Bernie Sanders Asked if the U.S. Economy is ‘Immoral’ — Is It?

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

We’re still a solid year and a half out from the 2016 presidential election, but that hasn’t stopped a handful of hopefuls from throwing their hats into the ring. While a slew of potential Republican nominees have emerged, the Democratic side has a probable favorite in Hillary Clinton — although she has been joined in seeking the Democratic nomination by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Sanders is a bit of a wild card. He’s a socialist, for one, and has largely maintained distance from the two big parties during his career (although he is seeking the Democratic nomination in 2016). He also supports some rather big changes, including raising taxes on the wealthy, making college tuition free, and revamping the health care system. Sanders has also made some headline-grabbing comments regarding the U.S. economy as a whole — particularly saying that he thinks the morality of the capitalist system needs to be brought into question.

In an interview with CNBC’s Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood, Sanders said that in light of the “obscene” amount of income inequality we see in modern America, the morality of the whole system should be scrutinized. “When you have the top one-tenth of one percent owning almost as much wealth as the bottom 90% — does anyone think that’s the kind of economy this country should have? Is it moral?” Sanders asked.

Sanders is far from the first person to question the morality of the capitalist system in America, and what he’s asking has been debated for hundreds of years. The problem is he’s asking a question that’s impossible to answer.

An awful lot of people would agree with Sanders in saying that the U.S. economy is immoral. We have entire business sectors that make huge profits by doing things that make a lot of people uncomfortable — be it through building bombs, bankrupting people in need of life-saving healthcare treatments, or even the case of one energy company CEO who has blatantly tried to have evidence that fracking causes earthquakes covered up to save his own profits.

You could very easily argue that each of those things are, in fact, immoral. Not to mention how a great deal of our consumer products are made in sweatshops in Asia, or how the U.S. flexes its military muscle to ensure that oil keeps flowing from the Middle East. It seems that no matter what we do, in many respects, as long as there’s a profit incentive, Americans are willing to let morality take a back seat.

Hell, even a Georgetown study found that American consumers are willing to put their moral compass aside if “the shoes are cute.”

But there are those that would argue that not doing those things would be immoral. They might say that we have a responsibility to the poorer classes in America to ensure cheap goods are available, that gasoline for their cars is affordable, and that businesses should be given some wiggle room to create jobs and sustain the economy. A system that allows for wealth to be created and to respect the rights of citizens surely is the supreme framework, right?

There’s no way to determine who’s right, unfortunately.

But what’s evidently winning some people over to Sanders’ camp is the fact that he’s willing to bring up these questions — something that most politicians won’t do. By looking at the bigger picture, Sanders is opening up a can of worms that Hillary Clinton, and the host of Republican candidates, would probably like to avoid.

The hot topic of income inequality has only recently become a talking point among most politicians who were, for a long time, willing to avoid it. Sanders has been tackling this subject head on, and his willingness to do that may be winning a lot more people over than expected. Though many expect that there’s no way he will successfully challenge Clinton for the Democratic nomination, even some of the country’s leading pundits are starting to see him as more than a fringe candidate.

What Sanders brings up, regarding the morality of the U.S. economy and the unequal distribution of wealth inside of it, may be the focal point of the 2016 election. His questioning the morality of it all can’t really be answered objectively, but the fact that he is bringing up the question at all may stick with voters who are still feeling the pain of the sputtering economy.

Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger

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