Bernie Flaws


I am always talking about what imperfect beings people are. If you’re a believer then it goes right back to those two original forebears of ours, Adam and Eve. They could have left us full of blissful ignorance and innocence but they were weak and so we have dual natures. Each one of us holds the paradoxes within us, in differing proportions, because of so many variables like our nurture in childhood, the social circumstances into which we are born, the cultural context that surrounds us during our relatively short lives.

We hold strengths and at the same time weaknesses, we are good and we are bad, we have talents and things that we seem to have little skill for, we are both stable and unstable at times, happy and depressed, healthy and unhealthy, brilliant and dumb all mixed in an infinite array that makes each one of us unique in spite of our similarities. If you are not a believer it is almost enough to make you believe that the Christian origin story holds more than a kernel of truth. Or we are just made this way?

What we also know to be true is that all of our actions, our inventions, our discoveries, and our endeavors hold the same human paradoxes within them; that they can be used for good or for evil; that they can make our lives worse or better. We know that a flawed human can twist anything to evil purposes or a human with better motives or character can act from strength and get positive results from the same event, invention, idea or strategy. Nuclear energy is probably our clearest example of this – used benignly it can provide power to run the devices that make our lives more comfortable – used as a weapon it can wipe out cities.

We get this stuff on a cosmic level, but we also understand that these same paradoxes operate in our daily lives. So I accept and perhaps you do also that Hillary Clinton is both experienced and flawed. I accept that she made a mistake choosing a private server if only because it gave her many enemies an opening to argue that she was either planning to have a way to hide information or that she is capable of making bad choices, both things we don’t really look for in a person running for President of the United States. However, all Presidents make mistakes given the complex issues they deal with minute to minute. Sometimes we get a leader who seems to make brilliant decisions but we usually don’t know that until we get some historical perspective on their legacy. And from the distance offered by time we are able to see that mistakes were also made.

However it seems that people have difficulty seeing the flaws that Bernie Sanders might have. His message is so consistent and has been for so many years that he seems steady and dedicated. Recent events reveal that Bernie Sanders is starting to show the ways in which his very strengths might also be his weaknesses. Bernie is showing himself to be a bit compulsive these days. He does not seem to be terribly flexible.

He cannot seem to show us the practical details that will allow him to effectively change things in Washington and in America. How does he plan to win new rights for workers? How does he plan to rein in Wall Street without tanking our already hobbled economy? How will he find the money for strengthening benefits? Can he raise the taxes on the wealthy? In almost every area we see the need to change the way wealth moves in America and the need for fairness to equalize privilege. It makes sense to us but Bernie Sanders has not really spelled out how he intends to get us there. So his message may be all to the good, but his vagueness and the way his specifics are sort of stored in the “cloud” and inaccessible may not be all to the good.

And again I suggest that Bernie Sanders is almost coming off a bit obsessive-compulsive lately. He said he would have a fifty state strategy, which is fine, but he doesn’t seem inclined or able to make adjustments for the good of the Democratic Party. I suppose if you are staging a Revolution you need to be a revolutionary, not someone who compromises. But is Bernie’s defensiveness and his meanness actually resulting from an inability to be flexible, to have a certain degree of political nimbleness? He has remained true to socialist principles for so many decades while America wanted nothing to do with socialism.

Personally, I do not believe that socialism is necessary in a democracy because government is already of the people, by the people, and for the people. Where I do agree with Bernie is when he recounts how far away we are from a true democracy. It is not socialism I fight for, it is democracy. In a democracy we don’t need socialism because we are the people and we take care of all the people. But if our democracy is becoming or has already become an oligarchy then Mr. Sanders is right in arguing that the people (all the people) need to take back their government and that this will probably mean making money talk less and every vote count more. However we must accept that if rich folks take their money out of government, which they have shown a willingness to do, there may be fewer things our government can do for ‘we the people’.

