One can essentially internalize Bernie Sanders’ entire political message with a wind-up toy playing the following message: “I’m for ‘the little guy’ against the evil rich people and their politically connected cronies. I’ll fight the people who push policies beneficial to Wall Street and well-connected lobbyists and detrimental to ordinary Americans.”
With such a populist message, it’s not hard to see why young brains full of mush would be drawn to his candidacy. However, those people need to realize that it’s Bernie’s very own policies that have created these monopolies for “millionahhs” and “billionahhhs.”
While there is merit to some of the socialist populist diagnosis of the flawed and corrupt structure inherent in our political class, the socialists have the wrong prescription to fix the broken political system. And in fact, his version of populism – de facto venture socialism – is nothing more than warmed-over government largesse, which has driven the very sort of cronyism he inveighs against on a regular basis. Only free market and constitutional populism, which eliminates the ability of the federal government to pick winners and losers in the first place, will foster the fairest and most prosperous economy for both Wall Street and Main Street.
Bernie Sanders helped perpetuate and exacerbate a system that cuts out the consumer from health care and places third-party middlemen in charge of our health care. United Health has enjoyed a monopoly on the insurance system since Sanders supported Obamacare, announcing a record $14 billion in profit for 2019. That’s a 15.5 percent increase from 2018. The company’s annual revenue has nearly doubled since the enactment of Obamacare.
Meanwhile, the regulatory and subsidy structure of Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid has created a monopoly for health care conglomerates to merge and acquire other businesses, essentially charting us toward the extinction of private medical practice in America. “Medicare for All” will simply take everything that is wrong already with the system and put every remaining person under the control of this monopoly of a few “private” health care administrators and insurers. Socialism pays well … to those who administer it.
Although both authentic conservatives and “principled” socialists share the same disdain for government-sponsored handouts to big banks, the banking industry in itself was not the source of the economic downturn of 2008, and trash-talking banks as an end to itself, as Bernie does, will not usher in an era of prosperity.
Social engineering policies supported by Sanders, such as Bill Clinton’s National Homeownership Strategy, coupled with the officious interventions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, created the entire culture that coerced banks to underwrite risky mortgages in order to please the central planners in Washington. It was these greedy government-sponsored entities that bought up almost all of the subprime mortgage securities. It was these government policies and agencies that gambled with taxpayer money and got bailed out by the government when their risky bets threatened to blow up our financial system.
In fact, it was the prized legislation of Bernie’s ideological twin, Elizabeth Warren – the Dodd-Frank bill – that created the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a government agency that can completely bypass the bankruptcy process and bail out companies deemed too big to fail. Dodd-Frank is something like the Obamacare of the financial industry and is another example of how the arsonists in the political class dress up as firefighters to solve the problems they helped create. The fact that this law was named after two politicians who embodied this big government collusion with the big banks is quite fitting.
Sanders and Warren are correct to assert that banking lobbyists have too much power in Washington. But the way to reduce their power is to eliminate government’s ability to pick winners and losers instead of empowering them to continue growing the government/Wall Street cronyist complex.
Picking winners and losers
Like all hard-core socialists, Sanders is content with government handouts to big business so long as they are presented in the form of a subsidy. He champions energy subsidies for green energy cronies who don’t pay taxes. He supports the ethanol mandate, which uses the boot of government to enrich a small subset of corporate farmers, while increasing the cost of food on families by as much as $2,000 per year. Small independent oil refineries are put out of business as a result of the socialist ethanol mandate and the big oil companies, which create a speculating trading business in the ethanol credits his policies created.
Sanders advocates draconian environmental regulations on energy production that actually works and a complete suspension of fracking that would have precluded the recent decline in energy prices. He opposes policies that will ramp up production and exportation of energy, which would lower prices even further for American consumers on a permanent basis and make us independent from the extortion of Russia and the Middle East.
What about big agriculture? Bernie Sanders voted for the 2018 farm bill, which creates subsidies for wealthy landowners and corporations to monopolize farming and box out family farms. According to the American Enterprise Institute, “50 percent of farms in the lower 70 percent of the crop sales distribution received no subsidy or program payments.” Bernie loves taxing the rich, but he loves subsidizing the rich even more. He hates hard-earned income when it causes inequality, but he loves subsidy inequality. Sanders despises income inequality when it’s earned fair and square, but he has no problem with subsidy inequality when it’s a handout, distorts markets, and contributes to endless debt.
One of the most glaring examples of Sanders supporting crony capitalism is his vote for the internet sales tax. The so-called Marketplace Fairness Act was pushed by K Street and the big brick- and-mortar retailers to create an interstate online tax cartel. This version of taxation without representation will punitively hurt small businesses, consumers, and low-tax states – all to grow government and benefit big business.
Sanders once promised that “Donald Trump and his billionaire friends under my policies are going to pay a hell of a lot more in taxes.” Indeed, under his plan for universal internal sales tax collection, many more Americans beyond Trump will pay “a hell of a lot more in taxes.” While the Supreme Court has since greenlit states to collect taxes on internet sales across state lines, Sanders as president will support legislation to make it a reality everywhere.
Indeed, there is nothing novel, compassionate, or populist about the Sanders worldview. It was summed up by Reagan long ago: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
Constitutional populism as the solution
In order to encourage true economic growth for everyone without dividing America into classes, we need to slash regulations for everyone and abolish subsidies for everyone.
The total cost of federal regulations in 2018 reached $1.9 trillion, which amounts to a $14,615 hidden tax per family every year, greater than any federal tax burden. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, this amounts to 20 percent of the average family budget of $51,000. The $1.9 trillion number is as much as the total receipts from corporate and personal income taxes combined. If we eliminated gratuitous and costly regulations and implemented congressional sunset powers over new regulations, both families and corporations would save more money, which in turn, creates more jobs, raises wages, and lowers the cost of living.
Finally, it’s impossible to ignore the issue of illegal immigration when discussing the “little guy.” Nothing embodies the worst of government for the rich and powerful to the detriment of ordinary Americans more than the elitist open borders/amnesty agenda. Illegal immigration has had a devastating effect on American workers, taxpayers, health care, education, and welfare – all to enrich big corporations and lobbyists who want to use lawlessness to artificially drive down wages.
Sadly, socialist populist leaders like Sanders have bought into the illegal immigrant-first agenda – hook, line and sinker. Sanders would wholesale decriminalize border crossings. Remember, there are 88 nations where the per capita GDP is lower than that of Guatemala, which stands at $4,471 as of 2017. That is likely well over one billion people living in similar or worse conditions than those coming to our border today, primarily from Central America. That would crush American workers and taxpayers and flood our communities with drugs, crime, social problems, and chaos in the schools. But Bernie’s wealthy donors would love it.
If Bernie Sanders is really concerned about wage growth in this country, he should join conservatives in the effort to restore the rule of law and prioritize the concerns of American workers and taxpayers ahead of the special interests and lobbyists. He should join in the conservative effort to protect the welfare system and Social Security from being illegally accessed by those encouraged to migrate here illegally by big business.
Ideally, there would be a lot of common ground to plow in a populist alliance between conservatives and liberals. But that would require courage on the part of liberals to buck the dogma of their party on critical issues, not just on some strategies – something Bernie Sanders is clearly been unwilling to do.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.