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Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders and Divisive Epithets

2016-01-20

A Gallup poll from June 2015 explored the most divisive labels that can be attached to a presidential candidate.  The old labels are a problem no longer.  Ninety-three percent of voters responding would vote for a Catholic for president, all other things being equal.  Ninety-two percent would vote for a woman or a black person.  Ninety-one percent would accept voting for a “Hispanic”, or a Jewish person.  Eighty-one percent could handle a Mormon.

Seventy-four percent would vote for a “gay” (and we don’t mean happy) which beats out evangelical Christians by one point.  This single statistic shows how much the country has changed.

The really bad labels are Muslim (sixty percent), atheist (58%), and worst of all, socialist (47%.)  So you can see that Bernie Sanders has a tough row to hoe right from the start, ignoring the Jewish, old white male, and happy handicaps for the moment.  Yes, I said “happy” as in “gay” or “carefree” or just plain smiling.  People won’t admit it, but they want their politicians to be angry, not happy.  They want their politicians to be like Donald Trump, full of fire, ready with a crude insult, and bursting with self-confidence.  They don’t want their elected officials to be cheerful, smiling, and free of anxiety.

The socialist part, I’m afraid, is a serious handicap.  Most people don’t understand that all modern states have to have socialist components in order to maintain the health and welfare of their citizens.  Social Security, Medicare, the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, and other necessities are essentially socialist concepts and programs.

Technically, the dictionary defines “socialism” as “ Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.”   The off-putting features of this form of social organization are the central or collective ownership of “the means of producing and distributing goods”, by which is meant factories, trucking companies, railroads, package delivery systems, and even airlines, shipping lines, pipelines, and power plants.

This definition of socialism would exclude such countries as Sweden, which is odd considering that almost all Americans think Sweden is a socialist country.  According to Wikipedia, 90% of Swedish “resources and companies” are privately owned, with 5% mixed and 5% fully government-owned.  This compares closely to the American economy, in which only the postal service, the air traffic control and navigation system, the weather forecasting system, some research establishments, and some of the military are fully government-owned.

The Swedish government has pursued a policy of privatization for companies which do not have features essential to the welfare of all, or which have features which would be improved by competition as opposed to monopolization.  Apparently they believe that monopolies should be controlled by the government, whereas industries or services in which there is a lot of competition should be allowed to respond to market forces.

The aspect of the Swedish economy which really smacks of “socialism” is the tax rate.  About 44% of GDP is tax revenue, whereas in the US, less than 18% of GDP is accounted for by taxes.  The taxes go to pay for universal health care, which costs about half what it does in the US; there is even a government-owned pharmaceutical retailing company.  Civil servants account for a third of the Swedish workforce.

Another difference that marks Sweden off from the US is union membership: seventy percent of Swedish workers are unionized, while less than thirty percent of American workers belong to unions.  There is close union-corporate cooperation and collective bargaining is standard.  This makes for a particularly “socialist” feel to Sweden.

Here is where Bernie Sanders earns his “socialist” reputation.  He is in favor of raising taxes on a number of powerful people and corporations.  He wants to make the tax system more progressive– that is, he wants wealthier people to pay a larger percentage of their income in taxes.  Despite conservative poo-pooing of this concept, mild tax increases on the wealthiest few can raise vast amounts of tax revenue and relieve the tax burdens of millions of ordinary Americans.

Studying Mr. Sanders’ web site and his exposition of his issue proposals is a brief education in what’s wrong with America.  For example, nearly a third of American children live in poverty– comparable to the rates in Turkey, Spain, Mexico, Greece, and Latvia, and much worse than the rates in Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia, Cyprus, and so on.  The only countries of the forty-one examined by UNICEF that are worse off are Latvia, Spain, Mexico, Greece, Israel, and a couple of others.  The United Kingdom is not far behind the US in proportion of children living in poverty.

Mr. Sanders indicts the wealth and income inequality weighing down America today:

“America now has more wealth and income inequality than any major developed country on earth, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is wider than at any time since the 1920s.”

[the wealth inequality present today closely matches the inequality in the late 1920’s just before the Wall Street Crash which precipitated the Great Depression.]

Mr. Sanders’ web site shows a diagram illustrating the fact that 0.1% of all Americans possess almost as much wealth as the lower 90% of all Americans.  Sanders quotes Pope Francis when the Pope said:

““Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

Mr. Sanders also quotes hard statistics when he says:

“There is something profoundly wrong when 58 percent of all new income since the Wall Street crash has gone to the top one percent.”

Another quote from the Sanders web site:

“Despite huge advancements in technology and productivity, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages. The real median income of male workers is $783 less than it was 42 years ago; while the real median income of female workers is over $1,300 less than it was in 2007. “

One final zinger from Sanders’ site:

“Breaking up huge financial institutions so that they are no longer too big to fail. Seven years ago, the taxpayers of this country bailed out Wall Street because they were too big to fail. Yet, 3 out of the 4 largest financial institutions are 80 percent bigger today than before we bailed them out. “

Mr. Sanders advocates investing over a trillion dollars in repairs to our crumbling infrastructure of roads, bridges, dams, and so on.  He also advocates investment in green energy production:

“The fossil fuel industry spends billions and billions of dollars lobbying and buying candidates to block virtually all progress on climate change. At the national level where companies have to report what they spend on lobbying and campaign contributions, the oil companies, coal companies and electric utilities spent a staggering $2.26 billion in federal lobbying since 2009 and another $330 million in federal campaign contributions. Even in Washington, that’s a lot of money.

But that’s just the part we know about. Thanks to the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the fossil fuel industry can pour unlimited amounts of money into the political system without having to disclose how much or where they spend it.”

Here’s another Bernie Sanders proposal to limit the influence of profit-making companies on politics:

“Bernie introduced a constitutional amendment that prohibits for-profit corporations from making contributions or expenditures into political campaigns.”

How simple is that?  Now you can see why Bernie Sanders cannot be elected: the big companies and the rich people will not allow it.  If he shows sufficient popular support to have a serious chance, there will be an outpouring of negative propaganda against him such as you have never seen the like.  “Socialist” will be the least of the epithets they will attach to this happy, friendly unelectable man.

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