Presidential Campaign

Will America’s job creators also ‘feel the Bern’?

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Even as a cursory review of the delegate math suggests that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a near-insurmountable lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) in the race for the Democratic nomination, there is no question that he’s played an outsized role in the broader political debate and has arguably pushed Clinton further to the left on several key issues. Looking ahead, Sanders has also made clear that regardless of the primary outcomes in California and New Jersey on June 7, he intends to stay in the race until the superdelegates vote at the July convention in Philadelphia.

{mosads}For America’s job creators, the prospect of Sanders pushing Clinton even further to the left on economic issues — potentially as she fights a two-front battle with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump’s populist rhetoric and hones in on her vice-presidential selection — should be a huge cause for concern. While Sanders’s own rhetoric has been aimed at the “middle class,” many rightfully worry that it’s America’s workers and job creators who could ultimately pay the price for his massive spending proposals.

Sanders has centered his campaign around an unprecedented expansion of government spending that The Wall Street Journal and others have estimated will cost at least $18 trillion. This would include an estimated $15 trillion for a new government-run healthcare program that would cover every American, more than $1 trillion to rebuild roads and bridges, new expansions of entitlement programs, and “free” tuition at public colleges and universities.

Now, some of us remember our parents warning us when we were growing up that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” and that age-old adage applies here, as well. Sanders has proposed massive tax hikes on the “rich,” which will ultimately trickle down to everyone else in the form of lost jobs and innovation when job creators no longer have the money or incentive to spend and invest in the American economy. And even many liberal economists do not believe that these tax increases would cover the vast majority of new spending he proposes. So where or how he would come up with the rest of that money is anyone’s guess.

Sanders has also called for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which even former former Obama administration economic adviser Alan Krueger wrote in a New York Times op-ed “could well be counterproductive.” In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in a 2014 report that even a more modest hike to $10.10 an hour nationally could cost the economy somewhere in the range of 500,000 jobs, and possibly as many as 1 million.

Yet Sanders’s candidacy has had an unmistakable influence on Clinton and it could continue to grow as she seeks to unify the Democratic Party. From the minimum wage, where she’s proposed an increase to $12 an hour, to free trade, which she once supported but now has concerns over, to Keystone XL pipeline, which would have created over 40,000 new jobs but which she opposes, it’s clear that Clinton has shifted left on key economic issues.

The unknown question is whether it will be America’s job creators — and not just Clinton — who will ultimately “feel the Bern” if any of his liberal economic proposals move from campaign rhetoric into real policy. At BIPAC, which represents businesses in every state across the country, we believe that in order to unleash the potential of the economy, fiscal responsibility is fundamental. It also requires a fair and competitive tax policy, fair and open trade, and a robust education system. We recognize that in any primary, candidates invariably tack to the right or to the left depending on their party and political circumstances, but it’s our hope that, moving into the general election, Secretary Clinton will ultimately adopt a more responsible and prudent economic path forward.

Gerlach is the president and CEO of BIPAC. He previously served Pennsylvania’s Sixth Congressional District for 12 years, where he was a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Subcommittees on Health and Select Revenue.

Tags 2016 Democratic primary 2016 presidential campaign Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Free trade Hillary Clinton job creators Keystone XL pipeline Minimum wage
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