LTE: Another Response to “Why Bernie Sanders’ Policies Make Sense”

Media is reflected in the glasses of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as he speaks outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. after meeting with President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Mike Crupi has already identified most of the practical problems inherent in Joshua Behrens’s Jan. 21 Bernie Sanders panegyric, so I’ll try to keep myself as brief as possible here. I actually enjoyed Mr. Behrens’s piece; political discourse is always good. Naturally, I don’t agree, either practically or philosophically, and I’ll try to lay out my reasons here.

Mr. Behrens’s favorite phrase (in the piece) is “fiscal conservative.” He uses the phrase, or a variation of it, seven times. I have to admit that I’m a little confused here. Behrens’s presumption, it seems to me (see his first sentence), is that “fiscal conservatism” is a good thing. Great! I’m a fiscal conservative too (and a social conservative, and a philosophical conservative, and a pedagogical conservative…but I digress). Either that, or he just wants fiscally conservative students to take a look at Bernie Sanders as—supposedly—a fiscally conservative candidate. (The second seems more likely, but Mr. Behrens keeps using “fiscally conservative” in a laudatory way.) Either way, I’m afraid that Mr. Behrens has a faulty understanding of fiscal conservatism.

“At the core of fiscal conservatism, however,” he writes, “is the belief that the government should foster economic growth, and that is exactly what Sanders is proposing.” Well… That may be what Sanders is proposing, but I can assure you that that’s not “fiscal conservatism.” The core of fiscal conservatism, I’ve always thought, was that private individuals and communities, not an all-intrusive government, should foster economic growth. At least, that’s what every conservative I’ve ever known has fought for.  (Honestly, Donald Trump is no more conservative than Sanders.)

Anyway, Mr. Behrens realizes the extensive, overwhelming, “obscene” (his well-chosen word) cost that Sanders’s health care plan would impose. His justification, however, sounds like it was taken right from Sanders’s campaign rhetoric. The “obscured, rose-tinted understanding” that Mr. Behrens alleges is in fact the rosy portrait that Sanders—and all socialists—paint. See Mike’s piece for a good dose of common sense poured onto that “socialism-is-amazing” picture (and then just look at Europe and Canada). What are the magic words? Oh, yeah—“Spend, spend, spend!” John Maynard Keynes, whose “school of economic thought” Behrens mentions, must be smiling in his grave.

From an historical perspective, I have to disagree with Mr. Behrens’s analysis of the New Deal. As many historians now agree, the New Deal did not “jumpstart a failing economy;” the production caused by World War II did.

Behrens’s last paragraph discusses that age-old question, “How the heck is Bernie [or any socialist] going to pay for this?” Yup, you guessed it—tax the rich! Who gets to decide who’s rich? Why, the people who are taxing them, of course. And when Sanders, or Mrs. Clinton, or any of our left-wing friends runs out of “the rich” to tax… Well, we won’t talk about that. Progress is happening here, and we silly conservatives can’t stand in the way of the coming brave new world.

Karl Salzmann

MCAS ’19

Featured Image by Carolyn Kaster – AP Photo