same sort of thing we can expect to happen on college campuses. If tuition is free then costs for room and board and books and other fees will rise. Creative ways will be found to make sure that “free” higher education is not free.

“Additionally, directing that much guaranteed money into a system is a sure-fire way to accelerate cost inflation. The state may pick up the tab for tuition, but students will still have to pay for ancillary services (such as room, board, textbooks, etc.), and those services will go up in price. These costs are not trivial; for instance, although Sweden has abolished college tuition, students graduate with more debt than students in the United Kingdom, and only slightly less than students in the US. Through economic incompetence, Sanders’ proposal might hit the jackpot of reducing college quality while also increasing cost.”

Mr. Mehlhorn’s next negative point is that Bernie Sanders chose the worst, the least honest “get” from among the many progressive policies he could have championed. Poor people don’t go to the polls, they also do not stand to benefit from free tuition at public colleges, says Mehlhorn. Here he offers us two somewhat flawed reasons why Bernie Sanders makes a mistake deciding to lead with free college tuition (as if politics were a card game and Bernie picked the wrong trump card).

First of all, Mehlhorn tells us, that he has lost faith in Bernie Sanders as a candidate dedicated to equalizing opportunity. He feels Sanders chose this issue because the middle class stands to reap the real benefits here and that this was a choice dictated by political expediency.

The middle class votes, the middle class contributes to grassroots campaigns. So Bernie chose this issue to lead with for the same reason every other politician does, money and the ballot box. This view seems cynical in the extreme to me. Despite political realities that all candidates must heed, I still believe Bernie Sanders to be more genuine than Mehlhorn gives him credit for being.

“The bottom line is that if Sanders wanted to invest his political capital to create opportunity for those in need, college tuition is one of the last places he would have gone.

Within the world of education, Sanders’ proposed $70 billion would pay for top-quality preschool for millions of 3- and 4-year-old children who do not attend any preschool today. Such a program would deliver enormous returns to the children and the country, and would incidentally help with childcare for single-parent households.

High-quality early childhood education does have one major problem, however: the beneficiaries will not shape the 2016 presidential election. Families of college kids, meanwhile, will make a big difference. Folks with above-average income vote a lot more often; give more money to politicians; are over-represented among elites who influence editorial boards – and would get almost all of the financial benefit of Sanders’ college subsidy proposal.  

Presidents don’t get everything they want.  At most, they get their top priorities.  What matters in judging a President’s future plans is not their long list, but their short list.  Free college tuition was Sanders’ first spending proposal since he announced his presidency, and it’s where he wants to spend the money he’d raise from transactions taxes. 

Sadly, in this cycle we have seen presidential ambition drive many leaders to discard credibility they had spent decades building. In Sanders’ case, that was his credibility as an honest politician who would speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.”

The second flaw in Mehlhorn’s reasoning is his insistence that the poor cannot benefit from free tuition because they are not college ready. Based on the numbers of poor and nearly poor people who are being scammed by expensive online “rip-off” schools, which do offer real degrees but at sky high prices, the poor will do better in a marketplace that offers free tuition for public higher education.

As for the statement that the poor are not ready to succeed in college – this can be easily remedied with a well-planned college preparatory program. Campuses and cities have excellent programs already in place to use as models. When well-designed these programs offer students a very high success rate in college. The EOC’s in NYS are fine examples of programs that know how to do this.

There are some excellent points made by Mehlhorn that tell us that any free tuition plan needs to be carefully designed and must cover all the squishy ways that the clever will create to defy the cost limits. Just because a great thing is tricky to accomplish does not mean it should be scrapped.

For 24 years I helped underprepared, economically challenged students succeed in college and, after a few years of practice our student’s success rates were very high. I have friends who are still paying student loans when they should be getting their social security checks. The system should not work this way. We have seen college costs rise and rise, even at public schools and the system should not work this way.

I also, along with Dmitri Mehlhorn, suspect that we will not be inaugurating President Barney Sanders in 2017, but I don’t think he has tarnished his virtues by choosing free tuition as his starter issue. With so many Americans unemployed and underemployed training programs and college programs should be top priorities if we truly are dedicated to equalizing opportunity in America. The children of parents who attend college always reap rewards from their parent’s efforts.

By Nancy Brisson