Bernie Sanders set the agenda. But can he win on it?
When President Trump used to talk about illegal immigrants as rapists and murderers, he would always add that some were good people.When cursing the rich as greedy, exploitative and worse in his sour-toned hiss of a voice, Sen. Bernie Sanders would likewise acknowledge that some were almost OK. Now we know who he was talking about. Himself.
Pressure made him do it — the release of his tax forms, and there, merry and bright, was more than $2 million he had made over two years time. Right away, a liberal think tank took a shot at him, and he said, Shut up, we progressives have to win in 2020. After all, he is now in front of the line of the Democratic presidential candidates circling the block.
Still, being in a wealthy class that he constantly castigates is obviously an embarrassment to him. It sounds like an excuse when this 1 percent kind of guy says, “I wrote a best-selling book. If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too.” Well, maybe, but did people buy any of his three books because critics proclaimed their depth and insight? Was it maybe because of name and fame?
If you become famous, you can be a millionaire, too.
One way to get there is to forget how the miracle of capitalism saved hundreds of millions from poverty while delivering modernity and suppose that shrinking liberties is fine because big government knows more than the stupid people know.
Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, for example, is a wonder of applause-winning creative thought that could actually make medical care worse, cost more than any social program ever and devastate both the rich and the economy with high taxes while still worsening the debt.
I am not saying Sanders is a con man. The scary thing is that he is sincere, a confused hippie who never grew out of it, someone once kicked out of a commune because he didn’t work hard enough and a socialist who doesn’t get it that socialism doesn’t work at all. He points to Scandinavia, but while the Scandinavian countries are welfare states, they have markets as free or freer than ours, although its people do pay taxes about as high for the middle class as Sanders wants for the super-rich.
Actually, as a richer man, Sanders might become a better man. So many of those who get rich bring us amazing things, such as Henry Ford’s affordable automobiles, the Wright brothers’ airplanes, radios, television, new life-saving medicines, cellphones and Apple and Microsoft. Many of the rich are also incredible philanthropists. Sanders does give to charities and now can give more, unless his materialism gets in the way. Have you seen the pictures of his three houses?
Sanders is right that wealthy corporations often contribute to campaigns to influence winners. Look at all the donations Hillary Clinton received. She outspent Trump something like two to one in the 2016 election campaign, but, funny thing, he won anyway.
The power of money in campaigns is something like nothing after a certain threshold, studies show. But there is also the power of the individual voice, and a true Clinton contribution in a debate with Sanders was to heckle him about not showing his tax forms, which are here at last.
Is it possible a richer Sanders may finally get that capitalism is a great thing, that inequality is not what makes or keeps people poor and that free trade has improved health and longevity worldwide? Is it possible he might even study Trump and see that cutting taxes and deregulation can set job records and boost wages?
I kind of doubt it, and in the absence of a conversion, I would suggest he write more books and leave politics.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.
(c) 2019 Tribune Content Agency