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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/12/20

Bernie is Not a Radical - He is a Pragmatist

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Reprinted from Market Watch

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders
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Practical Bernie Sanders voted for Obamacare, but he didn't give up on his long-term goal of universal health care.

As Bernie Sanders continues to increase his standing in the Democratic primary, and his opponents in both parties feel the pain, there is an effort to paint him as an extremist of some sort. Someone who might even lose to Trump because of this alleged "radicalism." But it's not that easy to make the case on the basis of facts.

He has a 40-year track record as a politician. The things he is saying now are mostly what he has shouted from the mountain tops for pretty much the whole time. The main difference is that now, other Democratic politicians have joined him: on a $15 minimum wage, student-debt relief, free tuition at public universities, expanding Social Security, reducing income inequality, and some even on Medicare for All.

Read the latest news and commentary on Election 2020.

His actions speak even more consistently than his words: he understands that politics is about compromise. He fights hard for what he has promised to voters, but then takes the best deal he can win if it will advance the ball down the field, and prepares to fight again the next day.

That's why he supported Obamacare when it was the best deal on the table - expanding insurance coverage to 20 million Americans, without the life-threatening exclusions for "pre-existing conditions." This despite the fact that Obamacare was still quite a distance from Medicare for All - "health care as a human right" - that had been his passion and signature issue for decades.

But he is a "socialist," his opponents cry, leaving out the first part of the term "democratic socialist" that Sanders always uses when this issue is discussed. There is much room to induce confusion here because the term "socialist," in English, has a number of different definitions that have all become common usage over the years.

It can be used to mean anything from "communist," as in the former Soviet Union, to the European social democratic or socialist parties that have governed for much of the past 70 years in countries such as France, Germany, Spain, and the U.K., not to mention the Scandinavian countries.

It should be clear to anyone who is not trying to frighten voters that Sanders is a social democrat of the latter, European variety. There will be no U.S. government takeover of the means of production under a Sanders administration.

The biggest expansion in government will be in public funding of health insurance. Like traditional Medicare, where less than 2% of expenses are administrative costs, public health insurance will be much more efficient than the current six times as much spent by the private insurance industry. And we won't have 8 million people falling into poverty every year due to medical expenses, or worse, tens of thousands actually dying because of lack of access to affordable health care.

Sanders' program is targeted at correcting a very harmful transformation of the U.S. economy that has taken place over the past 40 years.

Unlike the first three decades after World War II, when income gains were broadly shared as the economy grew, most of the increase in income has gone to those who already had much more than their share. Since 1993, for example, the top 1% of families captured an astounding 48% of the growth in this country's income.

No wonder so many Americans feel like the system is rigged against them.

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Mark Weisbrot is co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is also the author of "Failed: What the 'Experts' Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015)."

He writes a weekly (more...)
 

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