Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President, Part 2

Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President, Part 2
By George Oeser

To recap:  I have been living in the Netherlands. The time I have spent here has allowed me to see, first hand, what happens when a country takes a different path than America: To see the results of certain policies and programs with my own eyes instead of just watching what one talking head or another with a particular agenda has to say on TV. I have been surprised by many of the things I have seen here, and my mind has changed on several issues. It has affected who I will be voting for. I hope you can find this information valuable to your own decision making process. 

People in the Netherlands work hard and take risks, not because of a lack of a safety net but because a strong safety net exists. In America, if you start a new business and it fails, you can lose everything. This prevents many people from starting a new business or trying to turn their ideas into great new inventions. The rewards may be great, but the risks are just too high. In Holland, you know that if your business fails you at least will still be able to feed and house your family and send your kids to college. This makes taking risks much more worthwhile. The entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive and well in Holland.

In Holland, almost everyone speaks English extremely well, along with their native Dutch and often times German and French as well. This allows the Netherlands to be very competitive in the global market. This is only possible because the Dutch place great importance on education. Schools are well funded; teachers are well paid; higher education is kept affordable. All of this allows the Netherlands to be a center of high tech industry and a world leader in innovation. 

The Dutch education system is amazing. Children go to schools that are funded by the government but normally run by private organizations. Often times these are religious organizations or civic groups that are required to meet government regulations while at the same time being allowed to bring their own culture into the educational process. Higher education is also funded by the government through a series of exceptionally high quality universities and technical schools. Higher education is not free, but costs are regulated so that everyone can afford to get an education if they choose to. 

You need well-educated people to compete and lead in the world today. America is falling behind in this area. Sure, we have of the best paid college presidents and coaches in the world, but many students can’t afford college or are forced into crushing debt to attend, and our country has suffered as a consequence. 

In Holland, seeing your primary physician never costs you a penny. This means that people are willing to go to the doctor sooner, which means a simple problem can be kept from turning into a serious condition. This also means less sick days and a more productive workforce. Adding to the high productivity levels are a minimum of four weeks paid vacation per year, paid maternity leave, and higher wages that make employees willing to work harder because they don't feel like they are being cheated every time they see one of their pay stubs. This allows more families to have a parent who is able to be at home with the kids at all times, which of course is better for the children who become the next generation of well-educated, well-paid, and highly motivated workers and entrepreneurs. 

Workers in the Netherlands are pretty much just as productive as workers in America, but American full time workers put in an average of 46.7 hours a week while Dutch workers average just 29 hours per week. Think about overtime pay and regular pay combined—are American companies really saving money by paying their employees less and offering them fewer benefits?

I know what many of you are thinking: “What about taxes?” It is true that taxes are considerably higher in the Netherlands than in the United States, no doubt about that. But to stop the conversation there wouldn't tell the entire story. You have to compare the cost against the benefits. For example, if someone could move into a city and be closer to work, have more free time and spend less on fuel because of a shorter commute, spend more time with their family, get an extra hour of sleep every day, and generally live a higher quality of life, but they refused to do so because their rent would go up by 10%, something they could easily afford, you would think they were crazy. Americans should think the same way about taxes. 

Yes, taxes in the Netherlands are higher, but they result in lower healthcare costs, lower educational costs, lower transportation costs, a higher quality of life, and many other benefits that greatly outweigh the higher tax rates. The problem isn't high taxes—the  problem is feeling like you get nothing in return for your taxes. In America, we could lower our taxes by 90%, but if we didn't feel like we were getting anything for our money we would still think our taxes were too high. This is why the higher taxes aren't a big problem in the Netherlands. They feel like quite a bargain. 

While the national government of the Netherlands is quite strong, it does not hold all of the power. Local governments, the sections of the government closest to and most connected to the people, have considerable power. The national government may provide funding to local governments that has to be spent on roads or on education or on cultural initiatives, but the municipalities get to determine how those funds are specifically spent in their areas. This allows tax money to be spent in the most effective ways possible so it can benefit the largest number of people. 

As I mentioned earlier, I believe that we could learn a tremendous amount from a country like the Netherlands, but so far in the presidential race it only seems one candidate has paid attention to these lessons. Bernie Sanders has stood up for workers and American families. He supports policies that will benefit the middle class and help the poor work their way out of poverty. He is the only candidate who is not being supported by billionaire donors who want to maintain the current policies that are benefiting them in the short term but destroying America over time. This means he is the only candidate who can act on these lessons because he isn't beholden to the 1%.

Bernie  Sanders sees the ripple effects of policies.  Fight poverty and you can't help but be fighting racism at the exact same time. Increase educational opportunities and you increase business opportunities as well. Creating a better public transportation system creates more jobs and gives people more access to opportunities. All of these things could happen in America. All of these things could benefit everyone in America, even the wealthiest among us. Bernie Sanders wants to combine the best ideas from countries like Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands with the drive and ambition of America so that the United States can work better, be more efficient, and make opportunity available to everyone.

Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who wants to help America live up to its potential, and he is the only candidate who will be able to do anything other than simply serve the desires of the wealthy. Bernie Sanders is the one candidate who really understands and supports the American dream. That's why I support Sanders for president.

Bio: George Oeser is a photographer, born and raised in Tennessee but currently living in the Netherlands. He spends much of his time thinking about how much he misses good Southern food. His web site: George Oeser Photography


  1. Thank you for taking the time to address many of the concerns I hear when I discuss Bernie with people. Hopefully this will open the eyes of those who are stuck on our old way of doing things.

  2. It is good to hear how things work in other parts of the world, isn't it? Americans get stuck into ruts way too easily, IMO, and by opening our eyes and looking at other examples of how to address the ordinary citizen's needs, we can learn much. Change can be tough for many folks, but life is all about change. Let's make some changes for the better, USA! Vote Bernie Sanders! #FeeltheBern #Bernie2016

  3. I think it does take a spell of living in another country to open one's eyes to the problems of home. Seeing another way of doing things helps establish a new line of thought. Hopefully it'll lead to ways of solving problems inherent in American society. Bernie Sanders' ideas are similar to those already in practical use in Holland and the Scandinavian countries, all of which have quality of life standards in the world's top ten.


Please feel free to share your thoughts with us. Just one rule: Be polite. This means no profanity or cursing. No shaming or hate speech. No threats or silliness. This is a family friendly blog. Thank you.