A lot of democrats this election have been lashing out at each other, slandering others, claiming Hillary Clinton is actually GOP–would be worse than Donald Trump, etc. I’m voting for her because I am a progressive and I believe she better represents our interests in terms of progress.
Even if you forget about the fact that Sen. Sanders and Sec. Clinton agree on most issues, especially social ones, and you further forget pertinent issues like gun control, one that only Sec. Clinton is talking about, you’re likely touting Sen. Sanders as the more progressive vote because your biggest issue is income inequality, the cornerstone issue of his campaign.
Income inequality is one of the biggest issues facing our country today. Income inequality contributes to larger systemic issues of institutionalized racism, sexism, and homophobia (among others), because it is minority groups that are often further disadvantaged by being trapped in the cycle of poverty. And it is a cycle, if a person in this country is born into a more advantaged background with greater opportunities, they have fewer limitations holding them back from higher achievement, social mobility, and earnings. If they don’t have those advantages, ever attaining them can be nearly impossible.
Yet, how we break this cycle is what’s really up for debate. How Sen. Sanders wants to break this cycle is by increasing minimum wage, increasing taxes on big businesses, and creating new jobs, mostly. I will remind you, that Sec. Clinton has plans in place to achieve all of these goals as well. And while these are important tasks to accomplish. They do not help to break the cycle of poverty. While increasing taxes on the upper 1% and corporations is more fair in terms of where our government money comes from, it does little to help impoverished people get and keep jobs, fight stigma, and free their families from the cycle of poverty. Increasing minimum wage is also an important task as price of living has increased, but is not a long term solution for closing the gap of income inequality because as the bottom line of earnings raises, so will prices with inflation. With his plan to create new jobs in the manual labor of fixing our crumbling infrastructure, many are comparing Sanders to FDR and the New Deal. Yet, the New Deal happened in the 1930s, when a career could be made out of physical labor. In an increasingly digital climate, it becomes harder and harder to make lasting careers out of jobs like building bridges and paving roads. These jobs may be good short-term solutions, but the climate of the job market has changed vastly since 1933, and once those jobs have run their course, the people holding them will still find themselves without the skills to obtain higher level positions.
The only way to get those positions is with a college degree. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. A BA is the new GED and an MA is the new BA. In order to break the cycle of poverty by obtaining the qualifications to get hired in higher-level positions, a person must go to college. It’s a tough reality, and there are exceptions, of course, but over all that’s how it is in the 21st century.
Sen. Sanders will have you believe that the way to fix this problem is making public higher education tuition free. (I’m going to remind you, again, that this is also something Sec. Clinton would like to accomplish.) Yet, to even get to the point to be able to receive financial aid or a free tuition, a student needs to get into the university they’re attending. To get into higher-level institutions, you need impressive credentials as a high school student. You need good grades, extracurriculars, achievements, leadership, standardized test scores, etc. This list is difficult to achieve for any student. But the odds are still stacked against students from low income areas for any number of reasons. Perhaps it’s because these students have to work a jobs to support their families, or have difficult and volatile living situations. Students who are held back from achievement academically because of stigma-driven low self esteem. Or students who don’t get enough attention from teachers because class sizes are too small or teachers are overworked. Students whose mental health issues such as depression and anxiety go un-aided because the community has no resources to help them. Perhaps they’re students who are lured in by gangs and drugs because there is little other community for them at home or school, or they’re students who are targeted by the school-to-prison pipeline. Such is the cycle of poverty.
Children from low-income families attend public high school. I, myself attended public school. But I grew up in a rather affluent suburb of New York. Everyone was socially and intellectually engaged. Our teachers were enthusiastic about their jobs. They weren’t exhausted, and they were personally invested in our success. We had after school programs, a strong arts and music department, and money for things like SAT prep and sports. Most of my contemporaries from high school attend colleges like Columbia, Cornell, Hamilton, University of Chicago, Dartmouth, and Yale, among others.
The reason our public education was so good is because public primary education is funded by property tax. Towns and provinces with higher property value, i.e. more money, have more money for public education. This means areas where incomes are higher have better teachers, more opportunities, smaller classes, and more resources. This means that wealthier students tend to look more impressive on college applications. Before paying for college even becomes an issue, the odds of doing well enough in early education to get into the university of their choice are stacked against lower income families. As is the cycle of poverty.
So we can, and should in my opinion, make public higher education tuition-free, but using that as the only aid to help the shrinking middle class get the skills they need to get hired is an inherently privileged approach. It expects that from day one, everyone has the same access to education to even compare on their college applications. Or it assumes that college applications are based entirely on merit and that privilege and opportunity do not play a role.
The only way to truly break this cycle of poverty, in my understanding, is to invest in fair, accessible public primary education for everyone. Someone from a lower-income family in, say South Central, the area in which I live now, for example, should have all of the tools, resources, and support that they need to nurture their academic and personal growth. They should have the same resources that I had, the environmental factors that made me a good candidate to attend the school I do, USC. These things shouldn’t happen based only on affirmative action, but on merit. Because all children have the same capacity for greatness. And as such, all students should have the same access to equal educations starting from childhood. We should all start with the same opportunities to achieve that greatness. The fact is, anything short of starting with fair primary education is turning a blind eye to the fact that those of us who are more affluent start on a higher rung. And that the politics behind the poverty we have in this country do more negatively affect those who are members of minorities.
If we are making this a one-issue campaign, and that one issue is income inequality, the only real way to fix it that I can see is investing in our children. All of our children. And the other issues of racism, homophobia, sexism and other such issues that are both exacerbated by poverty and exacerbate poverty for the people effected by such bigotry, will be assuaged as well if we can all finally start the race at the same place.
Hillary Clinton is the only candidate for president trying to make that happen.