I am watching and listening with bemusement as both alleged pundits and many everyday Joes bash Bernie Sanders for making promises he cannot keep. One among them is free public higher education.
I respond to that by telling people that I attended SUNY Buffalo, which had an English department to rival that of any private school, for $550 a semester. My parents, who are still walking around using their educations, attended Brooklyn College in the early 1960s, paying a $5 registration fee per semester, plus books. It was not easy to get in; you had to do things like read and write and maybe have a talent to share.
Bernie is not making a promise he cannot keep. He’s trying to keep a promise that was made a long time ago. He understands that WE — you, me, our parents, our grandparents and their parents — paid for the public higher education system, which was intended as a point of access, not as a bargain education for the super wealthy.
Perhaps we could also pay for medical care for everyone if we stopped paying pharma giants $5000 a day for the privilege of people dying, or paying a doctor $50,000 to perform a laparoscopic spleen removal. It’s all a matter of priorities.
But that’s not what I really came to talk about. I want to mention something about how politicians buy office, paid for by people to whom they ultimately owe their lives. In that bargain, they get the illusion of power, the companies and individuals who pay them get the power, and you get ripped off.
People are asking how Bernie Sanders might get the megabucks of what amounts to bribery out of the electoral system. He doesn’t have a plan, people are saying. Congress won’t let it go through; they’re Republican and too invested.
I don’t really care. I think that people are missing an obvious point, which is that to do any of this, there has to be awareness of the issues, and real conversation about the issues. Then there are many means to implementing the change, starting with voters choosing not to respond to these candidates whose coffers are flooded with money from Wall Street and the death (as in drug) industries and many others that would just as soon harvest your body and sell off your organs if they could.
What this money-driven system is giving us is corporatism: the merger of a right-wing government and corporate entities, who act solely on one another’s behalf. In that arrangement, those who used to be known as citizens are reduced to what amount to subjects and slaves. Do you think that corporate leaders who make $80,000 a day while their employees struggle and their customers don’t get what they pay for actually care about you?
If you don’t have the feeling of fresh, cool oxygen flowing into the political discussion in the form of Bernie Sanders’ voice, I would question your awareness of political history even in your own lifetime. I have also noticed that those who are angry at Sanders are the same people who resent the fact that society might take care of its least fortunate, which is an ever-swelling population.
The real question in all of this is not what is Bernie Sanders going to do about fixing how political office is bought and sold; the question is: what are you going to do? How are you going to help?
That’s not just a real question — it’s the only one.