Bernie Sanders demands Congress reform 'absurd' health care and education systems in 2023

Bernie Sanders demands Congress reform 'absurd' health care and education systems in 2023
image via Creative Commons.

With Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California finally having been confirmed as House speaker after 14 unsuccessful roll-call votes, Congress’ new leadership is now in place. The new Congress finds McCarthy in charge as House speaker, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York leading the Democratic House minority, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky still serving as Senate minority leader, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer leading a slightly larger Democratic majority in Congress’ upper chamber.

In an op-ed published by The Guardian on January 9, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont outlines some of the things he believes should be top priorities for lawmakers in 2023 — things that, according to the self-described “democratic socialist,” were of great importance to voters in the 2022 midterms. And at the top of Sanders’ list are health care, education and raising the federal minimum wage.

The 81-year-old Sanders has long been a proponent of universal health care, and he laments, in his op-ed, that the United States’ health care system still has major problems.

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“Today, in terms of health, we have a dysfunctional health care system in which we spend the astronomical and unsustainable sum of nearly $13,000 for every man, woman and child, twice as much as most developed countries and almost 20 percent of our GDP,” Sanders writes. “Yet, despite that huge expenditure, 85 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured, and we have worse health outcomes and lower life expectancy than many other nations. While the insurance companies make huge profits, over 500,000 people declare bankruptcy each year from medically-related debt, and over 68,000 die because they can’t afford the care they need.”

Sanders continues, “Our complicated and fragmented system is so broken that it cannot even produce the number of doctors, nurses, dentists and mental health personnel that we desperately need. As a nation, we must focus on the reality that the function of a rational health care system is to provide quality care for all, not simply huge profits for the insurance industry…. But it’s not just our health care system which needs a major overhaul. In terms of education, we need to take a hard look at how we are educating our kids — from childcare to graduate school.”

The Vermont senator hasn’t been shy about saying that when it comes to education, Scandinavian countries like Norway and Sweden are doing a much better job than the U.S. In his op-ed, Sanders argues that the U.S. needs to step it up in terms of both white-collar education and blue-collar education. Trade schools that will train the skillful “electricians” and “welders” of the future, Sanders notes, are also important educational and job-training tools.

Sanders writes, “In terms of higher education, we face the absurd situation of hundreds of thousands of bright young people who have the desire and ability to get a college education but cannot do so because their families lack the money. How many great doctors, scientists, and teachers are we losing as a result? There are also millions of young people who need training in order to become skilled mechanics, carpenters, welders, and electricians who are not getting the post-high school training they need. Further, 45 million Americans are struggling with student debt — sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

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Sanders goes on to complain that it is “pathetic” that the United States’ federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour “has not been raised since 2009.”

The new Congress of 2023 presents both more advantages and more difficulties for President Joe Biden and his allies. On one hand, a slightly larger effective Democratic Senate majority will make it easier for Biden’s judicial nominees to be confirmed. On the other hand, having a new GOP House majority will make life more difficult for the Biden Administration from a legislative standpoint.

Regardless, Sanders has never been bashful about aggressively pushing legislation that he believes in. And he argues that GOP voters are also concerned about health care and education.

“There is a lot of discussion in the media about how ‘divided” our nation is, and on many issues, that is absolutely true,” Sanders writes. “But what we don’t appreciate is that on some of the most important issues facing our country, the American people — Democrats, Republicans, independents — are quite united. The American people know we are being ripped off by the drug companies, and they want lower prescription drugs prices. The American people know that our health care system is outrageously expensive, and they want universal and lower cost health care.”

Sanders continues, “The American people know that education is essential to our lives and the future of this country, and they want high-quality and affordable education from childcare to graduate school. The American people know that no one can survive on a $7.25-an-hour minimum wage, and they want to raise the minimum wage to a living wage.”

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