Candidate Opportunity Profile: Bernie Sanders

This is the last in a series of three posts on the remaining presidential candidates that profiles their Opportunity Youth agendas.

Although Bernie Sanders is unlikely to become the Democratic nominee, he remains the most popular presidential candidate and the only one with a net positive rating. According to a poll published in April, young Americans are his biggest supporters. Sanders, the junior senator from Vermont and self-described democratic socialist, has been drawing record crowds throughout his campaign, in part, by incessantly talking about how the American Dream is not working for young Americans.

In what is perhaps his singular campaign issue, Sanders has pushed income inequality into the  national discussion. In fact, he seems to never miss an opportunity to remind voters that America now has more wealth and income inequality than any major developed country on earth and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is wider than at any time since the 1920s.

Closing the Opportunity Divide

Early in his campaign, Senator Sanders highlighted the problem of youth unemployment. “It is beyond comprehension that we, as a nation, have not focused attention on the fact that millions of young people are unable to find work and begin their careers in a productive economy, he said in June of 2015. “We cannot turn our backs on this national tragedy.” While he has not specifically mentioned Opportunity Youth, much of his campaign platform has been targeted at attracting young people.

Addressing Income and Inequality

Sanders has been particularly vocal at demanding accountability from Wall Street for what he believes was their role in causing the Great Recession. As president, according to his campaign website, Sanders promises to break up high financial institutions so that they are no longer too big to fail; stop corporations from shifting their profits and jobs overseas to avoid paying U.S. income taxes; and reverse free trade policies that have driven own wages and caused the loss of millions of jobs.

Sanders has also proposed policies to target employment barriers. He is in favor of increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020; he would create 1 million jobs for disadvantaged young Americans by investing $5.5 billion in a youth jobs program; he would require all employers to provide paid family and medical leave; and he would enact universal childcare and prekindergarten.

Tuition-Free College

Senator Sanders believes they key to success in a highly competitive global economy is for Americans to be the best-educated workforce in the world. As a result, Sanders has vowed to fight to make sure that every young American who studies hard in school can go to college regardless of how much money their parents make and without going into debt. He would accomplish this by making tuition free at public colleges and universities; stopping the federal government from making a profit on student loans; cutting student loan interest rates; allowing Americans to refinance student loans; and by allowing students to use need-based financial aid and work study programs to make college debt free. He would pay for all this by imposing a tax on Wall Street speculators.

Opportunity Agenda Takeaways

Whether or not Sanders becomes president, he has undoubtedly influenced the national conversation during this election as well as the next Democratic platform. For his supporters, Sanders has been fearless in diagnosing structural barriers to employment and admirable for proposing a sweeping vision for how he would support young Americans who are disengaged and disconnected from the labor market. Win or lose, Sanders seems to have succeeded in elevating Opportunity Youth issues in this election.


The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here


Government/Policy, Workforce Development,
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