By Israel Rojas-Moreno '16
“We are living in the wealthiest country in the world. When we stand together, we can accomplish extraordinary things.” This was one of Bernie Sanders’ most-well received lines in his speech at Rockefeller Chapel this past Monday. The ‘extraordinary things’ he referred to are a liberal dream: universal healthcare, limiting money in our politics, higher minimum wages, an expansion of social security, among many others. Can his economic policies find any support at Booth, home of the free-market?
A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing?
“I loved his message, ideas, and passion,” says Jackie Perchuk, a second year student at Booth with finance experience on Wall Street. “His message was about overall equality. Why wouldn’t everyone want that? He supports basic benefits the rest of the civilized world has and that we don’t.”
I reminded Jackie that tax rates across many of the countries with more generous social programs were typically higher than in the States.
“Well, I don’t enjoy high taxes. But if you were to tax me more for the greater good, I would be definitely be ok with it. Though I think there are other levers you can pull to accomplish these things.”
Jackie didn’t specify what those other levers might be. If not higher taxes, a logical conclusion might be smarter/more efficient government spending or a shift in spending priorities. But at a school – and in a culture – that routinely denigrates government competency, how would these improvements occur? Did Jackie feel any responsibility to get involved?
“I think our first responsibility is to stand for what we believe in. To research the parties, form an opinion, and vote. People can contribute [financially] when they can. Or they can contribute in other ways – grassroots involvement or informing friends and family and getting them involved.”
An Enlightened View
“It seems [Bernie] will fight for voters rather than special interests. He’s clear about his positions and his passion is real,” says Paritosh Kumar, another second year Boothie.
We talked about whether the increased government intervention from a Sanders Presidency conflicted with the lessons Paritosh was learning at Booth.
“I used to believe you just need to work hard and you can do whatever you want to do with your life. Then I went to teach in low income communities through Teach For India. I found many of these kids didn’t even have the basics like nutrition so it is hard to expect performance. If I don't have a meal, I am cranky and unproductive. These kids were smart; they just didn’t have enough support.”
I pressed on whether it was government that had to provide this support.
“I believe in free, efficient markets. But we cannot separate economics from general human behavior. More often than not, people want to do good things. But sometimes people don’t. Same thing with the markets.”
“Bernie stands for bringing people up to a decent standard of living so they can build on that. The current state of inequality means people are uneducated; they don’t have the skills or access to information to build a better life. This gap allows them to get exploited and the cycle continues. We need to put an end to that.”
Israel is a big proponent of political discourse and encourages Boothies to talk more about politics. Easy for him to say, he’s done with recruiting.