by Brent Budowsky
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) has offered a number of truly important proposals during the campaign for the Democratic nomination, ranging from breaking up big banks to single-payer healthcare. One of his most important ideas is his proposal to offer a free public college education to young people, and to pay for this proposal through a tax on Wall Street transactions.
I would hope Democrats in Congress can unite behind this idea and that it will be included in the party platform at the Democratic National Convention. I regret that former Secretary of StateHillary Clinton, Sanders’s rival for the nomination, opposes this idea and would urge her to reconsider. In any event, I believe that every Democrat should support it.
One of the most powerful ways to equalize the playing field in America is to give all young people a fair and equal chance to make the most of his or her potential through a college education. It is terrible and tragic that far too many young people are frozen out of a college education because they cannot afford it. It is an outrage many students, and their moms and dads, spend much of their adult lives paying off student-loan debt, which is bad for them and their families and also holds down the national economy.
The Sanders proposal is not a radical idea; we already give young people a free education from kindergarten through 12th grade. Would those who oppose free public college education favor charging the families of K-12 students for that education?
The Sanders idea for a free public college education can be combined with proposals from Sen.Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and others to lower the burden of student debt for all students and families, with the combined package becoming a cradle-to-grave commitment to education as a preeminent national priority.
For millions of young people in the modern economy, a college education has become as essential as a high-school degree. No young American should be priced out of a college education because of an inability to pay for it. Every young American should have a full educational opportunity based not on their ability to pay, but on their ability to work hard, study and perform well in school.
I also strongly support the Sanders proposal to pay for the program through a transaction tax on Wall Street speculation. Such a tax would not be a great burden on Wall Street. There is already too much speculation and high-frequency stock trading, which facilitates this speculation. A small transactional tax would be fair and reasonable, asking Wall Street to give something back to America after the damage that speculation caused to the economy during the latest financial crash, and after the cost of government bailouts was largely forced upon taxpaying moms and dads and others.
The political appeal of this proposal is demonstrated by the strong support that Sanders has received from young people, their parents, political independents as well as activist Democrats — which was most recently demonstrated in his smashing victory in the Wisconsin primary.
Democrats in Congress should make this education initiative a significant part of their agenda in Congress and in their congressional campaigns. Democrats nationally should make this proposal an important part of the Democratic platform emerging from the upcoming national convention.
I applaud Sen. Sanders for offering this proposal and urge all Democrats to support and unite behind it.