But what really bothers me is how Bernie Sanders has seemed more and more like a curmudgeon lately, so intent on his own business that he barely notices what is going on around him. He does not admonish Donald Trump in any sustained way for his outrageous pronouncements and astonishingly unevolved policies. He does not raise money for down-party candidates (except that he did find three worthy souls). He fights with Democratic Party leaders and threatens to bring revolution to the Democratic Convention. He has a right to do these things but they are not done in a manner that suggests strength and composure. They are done with old man bitterness and complaints about bad rules and stacked decks. Instead of sounding like an eventual winner, he just sounds like a sore loser. Bernie Sanders does have flaws and lately he is showing them to us almost every day. If you’re planning to vote for him because you think he is Mr. Wonderful, then I guess you won’t have noticed that he is just looking like Mr. Ticked Off.



Purity is probably the word of the day, or the summer, or the year. Panera promises us food that is clean and pure. (I keep picturing a raccoon at a stream washing its food.) I recently read Jonathan Franzen’s book Purity (you can see my review on Goodreads). Bernie Sanders is idolized for his political purity. Conservatives have been testing candidates for purity for ages. In fact Conservatives punish Republicans who don’t toe the Conservative line closely enough by putting up opponents against them in primaries and funding these bought candidates with millionaires’ money, thereby stripping the impure ones of power. It is sort of like being cashiered from the French Foreign Legion and having those buttons cut from your uniform with a sword. Eric Cantor knows all about this.

But Jonathan Franzen and I both have doubts about claims of purity by anyone, given our flawed natures. Our philosophical selves tell us that purity is something that is an ideal worth striving for as long as we realize that it is a goal that probably can only be attained in small matters for limited amounts of time. You may argue that Panera really is removing artificial (manmade) ingredients from its dishes. You may argue that they are trying to choose only the healthiest items from the most organic and natural sources for their offerings and I do not doubt that they giving diners some really trendy choices that attempt to taste good without resorting to the usual American options that are deep fried and generously salted or sugared. Does their ad make me want to eat at Panera? I’m sorry to say it does not but it may be motivating others. Cynically it may just be an advertising ploy to point out the recent difficulties that Chipotle has experienced and to try to tempt their customers to come eat at a place that has not had these kinds of problems.

I recall when my good friend had a young daughter that she wanted to protect from a germy world. We could never be sanitary enough to satisfy her in her campaign to rid her daughter’s world of all bacteria (except the ones in yogurt). We called her The Germinator. She grew up in a country family with 10 children. I’m sure that her family was just like my family with 8 children. My mom never knew that we made mud pies we actually tried to eat. We examined every bug we could find up close and personally. We played for hours on end in the sand pile which could well have been used as a toilet by any number of animals. We waded in ponds full of algae to catch tadpoles. Our exposure to germs actually may have made us healthier. It seems that purity is not always advantageous.

People learn to be compassionate and aware of the shortcomings and the needs of the other people around them by living lives that entail both good times and bad times, both easy times and hard times. Panera cannot protect us from all the impurities that might be in food in these times of corporate crops and too many people and food that travels from distant places and is grown in ways that cannot be completely controlled. Purity seems a bit too “precious” a thing to worry about; a thing that only a society that is a too affluent and too comfortable has time to think about. There are children who survive every day by picking through rubbish on dumps.

I am not saying that we should not applaud people who strive for purity, but I am saying we should be skeptical of people who claim to have captured that elusive thing called purity. I do not believe those Bernie Bros and millennials who worship the purity of Bernie Sanders. Bernie has too much compassion for the less fortunate to have lived a life without painful decisions and hard times. That he is basically a good guy, I believe. That he is pure, I do not. This is the kind of argument that makes Bernie’s followers sound like they are in danger of becoming a cult. Bernie cannot give us a “pure” America. If he did it would not be a society that lived and evolved. It would have to be static. I think I would be as adverse to a “clean and pure” America as I am to that ad that keeps saying how “clean and pure” the food is at Panera’s. Sorry Panera. Sorry Bernie Bros. My apologies millennials.


