Bernie Sanders: A Small Business Snapshot on the Issues

By at 5 October, 2015, 7:27 pm

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders identifies himself as a democrat socialist. How do his policies and proposals impact small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders identifies as a democratic socialist. Will small business owners and entrepreneurs identify with his policy platform?


U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) announced his candidacy for president on April 29, 2015. He was elected to the Senate in 2006, after serving 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Where does Senator Sanders stand on key small business issues?


In a July 7, 2015 Des Moines Register interview, Senator Sanders acknowledged that he is a democratic socialist. In that interview he pointed to various democratic socialist governments in Europe as providing policy lessons.

Here’s a rundown on where Senator Sanders stands on some key issues:


Sanders has long been an advocate for higher taxes. As noted in a Bloomberg report, Sanders supports a marginal personal income tax rate above 50 percent, and a higher corporate income tax rate.

It was noted by Bloomberg: “Sanders said he is ‘working right now on a comprehensive tax package, which I suspect will, for the top marginal rates, go over 50 percent,’ though he wouldn’t endorse a specific rate yet. He often points out that the top marginal rate exceeded 90 percent under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. And while the White House and many Republicans want to lower the corporate tax rate, Sanders said he wants to raise it, as well as eliminate loopholes that allow corporate and wealthy taxpayers to reduce their tax bill.”

Sanders laid out a tax plan that by his own estimate would raise taxes by $1.8 trillion over a decade, including higher taxes on financial institutions and domestic energy producers, a carbon tax, and a doubling of the top tax rate on capital gains and dividends.

UPDATE: Read some of the specifics of Sander’s tax plan on the campaign website here.

Sanders favors government spending to try to boost the economy. As noted in a New York Times report, “Mr. Sanders supports increased government spending to generate jobs and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.”

UPDATE: Sanders has outlined how he plans to pay for some of his programs here, which details specific tax hikes, like increased payroll taxes on employers and individuals.

As noted in the SBE Council Congressional Scorecard for the 113th Congress, Sanders voted against repealing the medical device tax, against death tax repeal, and against broad tax relief and reform. 


Sanders voted for ObamaCare, but views it as “only a modest step.” In fact, he called ObamaCare “a good Republican program.” Sanders favors, and has sponsored legislation to establish, a government, single-payer system.

As reported, “Sanders voted for the Affordable Care Act, but believes that the new health care law did not go far enough. Instead, he espouses a single-payer system in which the federal and state governments would provide health care to all Americans. Participating states would be required to set up their own single-payer system and a national oversight board would establish an overall budget.”

Sanders would allow for prescription drug importation from licensed Canadian pharmacies. He would remake the prescription drug program under Medicare.

As noted in the SBE Council Congressional Scorecard for the 113th Congress, Sanders voted against repealing ObamaCare and against encouraging patient-centered reforms aimed toward improving health outcomes and reducing health costs.


Sanders supports a range of regulatory inititiatves that would impact small businesses. For example, as noted on the Bernie Sanders for President 2016 website, Sanders favors a $15 minimum wage, federal regulation of wages and salaries under the idea of “equal pay for women,” and measures that make it easier for labor unions to expand their reach in the workplace.

In addition as reported, Sanders favors regulations that limit free speech and engagement for groups like SBE Council. As noted: “Sanders proposes a Constitutional amendment that would effectively reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling and ban corporations and nonprofits from unlimited campaign expenditures. The independent senator would also require disclosure of any organizations spending $10,000 or more on an election-related campaign.”

Sanders supports auditing the Federal Reserve. He supports government intervention to “break up the big banks.” And, according to a news piece, he has said he would “use the Fed to force banks into loaning more money to small businesses.

As noted in the SBE Council Congressional Scorecard for the 113th Congress, Sanders voted against stopping global warming regulations and against regulatory accountability via cost-benefit analysis.


Sanders has been a vocal opponent of domestic energy production, and favors extensive regulation and taxation of carbon-based energy. As noted on the Bernie Sanders for president 2016 website, Sanders makes clear his support “to tax carbon and methane emissions,” and that he “Led the opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.”

As noted in a New York Times report, Sanders “supports stringent measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including tough standards for new vehicles, as well as some more politically unorthodox ideas, like providing money to study carbon sequestration, or storing carbon dioxide, to delay global warming.”

As noted in the SBE Council Congressional Scorecard for the 113th Congress, Sanders voted against construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.


Sanders has been a steady voice against free trade agreements. As noted on the Bernie Sanders for president 2016 website, he: “Opposed NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China, the TPP [Trans Pacific partnership], and other free-trade agreements. These deals kill American jobs by shifting work overseas to nations which fail to provide worker protections and pay extremely low wages.”

The New York Times pointed out: “He vehemently opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Asian nations, a trade deal Mr. Obama has championed. ‘Are you on the side of working people who would suffer as a result of this disastrous trade agreement, and seeing their jobs go to China or Mexico?’ Mr. Sanders said recently. ‘Or are you on the side of corporate America and pharmaceuticals?’”

Sanders led the opposition to trade promotion authority in 2015.


The New York Times noted, “Mr. Sanders supported Mr. Obama’s 2014 executive action shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. But he has also called for reining in the guest-worker program that provides many businesses with low-wage immigrant labor, saying it fuels youth unemployment.”

According to Bernie Sanders for President, he would sign “comprehensive immigration reform” to bring undocumented workers “out of the shadows” and would not tie reform to building a fence along Mexico’s border. He would sign the DREAM Act into law, expand President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, and “Authorize and substantially increase funding for the Legal Services Corporation to provide legal representation to guest workers who have been abused by their employers.” His proposal calls for making employers “reimburse guest workers for housing, transportation expenses and workers’ compensation.” 


On SBE Council’s congressional scorecards on KEY small business votes, Sanders scored 4 percent for the 111th Congress, 11 percent for the 112th Congress, and 0% for the 113th Congress.

Sources: Bernie Sanders Senate website, Bernie Sanders for president 2016 website, Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Des Moines Register,, SBE Council Congressional Scorecard for the 113th Congress, CNN.

SBE Council will update this profile as warranted.

UPDATED February 3, 2016.

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