I have five simple questions for supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Before I get to them, I find it necessary to preface this with a plea for logic and respectful communication. I am going to be critical of Bernie, and I need you to listen, remain calm, take in the information, and answer honestly.
I ask that you refrain from calling me a shill, a Republican agent, or anything of that sort. I also ask that before you write me off as “another corporate media shill,” you take a moment to consider that I have praised Bernie when he was in the right (see here and here). I have also called him out in the areas where he needs work.
Personally, I am slightly frightened by the online interactions I have witnessed from those who #FeelTheBern. There seems to be a tendency to dismiss anyone who criticizes Bernie as either a Donald Trump supporter or simply an idiot. I can only speak for myself and say that neither of those accusations are true. This hysteria around Sanders is reminiscent of Obama’s supporters, who were quick to attack detractors pointing out that “Hope and Change” was quickly turning into more of the same.
And now on to the questions. Each of them relates to Sanders’ own comments about his potential presidency. I ask that you respond to each comment individually and think about what exactly you are looking for when you say you want to vote for a president.
If you are seeking more freedom and prosperity, ask yourself if that is what you will get by voting for any of the current candidates. If you are seeking to reclaim the moral high ground the United States may have once had, ask yourself if these policies will do just that. Please, please stand by your principles and do not allow the Corporate-State powers to pull the wool over your eyes.
Question 1. Would Bernie’s tax on Wall Street speculation work?
Bernie Sanders has said that he would tax Wall Street speculation and use the funding to pay for his “free” public college tuition program. A fact check by the Associated Press reported that “Sanders’ plan would cover tuition and fees at public universities – a $70 billion annual expense with the federal government picking up two-thirds of that tab by taxing trading in the financial markets.”
“Students would still be on the hook for room and board costs that average $9,804, according to the College Board,” the AP added.
But would this Wall Street speculation tax actually achieve the desired outcome? Donald J. Boudreaux, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, does not believe the plan can work. Boudreaux recently wrote:
“If such speculation is as economically destructive as Mr. Sanders regularly proclaims it to be, the tax on speculation should be set high enough to drastically reduce it. But if – as Mr. Sanders presumably wishes – speculation is drastically reduced, very little will remain of it to be taxed and, thus, such a tax will not generate enough revenue to pay for Mr. Sanders’s scheme of making all public colleges and universities ‘tuition-free.’”
If a speculation tax is a successful deterrent, there will likely be a decrease in speculation and therefore, very little funds to appropriate for a college tuition fund. Can Bernie’s Wall Street speculation tax work?
Question 2. Do you support an increase in payroll tax for all Americans to fund Bernie’s minimum wage and healthcare plans? Do you believe Bernie’s plans will only tax the 1%?
Bernie Sanders recently appeared on This Week with George Stephanopoulos to discuss his plans for his presidency. Stephanopoulos asked Sanders about his plans to tax the wealthiest Americans. Here is a segment of the transcript:
Stephanopoulos: But to pay for all of your programs, you’re going to have to do more than tax the top 1 percent. How far below the top 1 percent are you going to go with tax hikes?
Sanders: It is not true that we have to go much further.
Stephanopoulos: Tax hikes below the top 1 percent? No tax hikes below the top 1 percent?
Sanders: I didn’t say that. I think if you’re looking about guaranteeing paid family and medical leave, which virtually every other major country has, so that when a mom gives birth, she doesn’t have to go back to work in two weeks, or there’s an illness in a family, dad or mom can stay home with the kids. That will require a small increase in the payroll tax.
Stephanopoulos: That’s going to hit everybody.
Sanders: That would hit every — yes, it would.
Bernie Sanders was also quizzed on his plans on a recent episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher”:
“So you’re saying we can pay for all of this without raising taxes on anybody but the 1 percent?” Maher asked.
“We may have to go down a little bit lower than that — but not much lower,” Sanders replied.
Do you trust Sanders when he says the payroll tax will be “small” and that he will only raise taxes on the 1% (or a little bit lower)?
Question 3. Do you support Bernie’s comments on Edward Snowden?
Sanders has openly spoke against the NSA’s massive surveillance programs but stands with the rest of the presidential candidates in his belief that Snowden should face some type of punishment. At the first Democratic presidential debate, Bernie was asked about his position on Edward Snowden. Sanders said he believes Snowden “played a very important role in educating the American people” — but he broke the law. “I think there should be a penalty to that,” he said. “But I think that education should be taken into consideration before the sentencing.”
I know some Bernie supporters may feel these comments provide some hope for Snowden to receive a fair trial, but the truth is that Snowden could not possibly face anything resembling a fair trial in the U.S. Simply look at the prosecution (and persecution) of Chelsea Manning, Barrett Brown, Jeffrey Sterling, and John Kiriakou to see the way whistleblowers are treated in the land of the free. Snowden should be welcomed home as a hero and the masterminds of the NSA’s spying programs should be the ones facing penalties.
