Universality in an economic revolution

February 10th, 2020

I wrote this on my phone from a hotel in Berlin and posted it to Facebook to explain that I would be voting for Bernie Sanders in the upcoming Democratic primary, and why.

At the time, the field was still crowded. The Iowa caucuses were over, but the New Hampshire primary hadn't happened yet.

Universality is one of the truly beautiful themes in Bernie Sanders’s campaign. My generation is more connected and empathetic than any other in history, and this empathy gives us the power to see the elegance in a societal pact that demands that everyone be supported by the government, no matter what.

To fulfill a universal promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we should embrace and construct a zeitgeist that imprints on us that each one of us is entitled to opportunity in our search for a personal fulfillment of our unalienable rights. Rich or poor, you shouldn’t have to fill out forms justifying your need for medical care or child care or food on your table. The value to society of eliminating restrictions is immeasurable. Making everyone eligible for free healthcare, even those who can afford it, is more than an empty symbol. It’s a declaration that your right to life is so fundamental that it should not be on the negotiating table, it should not live within the realm of capitalism. Making everyone eligible for free education is a declaration that your right to American opportunity is so fundamental that it should not live within the realm of capitalism. Universality sends a message from our collective society to each individual: we see you, we love you, and we care about you.

This empathy must transcend all of our power structures. Having more money should not mean you have a higher chance of staying alive or being happy.

I’ve noticed a remarkably consistent phenomenon on Facebook: when my friends from my generation post about Bernie Sanders, there is, almost without fail, someone (usually — but not always — older) who says, “There’s no way to pay for all that. College tuition (or healthcare, or housing for the homeless) will never be free. Get your head out of the clouds.”

These people are normally scared of taxes.

We can pay for Bernie’s policies if we’re willing to dismantle the system of inequity that modern American capitalism keeps afloat. I’m lucky to work a job that pays me far more than the national average. If Bernie’s policies are implemented, my taxes will go up (a lot). And they fucking should, because I don’t deserve to make in one year what millions of Americans who work harder than I do will make in five. Capitalism provides a mechanism for judging individuals’ “worth”, but it’s a terrible one. I’m not more valuable to society than my high school teachers just because I work at a company that’s successful in the marketplace and they work for a government that doesn’t pay them enough.

This is not a just system. This is not a sane system. Don’t believe the bullshit that’s endlessly perpetuated by the people in power for the purpose of staying in power. These people sound so convincing when they make their case for using net worth as a measure of personal worth. They tell us our system is meritocratic. But capitalism is not perfect, and American capitalism is not ethical. An elementary education in economics is enough to see that raw capitalism will consolidate power in a positive feedback loop and make sure the richest stay at the top.

Vacant homes in the United States vastly outnumber homeless people. We are being told that this system is working. We are being lied to.

Bernie Sanders calls for a political revolution because he knows that our system won’t heal itself. He also knows that if we could break that feedback loop with government intervention, we could tap the hoard of corporate greed and use the production power of American businesses to give opportunities to American workers instead of giving bonus checks to billionaire shareholders.

That’s why I’m voting for Bernie Sanders in the California primary. If you’re eligible to vote this year, please do. If we act together, as one ensemble pushing for change, we have more power than any tiny group of people who think they can rule the country.