Hurrah for Bernie Sanders. He is running for president, is attracting big crowds, getting major media attention, is unusually candid in articulating his beliefs, and is therefore instructing us about progressivism. It is a reckless, economically baffled, rich person-hating, disruptive, freedom-stifling pile of endangerment.
That’s important to know in a nation that could well be deciding next year whether to travel further in that direction, and who could better alert us than the outspoken Sanders?
An independent U.S. senator from Vermont, Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist, signaling to some, perhaps, that he is radically distanced from the congressional Democrats he buddies with. But as astute observers have pointed out, his ideological enthusiasms are usually much the same as those of the typical liberal. When he speaks up, we are largely hearing shared aspirations.
Recently, he attracted widespread comment in jabbering about how awful it was to have 23 kinds of deodorants and 18 kinds of sneakers in an America where children go hungry. Understand, first off, that while there is no perfect means for keeping childhood hunger at bay, there are all kinds of effective programs in place and the Census Bureau tells us instances of it are exceedingly rare.
Understand next that those deodorant and sneaker companies help keep prices down and quality up through competition while also providing jobs and wealth combating the chance of hunger in the first place. Nothing in the history of humanity has ever worked as well as a free market to alleviate poverty. Progressives like Sanders nevertheless don’t trust it and want to outright eliminate some of its most profoundly salvation-giving features.
For instance, he wants to end just about every big foreign trade agreement the country has. This trade saves consumers billions upon billions of dollars and is absolutely crucial to our well-being. Sanders thinks it has cost us manufacturing jobs, and it has cost some even as it creates more new ones. Manufacturing has zoomed up with only brief occasional dips in this country and most of the lost manufacturing jobs over the decades have been lost because of technology.
Here are quick looks at two other Sanders’ stances:
First, Sanders has indicated he would like to go to a top marginal tax rate of a confiscatory and risky 90 percent, saying that’s what we had in the 1950s and that the economy did fine. An online commentary of the American Enterprise Institute shows that, because of varied exemptions, the effective tax bill in the ‘50s wasn’t that much higher than lately and that there were all kinds of uncommon factors at play in the ‘50s that kept the country relatively prosperous.
Second, Sanders wants free college tuition for everybody, starting with a multibillion-dollar program for the first two years and paying for it through a tax on stock trading that would take 50 cents for every $100 that changes hands. A blog called Back Alley Taxes points out (and other checking confirmed) that Sweden tried this idea and saw trading move out of the country and revenues drop. The same thing would no doubt happen here.
America could be in big trouble if you put all this together with Sanders’ other schemes to intervene mightily in business, redistribute income, spend crazily and tax still more crazily. The country would not be in trouble because he is now deemed likely to be our next president but because a Democrat such as Hillary Clinton could be. Although she pledges less, it’s far from clear she would fall all that short in policies that would worsen our debt and hurt us in other ways.
Even Sweden, which Sanders seems to worship, saved its economy through reforming entitlements and other retreats from a government grown too big. That’s part of what will be needed in a new administration. Progressivism’s continued overreaching would be disastrous.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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