Friday, March 11, 2011

Same Old Sanders


Author's Note:  I wrote this last November for the Caledonian Record in response to Sander's kick-off  commentary to his 2012 Senate campaign.  Since Sanders' positions have remained rigid for nearly 50 years, this article is still timely.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ opinion piece in the Caledonian Record on November 8, 2010 (“Where do we go from here?”) was so wrong on so many counts it is hard to know where to begin. Sanders’ theses in his November 8 commentary are identical to his positions nearly  forty years ago when he first ran for office on the Liberty Union ticket.  His rigid fixed  beliefs have not changed despite the overwhelming evidence over the last four decades that his policies would lead to economic stagnation and authoritarianism.   Reality has never intruded into Sanders’ belief system.

How does Sanders continue to cling to his socialist faith?  By self righteously attacking his opponents as morally bankrupt and their followers as dolts.   The November 8, 2010 piece is an example of Sanders’ approach.   He starts by calling Republican candidates,  who gained over 66 seats in the United States Congress and 680 seats in state legislatures as  “extreme right wing”.  Republican candidates in 2010 ran on fiscal responsibility,  more transparent, efficient government; less regulation and lower taxes.  Those positions are not only mainstream, but many were embraced by candidate  Barack Obama in 2008.

Bernie then smears Republicans by claiming they are only interested in the “wealthiest” Americans, want to allow the “crooks” on Wall Street to continue their alleged criminal conduct, and  “huge banks” to “do anything they want.”  There is no room in Bernie’s world for honest disagreement.   Of course, the unspoken but necessary inference of Bernie’s conclusion that Republicans are extreme, greedy, and evil is that the millions who voted for Republicans in 2010 are dunces.  His disdain for the people whom he claims to fight for is obvious.

After abusing his political opponents,  Sanders’ solutions are the same tired old proposals that have proven to be unworkable, and as a result  rejected, by the public in this year’s elections.  The proposals are based on his socialist ideology, not on real world economics. 

First, Sanders wants to raise taxes. He wants to raise taxes on small business owners and raise corporate taxes—already the highest in the industrialized world.  In typical Sanders fashion, he is not honest enough to tell us directly what he is proposing.  We can only surmise by his claims that large corporations are not paying enough in taxes, and that we must raise taxes on the “wealthiest Americans”—many of whom are small business owners.   Sanders claims that corporations which are headquartered outside the United States need to pay more U.S. taxes.  Either there will have to be a world government that prohibits corporations from moving freely to other countries, or Washington will tax foreign corporations in such a way that they will not want to do business in this country. 

Second, Sanders  does not want to change a jot or tittle of Social Security, except to raise Social Security taxes on --guess who—the “wealthiest” Americans.   He claims that the Social Security system has a 2.6 trillion dollar surplus, declaring it is in fine shape and nothing needs to be done to protect the Social Security retirement system.  He fails to note that the so-called Social Security surplus is in the form of IOU’s from the debt ridden U.S. Government, or that as of this year, Social Security is paying out more to recipients than it is taking in from today’s workers.  Sanders’ opposition to allowing today’s younger workers to put some of their earnings into their own retirement trust fund rather than paying it into the government black hole reveals his disdain for ordinary citizens.  He believes that Washington D.C. can take better care of us than we can take care of ourselves.  And, as usual, Sanders demagogues the issue, railing against “privatizing” Social Security, ignoring the fact that all proposals for allowing individuals to control their own retirement provides that older Americans—over age 50—would retain their benefits under the present system. 

Sanders asks in his opinion piece, “How do we create jobs we need to rebuild the middle class?”  Instead of answering the question, Sanders spends two long paragraphs condemning President Bush and his economic policies.  He hand picks statistics to create a false picture.  Americans know the statistics that count are the unemployment rate and the gross domestic product growth.  When President Bush left office, unemployment was 6.5%, and three months after Obama was inaugurated, the recession officially ended.  Yet nearly two years later, unemployment is close to 10% and underemployment close to 20%, with no relief in sight. 

Then Sanders outlines his solutions to rebuilding the middle class.  Bernie’s solutions have never changed:  He proposes spending even more taxpayer’s money.   Sanders  proposes spending more on “crumbling infrastructure”.  He ignores the fact that 18 months ago Congress passed a nearly 1 trillion dollar stimulus plan that was supposed to be used in large part on “crumbling infrastructure”.   It didn’t work.  So now he wants to double down on a spectacularly failed policy. 

He also claims he wants “stronger regulation of Wall Street”.  The new Dodd-Frank bill just passed by Congress is not strong enough for Sanders.  The Dodd-Frank bill will result in consolidation of banks because small banks will not be able to afford  its onerous regulations, and the regulations regarding consumer credit will hurt those most in need of credit—those whom Sanders calls “the struggling middle class”.   Yet Sanders wants even more regulations that will slow down any recovery and ultimately hurt Vermonters.

Restricting free trade is another tenet Sanders has clung to for four decades.  Free trade has resulted in spectacular economic growth not only for the United States, but for the developing world.   Sanders advocates trade protectionism to protect the rich and powerful unions that support him.   

Sanders’ proposals for higher taxes, increased government spending and increased regulation are all job killers.  Instead of clinging to his fixed ideas and condemning opponents as greedy evildoers, Sanders would do well to analyze what works for the people he claims to represent.    I won’t hold my breath.

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