Why I Switched to an Independent

Politics isn’t black and white…but it’s not red or blue either.

I first registered to vote when I was 18 and just starting to figure out that the world was unfair, that the odds were in my favor.  I’m a straight, white, male, born to an affluent family of two loving college graduates.  Chances were better than not that I would succeed, regardless of how hard I worked.  But I quickly learned that winning isn’t as fun when the game is rigged.

So I registered Democrat and quickly became an ally for the cause.  At dinner time I’d go off on tangents about systemic racism.  At parties I’d be the guy in the corner talking to some unlucky sap about about economic mobility (or the lack their of).  My blood would boil when I heard the way people at church talked about homosexuality.  I cringed when I listened to Republican candidates speak about the lazy people on welfare.

In brief, I registered Democrat because I realized the best indicators of success were your skin color and your zip-code, not your work-ethic and your ability.

I still believe these problems exist.  I’m just less sure about their solutions.

I can’t stand to read the Bernie rants on Facebook anymore.  They seem less and less about making the world a better place and more and more about proving some type of moral superiority.

When I step into a voting booth the number one thing on my mind is improving the lives of all people, particularly those who need it the most.  But I now realize that does not automatically make me a democrat, and that a lot of the policies currently being pushed by the left will in fact harm the poorest Americans.

So today, after months of thought, I switched my party registration from Democrat to Independent.

Here’s a few reason’s why:

Minimum Wage

Bernie Sanders has been pushing for a $15 minimum wage since the beginning of his campaign.  California and New York both passed bills this week that would slowly bring their minimum wage up to $15.  The $15 threshold quickly went from extreme to enacted.  It’s advocated claim the wage hike will help life millions of American’s out of poverty; unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Economics 101 states: as prices rise, demand falls.  Workers are no exception.  As the cost of hiring a new worker increases, business’s are less likely to hire and more likely to lay off.  You’ve heard these arguments before but they’re not going a way.  And Economists that support a $15 minimum wage are few and far between.

In fact, a recent survey by the Employment Policies Institute found the only 5% of economist believed that a $15 per hour wage floor would be very efficient, while 71% believed that “the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a very efficient way to address the income needs of poor families.”

The reality is that there are much better ways to poor working families than huge minimum wage increases.  Because $15 an hour sounds like a nice pay check, until you lose your job.

Trade

Democrats have traditionally opposed free trade and instead supported what they call “fair trade.”  Fair trade is just political jargon for protectionism, which basically beans limiting free trade by taxing or limiting imports.  But economists have agreed for decades that free trade benefits both parties involved.  In fact, the New York Times, a noticeably left leaning paper, recently published an article in support of free trade.  The author noted that “among economists, the issue is a no-brainer.”

But free trade does not only benefit American’s.  It benefits people around the globe.  In the past 20 years, nearly 1 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty.  And as The Economist puts it, “Most of the credit,  must go to capitalism and free trade, for they enable economies to grow—and it was growth, principally, that has eased destitution.”

Free trade relies on the concept of comparative advantage.  If you’ve taken Economics 102 here you probably know all about this already.  But for those of you who have not, you can read more about it here.

Teacher Tenure

For years the largest teacher’s unions have funded the campaigns of Democratic candidates.  In fact, both of the largest teachers unions, the AFT and NEA, have already endorsed Hilary Clinton.  Over the last several years the NEA has dropped over $40 million per year supporting left leaning candidates.

Teacher Union’s can do a lot of good, they bring collective bargaining to some of the hardest working and underpaid people in America.  They give a concentrated voice to one of our countries most under-appreciated and important professions.

But they’re also hurting our kids by supporting an outdated rule: teacher tenure.  Teacher tenure was originally established in Massachusetts in 1886.  Prior to this, women were often dismissed for getting married, becoming pregnant, wearing pants, or being out too late in the evenings.  However, in 1964 the Civil Rights Act passed Under Federal law saying federal employees cannot discriminate against, race, sex, pregnancy, religion, national origin, disability, age, military service, bankruptcy, generic information or citizenship.  The new law covered all the original purposes of tenure and then some.

Today, teacher tenure mostly keeps the least efficient educators in the classroom.  And they often wind up in the poorest districts.  As one educator writes, “The young people who needed the best, most motivated educators sat downwind of policies that meant they too often got the least-effective educators.”

The numbers are even more daunting:

  • 91% of School Board Presidents agreed that tenure impedes there ability to fire underperforming teachers (Thomas, Illinois School Board)
  • 81% of School Administrators wish to relieve a teacher but feel as if they cannot or it will be too costly
  • It cost on average $250,000 to fire a teacher in NYC
  • Less than 1% of teachers obtain unsatisfactory rating

Democrats love to point out how Republicans are persuaded by the money of big business.  But the Democrats have taken the money of the big unions with a smile, and it’s our poorest kids who have suffered.

Author’s note: I’ve accepted an offer to join the 2017 Teach For America corps and will be teaching middle school math when I graduate in Charlotte.  I point this out if only to show how important both teachers and education as a whole are to me and what bias may come with it.

Conclusion

When Bernie Sanders yells about systemic racism we should all listen, because he is right, it does exist.  When Hilary Clinton talks about a providing health care to those in need, we should trust our hearts.

But wanting to help the poor does not automatically make you a Democrat.  And it certainly doesn’t make you a Republican either.  Alienating ourselves from political parties can help us better examine the facts and dodge the divisive rhetoric.

I don’t doubt that most of us want public policy to help those that need it the most.  But fighting poverty is extremely complicated.  It’s anything but black and white.

And it’s not red or blue either.

Photo Art: Adriana Lacy 

 

 

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About Nathan Golden (9 Articles)
Nathan is a junior at Penn State studying economics and education policy and not in that order. In his spare time he enjoys having his heart broken by all his favorite sports teams, especially every Buctober. When he's not weeping because of a bad sports loss, he can be found ranting to somebody who doesn't care at a party about contemporary issues in education. He will be heading to Hong Kong this summer to teach low-income high school students economics and hopes to teach math full time when he graduates.

1 Comment on Why I Switched to an Independent

  1. Dr. Dick Delaware // April 6, 2016 at 4:33 pm // Reply

    Hmm yeah this article will work!

    Like

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