Question 4. Do you support Bernie’s stance on Israel and Saudi Arabia? Both of these nations are responsible for atrocious human rights violations (here and here). Saudi Arabia is also accused of funding the 9/11 attacks. Despite this, the majority of politicians — including Bernie — continue to support these nations.
Last summer, as Israeli soldiers deliberately targeted hospitals in Operative Protective Edge, Sanders joined the rest of the U.S. Senate by unanimously voting to support Israel’s actions and supporting “the State of Israel as it defends itself against unprovoked rocket attacks from the Hamas terrorist organization.”
Mint Press News recently reported on Sanders’ Israel stance:
“Yet when it comes to more recent statements, journalists describe Sanders as difficult to pin down on foreign policy issues, including Israel. Josh Nathan-Kazis, writing in June for Forward, noted that ‘a search of the Congressional Record reveals very few statements about Israel by Sanders on the floor of the House or the Senate,’ but ‘in February 2015, Sanders was the first Senator to announce that he would skip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress.’”
Nathan-Kazis reports that Sanders does have limited ties to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group that’s trying to drive the U.S. to war with Iran:
“In Vermont, a small group of AIPAC-linked Jewish activists do have Sanders’ ear on Israel-related matters. Yoram Samets, a Burlington businessman and a member of AIPAC’s national council, said that he has been in touch with Sanders for the past decade, but that Sanders does not sign any AIPAC-backed letters. His Vermont colleague Senator Patrick Leahy does not, either.”
Though it appears Sanders keeps his distance from Israeli radicals like Netanyahu, his silence on the matter and support of Operation Protective Edge reveals his true stance.
Sanders also recently spoke about Saudi Arabia while taping a PBS show at the University of Virginia. Sanders’ said the nation with untold amounts of blood dripping off its hands should “get their hands dirty” and take a bigger role in the war against ISIS. Why would someone interested in ending the wars demand that a nation known for blatant human rights violations “get their hands dirty” and support more war? Saudi Arabia killed dozens of civilians in a single airstrike over a wedding in Yemen last month, yet Sanders still believes they should lead the assault on the Islamic State.
Should we expect President Sanders to continue supporting these nations?
Question 5. Do you support Bernie’s plan to continue the drone program? According to documents released by a new whistleblower, during one five-month period of drone operations, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.
Senator Bernie Sanders recently said he would continue Obama’s disastrous drone program, which has resulted in the deaths of innocent people across the Middle East. In late August, Truthdig reported that Bernie Sanders told George Stephanopoulos he would continue the program.
“I think we have to use drones very, very selectively and effectively. That has not always been the case.” Sanders said. “What you can argue is that there are times and places where drone attacks have been effective. … There are times and places where they have been absolutely countereffective and have caused more problems than they have solved. When you kill innocent people, the end result is that people in the region become anti-American who otherwise would not have been.”
Sanders is absolutely right that killing innocent people fosters anti-American sentiment around the world (this makes his push for the civilian-killing Saudi military’s involvement in the fight against ISIS all the more puzzling). In 2014, the journal Dynamics of Asymmetric Conflict released two papers discussing the use of drones by the military and found an increasing number of Americans are against the use of drones on suspected terrorists in foreign countries. One paper notes that if drones continue to receive negative publicity within the United States and abroad, they may become “politically impractical.” The second paper asks whether drones are actually increasing the power of anti-U.S. protesters by gaining sympathy with the civilian population.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the CIA carried out 27 drone strikes in Pakistan during 2013, as well as 38 in Yemen — including the now infamous attack on December 12, 2013 that killed 15 people at a wedding. TBIJ estimates there have been over 2,400 deaths since Obama took over the drones. Since official numbers are not recorded, it is difficult to know exactly how many civilians have been killed under the U.S. drone program. However, Senator Lindsey Graham has estimated that 4,700 people have been killed.
These numbers seem to line up with what the newest whistleblower has stated: “Anyone caught in the vicinity is guilty by association,” the whistleblower told The Intercept. When “a drone strike kills more than one person, there is no guarantee that those persons deserved their fate.”
The whistleblower also stated that the program uses a phone number or email address to locate targets and is very unreliable. The source told The Intercept that drone bombings are carried out based on these phone numbers or emails and might not result in the death of the intended target.
Many are quick to say that we are keeping American soldiers safe by using drone warfare, but we are learning that this war is not being fought with accurate intelligence or oversight. With all of this information readily available, how can Bernie Sanders continue to support this drone program?
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These are my five questions for supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. I hope some of you made it this far and were willing to read and respond with respect and honesty. It is important to recognize that there is a growing number of Americans who no longer buy into the two-party system and do not trust anyone running within those parties. Rather than voting for a new leader every four years, these radicals focus on creating solutions built on voluntary association and mutual aid rather than government force. Remember, not everyone is an idiot, a Republican, or an apathetic sheeple. Some of us simply disagree with Bernie’s economics and solutions.
Personally, I recommend each of you begin researching agorism and seeking solutions outside of the ballot box.