Three Questions Bernie Sanders Should Answer Before the New Hampshire Primary

Judy ReardonDemocratic Primary

Throughout his campaign Bernie Sanders has made three promises that are extremely attractive to voters. He’s promised to make tuition free at all public universities and colleges. He’s promised to establish a single-payer health coverage system. And he’s promised to break up the big banks during his first year as president. Given how many families are struggling with college debt, how important health care is to everyone, and how much people hate Wall Street, these promises are resonating with Democratic primary voters.  Before New Hampshire voters cast their ballots in seven days, reporters should press Sanders to provide serious answers to three questions about the practicality of these promises.

How Do  You Actually Break Up the Big Banks in One Year?

Think for a minute about how long it takes for a married couple with significant assets to get divorced. It’s not easy. Then take a look at Bank of America, the second largest bank in the United States. It had more than $1.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2014. It employs 220,000 people. Shares of its stocks are held by more than 2,500 mutual funds, the foundation of people’s retirement savings. They do business in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. What happens to its 220,000 employees when the Bank of America is broken up? What will the impact be on the IRAs and 401(k)s that have mutual funds with Bank of America stock? Now remember that Bank of America is just one of the biggest banks in the United States. JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank are the four other largest banks. How do you actually break these banks up in one year?

How Do You Prevent an Endless Cycle of Rising Tuition and the Taxes To Pay for It When Students No Longer Pay Tuition?

When Senator Sanders says he will make tuition free at all public universities and colleges, what he means is that individual students no longer will pay tuition and instead federal taxpayers will pay their tuition. While tuition has been rising at breathtaking rates, under the existing system there is pressure to keep tuition down because of the competition to attract students.  One of the advantages public universities and colleges have over their private non-profit and for-profit competitors is that tuition is lower at the public institutions. Public universities and colleges are run by human beings. If they no longer have to keep a lid on tuition to attract students, won’t human nature drive them to continuously jack up tuition so they can increase salaries and enhance their campuses? At what point do federal taxpayers say enough is enough? How does Senator Sanders intend to prevent this endless cycle?

How Do You Actually Shift the Existing American Health Coverage System into a Single-Payer System?

Senator Sanders says there is no reason the United States shouldn’t have a single-payer health system; countries like Sweden, Canada and Denmark have single-payer systems, so can we. Those countries created their single-payer systems before private health insurance took hold. Like it or not, the United States currently has a private health insurance system providing coverage to more than 60 percent of people under the age of 65. If we wipe out the existing private health insurance system and cover all Americans with a single-payer system, what happens to the millions of people currently employed directly by the insurance companies or as insurance brokers and agents? What happens to the billions of dollars of real estate owned or leased by health insurance companies and brokers across the country? What will the impact be on the IRAs and 401(k)s that have mutual funds with stock in WellPoint, UnitedHealth, Aetna and so forth? How do you actually shift an existing private-pay health coverage system into one single-payer government system?

New Hampshire voters deserve serious answers from Senator Sanders to these questions before they cast their ballots on February 9.

Share this Post