A Worried Democrat Ponders

It all sounded so simple. The Dems would back Hillary Clinton
but they did not want her to run alone. They wanted a primary – a sort of pro
forma affair, just to keep her on her toes. She was the anointed but they did
not want her to appear to be the anointed. In fact it seemed as if they needed
Hillary because she was so experienced, but they didn’t really “feel” Hillary.
There was a last minute groundswell for Elizabeth Warren.
When Bernie Sanders entered the race, along with Martin O’Malley
and Jim Webb, none of these male candidates seemed strong enough to change the
course of the Democratic Party’s push to elect the first female President of
the United States. O’Malley and Webb were virtual unknowns, not hefty enough in
personality, experience, or cultural cachet to be any real force in the
primaries. Bernie Sanders was a Socialist, for heaven’s sakes. Americans
shudder at the faintest whiff of “socialism”.
The exigencies of the current state of our nation, are perceived
by shell-shocked Americans with great anxiety. Faced with an economy far less
favorable than projected, there is unexpected appeal in a senior citizen who,
philosophically, has remained in the 1960’s for decades, and who preaches a
revolutionary message that has finally found its powerful rebirth. This has
become a phenomenon that is changing everyone’s predictions about who will be
the Democratic candidate in 2016.
I have found such solidarity with fellow Democrats, all
resolved that we must not let a Republican win the Presidency in 2016. That
goal is even more important now with the Supreme Court suddenly in play. Bernie’s
success is splitting Democrats into the Hillary camp (seemingly growing smaller
by the day) and the Bernie camp (ostensibly growing larger). Most Hillary
people say they will support Bernie if he is the party’s candidate. The reverse
is not as likely to be true however. Some Bernie people say that they would rather
vote for a Republican than for Hillary Clinton. How is that even a thing? The
Republican’s agenda is in no way similar to that of the Democrats. Perhaps
there is a strong desire to be a firebrand, an extremist – any extreme will do.
It is as if there is no middle anymore.
It doesn’t help that Bernie gets such sweet media attention.
The media loves Bernie. The media also puts on a sour face for anyone who is
not an extremist. And Bernie has been nice. He has been the ever-well-received “happy
warrior”; probably stunned and pleased by his success, by a reawakening ‘60’s
vibe. There do not seem to be many bad things to say about Bernie Sanders. Some
say that he has been slogging away in government and yet has accomplished very
little and has not, until now, made much of a splash. But the people in his
state do seem to love him in spite of the fact that single payer health care
failed in Vermont. I have even been tempted by Bernie. I grew up in those same
energetic times when we dreamed of equality for everyone, an end to war for all
people and all times, and changing the “establishment” so that our government
would become truly Democratic, instead of a Democracy in name only.
Hillary, on the other hand, seems to be no one’s darling. The
media rarely has anything good to say about her. They pound away at her lack of
authenticity, they say that people don’t like her or trust her. They say it
almost every day. And some of these media folks are classified by the right as
left-leaning journalists and pundits who should be allies for Hillary. “With
friends like that who needs enemies?”
The fact is that Hillary has not led a quiet political life. Because of her
marriage to the high octane Bill Clinton she has been in the limelight for
decades. She was not just a helpmate either; she had her own career goals and
she got involved. She got her hands in the dirt, so to speak. She was not just
the great lady who told the gardener what to do, she helped plant the garden.
She legislated. She designed the precursor to Obama’s health care plan. She
travelled the world and met the world’s leaders.
Hillary is vulnerable to attack because she has been front and
center. She has not been timid, or held back, or bided her time. She has just
rolled up her sleeves and helped her nation solve its problems. She is
vulnerable in so many ways because she actually “did stuff” and is accused of
making many wrong decisions. The tough drug arrest policy of the 1990’s is the
newest albatross being hung around her neck. She didn’t pass that program
alone. Even Bernie voted for that one. We, perhaps, only see what a mistake
this policy was in hindsight.
Bernie Sanders is not looking quite so sweet these days. He is
no empty suit. He has become a powerful opponent, splitting the Democratic vote
and perhaps even getting some Republican votes. Independent voters find
themselves choosing between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. How is that even
possible? It boggles my mind. I see nothing in common between these two. In
spite of the fact that Bernie is now fighting to be President for real, he is
still not getting a lot of bad press. I am even reading mixed results when it
comes to vetting the plausibility of Bernie’s programs. Some authors think that
there is some economic viability, most have reservations.
Is Hillary Clinton as bad as the media paints her? Do the
people even know anything about Hillary except what the media has told us or
hinted at or insinuated. Is Bernie as spotless and pure as the media lets him
seem? I am guessing that Bernie is “as honest as the day is long”. He just does
not seem very materialistic or in possession of any strong personal ambition.
While these qualities may make him a trustworthy leader, will they make him a
powerful and a flexible leader? I don’t think Bernie Sanders is good at
compromising. I think that may be his Achilles heel. I saw the camera catch a
look on Bernie’s face the other day which did not look at all sweet, or
flexible either. Look up “Bernie faces” on Google Images. He is not always so
sunny these days.
What I am saying is that Bernie Sanders is creating a split
between me and other Democrats who I thought of as my allies against the
Republicans and that this split has me worried. I am also worried that it is
looking less and less like Hillary Clinton is the most viable Democratic
candidate among Democrats. We had better hope that if Bernie Sanders and the
fans of revolution get the nomination that they can actually carry the day.
Will the word “socialism” be used as a club to beat Bernie up and will the
majority of American voters come to his defense?
I refuse to give up on Hillary yet. We wait, we listen, we
watch, we express our thoughts – but we won’t know until we know.
By Nancy Brisson

