Let me begin by saying, I don’t care where you stand on the political fence -- I’m not trying to spark a political debate here. It’s not about Bernie Sanders' methods or his plans to fix the country if and when he should become elected president. It’s about the issues he’s bringing to light and trying to get Americans to think about.
1. Small businesses are important to the economy.
Bernie has it right when he says small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. The Small Business Administration points out 28 million small businesses across our nation account for 54 percent of all U.S. sales. Perhaps even more surprisingly, they account for 55 percent of all jobs and 66 percent of all new net jobs since the ‘70s.
So, how do they compare to big businesses? Since 1990, big corporations have eliminated four million jobs, but small businesses created eight million.
The rate of small-business growth is rapidly increasing, perhaps as a result of so many large corporations focusing on down-sizing. In the U.S., there are 53 million freelancers, representing 34 percent of the entire workforce.
Only 40 percent of these workers are full-time independent contractors, while 27 percent work as moonlighters to supplement income from a traditional job. Just 5 percent of freelancers surveyed consider themselves full-time workers who are also small business owners. But, regardless of where they fit in, this workforce is adding $715 billion to the economy every year.
2. Student loan debt is crushing.
Millions of college graduates across the country are struggling to pay back their student loans. Student loan debt continues to pile up and since 2003 has increased by more than 53 percent. In fact, between the 2009 to 2010 school year and the 2014 to 2015 school year, average in-state tuition rates and fees increased 17 percent higher than inflation rates.
Why? Well, because college enrollment is growing, too -- 3.2 million more students enrolled between 2006 and 2011. So colleges and universities know they can raise costs without fear of losing enrollment. This leads to students turning to loans to fund their educations, with the hope they’ll be able to land a job that enables them to repay the loans.
Whether you’re with or against Bernie on his plan to make college tuition free, the fact remains that higher education certainly comes at a high cost, and something needs to be done to make it more affordable.
Personally, I’m in for over $40,000 for an online associate’s degree program -- a lot of which is interest. Yes, online tuition is higher, but it’s the only way I could make it work while raising a child. I’ve been out of college for eight years now. If I were paying the loans back under the standard payment plan, I would be paying nearly as much toward my student loans as I do for housing.
It’s with my college education that I was able to start working for myself. I may be a small operation working with a handful of independent contractors, but I’m contributing to that $715 billion a year nonetheless.
3. Income inequality is real.
The U.S. may be the richest country in the history of the world, but we now have more wealth and income inequality than any other major developed country. To make matters worse, the inequality gap is wider now than it has been since the 1920s.
In 2013, the top 3 percent accounted for 54 percent of the wealth, while the next 7 percent accounted for 21 percent, leaving the bottom 90 percent of the country accounting for just 25 percent of the wealth. With such a small percentage of the country controlling a large portion of the wealth, it’s hard for anyone in the working class to get ahead.
Regardless of the election outcome, Bernie has identified key areas where this country needs help if we want to continue providing the American dream. Without supporting education that allows people to start their own businesses, and without giving them the tools they need to effectively operate and manage those businesses, we are doing a great disservice to our economy.