Bernie Sanders uses the oxymoron “democratic socialist” to describe himself. In doing so, he feigns a philosophy akin to the European and Scandinavian family of left-wing ideologies – what one might call socialist-lite.
Sanders’ latest proposal puts him a bit further left than our Euro friends — more into the realm of communist-style socialist. Yeah! Yeah! I know it is déclassé to refer to those on the far left as communists even if their governing philosophy is a rose by any other name. But rather than having the topic distracted by a debate over the application of the appellation communist, we shall just refer to Sanders as a “far left, radical socialist.”
What inspired this topic was Sanders’ most recent communistic … oops! … I mean far left, radical socialistic proposal. According to the Washington Post, the senior senator from Vermont is about to roll out a proposal that would offer everyone in America a job at the minimum wage of $15 per hour. That is a double fault.
There is an old axiom in economic circles that if the government provides a guaranteed job for everyone, everyone will have a very crappy low paying job. This is not a theory, but an established historical fact. One only need check out those nations that have made these enticing promises policies – and it is no coincidence that they were all hardcore communist nations at the time. Or should I say far left, radical socialist nations at the time?
The best examples were pre-Nixon Red China and the old Soviet Union, as well as the dysfunctional regimes they spawned in places like Cuba, North Korea and the captive nations of East Europe.
Even China and Russia — in order to address the pandemic poverty that was dragging their nations down the road to ruin and revolution — had to break with their Maoist and Leninist pasts and introduce significant elements of capitalism and free markets. East Europe, and notably East Germany, blossomed after escaping the yoke of Sanders-style socialism. One can only hope that Cuba and North Korea will follow that lead.
While free market, opportunity-based America was feeding our people and half the world, the folks in China and the evil Russian empire were literally starving to death by the millions. Jobs that provide a living wage can only be produced by free market consumption. They cannot be, and never have been, produced by government dictate.
This was ironically brought home to me in China by the secretary general of the Harbin municipal Communist Party. He posed this question to me. “Why is your nation moving so fast in the direction we are running from?” I did not have a good answer.
During a visit to Lithuania after the Communist Party had reclaimed power in the post-Soviet period, the vice president of that Baltic nation told me not to worry. “The Communist Party is back, but communism will never come back to Lithuania,” he assured. Even the communists had seen the destructive nature of the old paradigm.
Sanders presents himself as a socialist who believes in the American Constitution. That is highly suspect. Communism cum socialism is an authoritarian doctrine. While the Constitution was enacted to limit the powers and authorities of the central government, Sanders believes that an elite governing leadership class must manipulate the levers of government as a specious public benefit based on a faux sense of noblesse oblige.
In supplementing his jobs-for-everyone scheme, Sanders even promotes the destructive doctrine of having the government, rather than the market, establish wage scales. Minimum wage legislation helps no one because the market will always rule over wages.
Setting a minimum wage will reduce employment and increase the costs of goods and services for all consumers. This is confirmed by such liberal job creators as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Proponents of the ever-increasing minimum wage cite benefits for those working at the low end of the wage scale but do consider those who will lose their jobs or not be hired. They do not consider the fact that imposed minimum wages increase the economic advantage in replacing people with sophisticated robotics.
Even the small percentage of those who may see a hike in their salaries will only enjoy a temporary benefit. To compensate for the cost of labor, employers will postpone future salary increases until the market recalibrates the real minimum wage based on both inflation and demand. In other words, the buying power of that increase in income disappears in a relatively short time. It has done just that in the past, and that is why we are asked to keep increasing the minimum wage. It is a never-ending cycle.
What Sanders is really talking about is shifting jobs from the private sector to the public sector with the promise of massive public works projects and free educations for all Americans – and even illegal aliens, for that matter. Unlike consumer products and services, public works projects do not have to meet a specific demand from a buyer. We do not directly spend our money to purchase a bridge. It is paid for from the vast pool of money claimed by the government in the form of taxes. That also means it will be more costly and more wasteful.
As wrong and destructive as the Sanders’ radical socialist plan may be, there are apparently at least two other senators willing to give it a go. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) expressed interest in the idea. In fact, Booker has announced his Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act that would set up a three-year test in 15 communities. The question to Booker is: Why would we test a concept that has proven to be so disastrously unsuccessful when it has been tested so many times in the past?
Of course, at 76 years old, Sanders will not be around to experience the oppressed and impoverished society that he would create for our future generations. We already see the negative impact of the trend toward big government socialism in the form of deficits and debt. It is oft stated that for the first time — perhaps in the history of America – the departing generation will not leave our progeny a nation better than we found it.
In pondering the Sanders approach, we should be reminded of a fundamental economic truism expressed by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who said, “The problem is socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
On can only hope that the Sanders’ concept and Booker’s legislation will slip quietly into the shadows of oblivion they as so richly deserve.
Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and politics. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, as well as the White House. He has testified as an expert witness before legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress, and lectured at major colleges and universities. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.