At The Ring of Fire, we’ve pointed out that the differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on economic policies are a matter of degree, rather than approach. Both Democratic candidates agree that Wall Street is out of control, the financial industry wields far too much power, and that economic inequality in the U.S. is reaching crisis proportions.

Where Sanders and Clinton part ways is on which medicine is necessary – and how strong a dose is required. Generally speaking, Clinton, who has significant ties to Wall Street, favors an incremental approach and “greater monitoring.” Sanders on the other hand is prepared to take the gloves off. In a speech yesterday, Sanders pledged that as President, he would take immediate action to break up banks that are considered too big to fail.

In addition, Sanders is calling for an update of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act. This legislation which prohibited commercial banks from engaging in investment banking and the underwriting of insurance policies was repealed under Bill Clinton’s Administration in 1999, and as a result, bloated financial institutions nearly brought down the global economy less than a decade later. Addressing the proximate cause of that crisis, Sanders said, “Wall Street cannot continue to be an island unto itself, gambling trillions in risky financial instruments,” which, in a nutshell, is exactly what happened during the months leading up to October of 2008. During his first 100 days in office, Sanders will order the Secretary of the Treasury to compile a list of “commercial banks, shadow banks, and insurance companies whose failure would pose a catastrophic risk to the United States economy without a taxpayer bailout.”

Sanders’ economic plan is far more aggressive than Clintons in a number of other ways. Clinton plans to invest an additional $275 billion in public infrastructure projects over a five-year period. Sanders plans to invest over three times that amount, creating approximately one million new jobs while expediting the transition to a “green” economy. Sanders is also not afraid to impose higher taxes on the wealthy and large corporations. Clinton, largely beholden to corporate donors and the investment class, has been hesitant to burden them with the prospect of higher taxes.

If Franklin Roosevelt had been as timid as Hillary Clinton, we would not have Social Security today. Had Lyndon Johnson had been as milquetoast as Hillary is showing herself to be on the issue, Medicare would not exist.

Clinton continues to cut off her nose to spite her face. Because she has vowed not raise any taxes on the middle class, she will deny seniors an increase in Social Security benefits (in fact, she is even willing to cut those benefits) and will insure that future generations of college students will continue to be debt slaves for the rest of their working lives. By imposing a tax on Wall Street transactions, Sanders’ plan would make attendance at public colleges and universities tuition-free – as they are in most advanced nations today.

Don’t expect Clinton to inconvenience her Wall Street cronies. She claims she is “not in favor of making college free for Donald Trump’s kids” – but let’s get real. What are the chances that Donald Trump’s children are going to lower themselves to attending a public institution? Instead, Clinton is going to put that burden on working families – all for the sake of saving them a few dollars on April 15th.

Overall, while Sanders is calling for the bold, radical change that is needed, Clinton is essentially a coward, afraid of offending her friends on Wall Street. She’s trying to convince the 98% of this country that they’re better off saving a few dollars on their tax bill, even if it costs them thousands of dollars paid into the coffers of wealthy, powerful corporations, whose efforts to control every aspect of our lives continue unabated.

Newsflash, Hillary: socialism is not a dirty word. It’s been working for virtually every other industrialized country in the world for decades. And guess what? Citizens in those nations enjoy just as much individual liberty as Americans – and in many ways, even more.

We’ve tried it her way for the past generation: It doesn’t work. Conditions for the 98% of Americans are dire, and such dire conditions call for bold, aggressive action. Bernie Sanders is calling for those bold action. Are you listening, America?


K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.