In a new essay, Bernie Sanders passionately calls for politicians to focus on transforming childcare, healthcare, and education and support working families.
In his long political career, Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont has maintained a strong focus on building the social safety net for working people nationwide. In a new essay published in The Guardian, as a new Senate gets sworn in, the senior senator has once again passionately called for more support for working families. In his essay, Sanders points out key issues impacting American families, including childcare, schooling, higher education, inequity, and healthcare. And he didn’t mince words on how the system is failing the average American family.
“We need to take a hard look at how we are educating our kids — from childcare to graduate school,” he writes. “While psychologists tell us that the first four years of life are the most important in terms of human intellectual and emotional growth, it’s hard to deny that our childcare system is in disarray.”
As Sanders mentions, childcare costs are “unaffordable for many working parents.” He’s not wrong: One study found that 72% of families spend at least 10% of their income on childcare, exceeding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) affordability threshold of 7%. More than half of parents said they expect to pay double that for childcare. And that’s only one barrier.
“There are not enough slots available, the quality is spotty, and the pay and benefits childcare workers receive is unconscionably low,” Sanders says. “This is not how we should be treating our children, the future of America.”
He discusses how the situation “is not much better” for K-12 education, warning that things are getting worse due to “the stress of [COVID-19] and the politicization of school boards,” with teachers quitting the profession in droves. “The future of this country depends upon the quality of education we provide our kids, and there is no reason why we cannot create the best public educational system in the world,” he writes.
“Further, 45 million Americans are struggling with student debt,” the senator adds. Those 45 million Americans carry a $1.7 trillion burden on their backs, with an average debt of $25,000 to $50,000 per person due to soaring college costs, changes to the federal lending system, and more demand for higher education with very little wage growth.
“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,” Sanders writes. “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.”
The last time the federal minimum wage rose was in 2009. And as of mid-2021, a full-time minimum wage worker can’t afford rent anywhere in the United States. The urgency of raising the minimum wage — besides to help working families afford food, shelter, and education — also includes health benefits. One study found that raising the minimum wage is associated with a drop in infant mortality; in other words, higher wages can literally help save infant lives.
Sanders ends his essay urging politicians to “attempt to restore faith in our government” and focus on the issues “a strong majority of the American people want us to address.”
“Now is the time for Congress to have the courage to take on the lobbyists and powerful special interests and show the American people that our government can work for them, and not just the 1%. Let’s do it.”
You can read his full essay in The Guardian.