Bernie Sanders (Earnest, But Oh So Wrong!)
As a self-proclaimed Socialist, Bernie Sanders likes to sound radical, exciting his audience with rhetoric about “need[ing] a political revolution.”However, he has yet to espouse the economic creed of Socialism, which calls for the government to own and control the means of production. I can only assume that he doesn’t support such a radical departure from our economic system, a system that, over its four-hundred-year history, has generated prosperity like few other large countries in the world.
Simply put, Bernie Sanders is not a Socialist; rather he is a progressive Democrat, not unlike a number of others who have toyed with the idea of running for President —namely, Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean (another Vermonter). He is earnest and honest; he believes what he preaches with all his heart, and while that is rare in a politician and may be admirable in itself, it doesn’t legitimize his political theories.
What Bernie Sanders espouses is a social welfare system, in which the government first defines the well-being of its citizens and then takes on the responsibility of ensuring that well-being. His litany of those guarantees has popular appeal and certainly tugs on the heartstrings of many Americans, both Democrats and Republicans. I admit that they are lofty (but impracticable) ideals.
What retiree wouldn’t be happier with a higher monthly Social Security check?
Who can find fault with “free” tuition for all college students, relieving them and their parents of the burden of education loans?
Why can’t we have a single-payer health care system that would give everyone the same options and coverage?
Why shouldn’t the minimum wage be high enough to allow earners an income above the poverty level?
The problem is that Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a realistic plan for funding these objectives. All he has done so far is rail against the billionaires (who buy elections, in his words) and Wall Street (whom he has yet to define), seeming to imply that if the government could simply confiscate the wealth achieved by some, it could make life better for all.
It’s not surprising that his followers are predominantly the young, who have yet to achieve their professional dreams and their earning potential. The throngs of students supporting Bernie Sanders bring to mind the late 1960s, when I was living in Harvard Square as a young twenty something myself. During those years, there were seemingly daily demonstrations that often turned into tear gas confrontations between students and police. The frenzy of emotion expanded beyond the students’ opposition to the war in Vietnam, as they railed against their professors, their parents and any authority figure.
Some of those young rabble rousers of yesteryear are today’s millionaires and, possibly, even billionaires. Through dint of maturity and hard work, they achieved success, paying their taxes along the way. To imply that they are an advantaged class misconstrues how success is achieved in this country.
I would venture to guess that the vast majority of billionaires (or even 1%ers) in this country started their careers with little or no money to their name. They have achieved what we think of as “the American dream” through their own talents. They are hardly relegated to the ranks of “Wall Streeters”; rather they are dominated by a host of entrepreneurs — the founders of technology companies like Apple, Facebook and Google; astoundingly gifted athletes; or superstars in the entertainment industry. We all enjoy a better quality of life because of their achievements.
Bernie Sanders’ theory of redistribution of wealth is dangerous for U.S. economic growth and risks putting a dagger into the entrepreneurial ethic that drives success in this country. What the country needs is more growth and this can best be achieved by providing incentives to small companies and startup entrepreneurs to invest and expand.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of the jobs in the private sector are in small companies. Even more importantly, those small companies account for nearly two thirds of the new jobs created.
Small companies face many obstacles in their endeavors to achieve growth and generate wealth for their owners, not the least of which is onerous government regulation, something which has become increasingly burdensome in recent years. Bernie Sanders would do well to come up with a plan to support the “little guy” (his primary constituent in his endeavor to become the Democrats’ presidential nominee). I’d like to see him talk about incentives (tax and otherwise)that would provide small companies with the opportunity to take greater risks, hire new employees, flourish and, once again, be the engine for strong growth in the U.S. economy.