After the 2016 Iowa Primary

election cycle started so early that it was almost a surprise when we finally
arrived at the first primary of the 2016 election in Iowa. In my opinion the
caucuses were a hot mess this year. Did Ted Cruz really announce to the people
of Iowa that Ben Carson had withdrawn from the race, a statement that was
patently untrue but might have netted him some of Carson’s ballots? Apparently
he did, although he apologized after the caucus was over. You gotta love his
Why did
Hillary say she had won when the Democratic caucuses were not finalized? Why
did her staff have her do that? Did some contests in the Democratic caucuses
end in tie votes that were actually decided by a coin toss? That seems to be a
true statement but there is more to this story, however it’s quite technical in
a way you probably don’t want to know about. If you do want an explanation it
can be googled.
Sanders is thinking about asking for a recount. Since the way the Democrats
vote by just collecting in groups of like-minded people and then counting is
sort of akin to a flash mob how would you ask for a recount?
I have
decided to think of round one in the Democratic primaries as a toss-up, a tie.
People are obviously excited by Bernie Sanders’ “revolutionary” middle class
agenda. In fact we have given up fighting about Socialism, and we are now
fighting about who is more Progressive. Given the number of Republicans in
Congress and taking into account the analyses which suggest that those numbers
are unlikely to change very much because of things like gerrymandering and
voter suppression, it seems improbable to expect a far left agenda to make much
headway even if Bernie Sanders does win the Presidency.
I feel that
this is the time to elect a woman to the Presidency and we have a woman who is
well-prepared to occupy the oval office. Everyone is saying that Bernie Sanders
is FDR, but what if Hillary Clinton is FDR and Bernie is Eleanor Roosevelt. After
all, FDR was a reluctant Progressive. The real activist was Eleanor Roosevelt. I
want a ticket on the Democratic side that has Hillary for President and Bernie
for VP. I can’t picture Bernie Sanders being simply a rubber stamp Vice
President. He can hopefully prod Hillary to govern a bit more to the left.
By Nancy Brisson

What is Real and What is Fantasy?

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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

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
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 rut. 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 haveto 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 mylifetime
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
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. However, since Democrats need to win this one, and the outcome is anything but certain, and since so many people continue to “dis” Hillary, I will vote the way I have to in order to elect a Democrat as President when the time comes.
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
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
For 24 years I helped under-prepared, 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.
Nancy Brisson