Sen Bernie Sanders, I-VT, a candidate for president of the United States, recently delivered a speech at George Washington University opening his mind about what “democratic socialism” means to him. The result was illuminating, but perhaps not in the way the elderly firebrand politician intended. Vox published a transcript.
“Today, our Bill of Rights guarantees the American people a number of important constitutionally protected political rights. And while we understand that these rights have not always been respected and we have so much more work to do, we are proud that our constitution guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, a free press and other rights because we understand that we can never have true American freedom unless we are free from authoritarian tyranny.”
“Now, we must take the next step forward and guarantee every man, woman and child in our country basic economic rights – the right to quality health care, the right to as much education as one needs to succeed in our society, the right to a good job that pays a living wage, the right to affordable housing, the right to a secure retirement, and the right to live in a clean environment.”
“We must recognize that in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, economic rights are human rights. That is what I mean by democratic socialism.”
At this point, a line from “The Princess Bride” comes to mind. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
First of all, “democratic” socialism is a contradiction in terms, like melodious punk rock or peaceful terrorism. Socialism by its very nature is authoritarian.
The government takes over a great deal of the functions of the private sector and runs it as it sees fit. The voters have no say over how their health care is run, what their kids learn in school, or what kind of housing is available.
The government decides all of these and many other questions.
Oddly, Sanders does not call the system we have now capitalism. He thinks that because some people are more successful than others, we live under an oligarchy with rich guys, including Donald Trump, on top and the toiling masses on the bottom. The rhetoric is straight out of Karl Marx.
Sanders tries to brand his vision for a socialist American by comparing it to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. He does not mention that both government programs were failures.
The unemployment rate in the United States was much the same in 1941 as it was in 1933. Only the advent of World War II jump-started the economy by diverting FDR’s attention from tinkering with the economy to beating the Nazis and the Japanese.
The Great Society has spent trillions and has made the plight of the underclass worse.
Only when American presidents who believe in free markets come to power has the economy expanded and jobs have been created. Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump come to mind.
Sanders also seems to be confused about rights are. People have the right to free speech, to own a firearm, and a trial by jury because the government cannot take those away. While people should have access to good health care, education, housing, and a job, the government cannot give these things to people without taking wealth away from others.
The best government can do is to keep the economy humming, mainly by keeping its dirty mitts off of it, and at the most provide a safety net that encourages self-reliance.
Hilariously, Sanders, when Anderson Cooper put to him the question about what his “democratic” socialism would cost, replied, “Yeah, but I suspect that a lot of people in the country would be delighted to pay more in taxes if they had comprehensive health care as a human right.”
He went on to tout the Canadian health care system, without mentioning the horrendous wait times for sometimes life-saving procedures. The British National Health Service is even worse.
Sanders is also wrong about how much Americans love paying taxes. The last presidential candidate who thought that was Walter Mondale and he said so at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. President Reagan destroyed him in a 49-state blowout that year.
To understand what Sanders’ vision would be in real life, one should only look to Venezuela.
Democratic socialism has transformed that once prosperous country into something resembling “The Walking Dead.” Only in the case of that country, the shambling, growling figures are not zombies, but starving human beings, slowly dying from lack of everything, even hope.