2016 Candidates: What if You Could Go Back and Prevent the Great Depression?

economic inequality

Recently, The New York Times Magazine asked readers whether or not they would, if given the opportunity, kill a baby Adolf Hitler in his crib.  The majority of readers responded that they would indeed end the life of an infant Hitler, hoping to prevent World War II (at least in Europe) and the horrors of the war and the Holocaust.  Somebody posed the question to Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who announced that he, too, would kill baby Hitler.  The question of “if you could go back in time…” is practically as old as time itself.

Obviously, most people would relish the opportunity to go back in time and prevent wars, epidemics, and other calamities.

But what if there was a presidential candidate out there today who is fighting to prevent a likely future calamity, one that will almost certainly lead future generations to pose this question:  “What if you could go back in time to the mid-2010s and prevent the second market collapse that led to the Great Depression II?”  Perhaps we should be asking today’s crop of presidential candidates, instead of how they would deal with a baby Adolf Hitler in 1890, how they would handle a trip back to 1928 while armed with today’s knowledge about the stock market crash of ’29 and subsequent Great Depression.

The presidential candidate best situated to handle that question is U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT).  With his outspoken warnings about increasing income inequality and a growing wealth gap, he is fighting to prevent an economic catastrophe in the coming decade or two that could rival the Great Depression of the 1930s.  He is sounding the alarm on the continued decline in real wages, the erosion of the federal minimum wage, and the looming retirement crisis.  Other candidates, by comparison, are rather unfocused on America’s growing economic quagmire.

While Republican candidates are looking to keep economic power with America’s top earners, advocating tax cuts and reductions in social welfare spending, even Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is comparatively weak on progressive economic reform.  With all signs pointing toward near-future economic upheaval, particularly the fact that America suffers from the greatest income and wealth gap since 1928, it seems downright bizarre that only Bernie Sanders is advocating powerful reforms.  It scares me that virtually all other presidential candidates are taking a “business as usual” approach to the U.S. economy.

Unless we make real changes to the tax code, health care spending, higher education spending, and investment in infrastructure, we will be staring a new Great Depression in the face.  Consumers are being bled dry by outrageous health care and health insurance costs, higher education tuition and debt, and eroding real wages.  If the middle class crumbles, everyone loses, including the rich.  Yet, despite this troubling eventuality, most presidential candidates prefer to focus instead on gun control, what to do about the U.S.-Mexico border, how much support to give Israel, and whether various statements are racist or sexist.  Though these issues are noteworthy and important, they will not help stave off another economic recession.

Recessions hurt every working- and middle-class family, regardless of race, gender of primary breadwinner, political orientation, or status of firearm ownership.

Today, by supporting Bernie Sanders, we have the potential to not have to ask future presidential candidates how they would, if they could travel back to 2016, help prevent the second Great Depression.

Instead of asking how each presidential candidate would go back in time and fix things, like the Great Depression, we must look to the future.  During the next presidential debate, for both parties, each candidate should be asked how his or her proposed policies will reduce dangerous levels of income and wealth inequality, halt the erosion of real wages, improve the job market and reduce unemployment, and allow young citizens to keep enough of their income to invest in housing, durable goods, and stocks and bonds.  I want each candidate to explain how they plan to stave off a future recession.  Obviously, I already know whose answer will be judged as best by most Americans:  Bernie Sanders.

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Calvin Wolf

By day, Calvin Wolf is a high school social studies teacher. By night, he is a freelance writer and novelist, penning political thrillers and commentary on politics, education, economics, foreign policy, and culture. In the past, he's worked as a professional cartoonist and as a backpacking guide. He once stood between a mother bear and her cub and emerged unscathed!

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