By Paul Mulholland
Bernie Sanders is right on some issues, but on the issues that he is wrong, he is very wrong. His proposed economic policies are so outrageous that no thinking person should take him seriously. A $15 federal minimum wage would dramatically reduce the demand for labor, particularly for poor people and the youth. His hostility to international trade undermines his own goal of reducing inequality.
On Wednesday, March 2, a blog post was published on The Signal’s website entitled “We the Campus: Trump, Sanders and Framing the Right Message,” by Jonathan Taylor. It claims Bernie is above appealing to fear, despite his many appeals to anti-corporate hysteria. Taylor makes the thoughtful argument that Trump and Sanders are “polar opposites” for no apparent reason other than the fact that the author clearly likes Sanders and dislikes Trump (this would indeed make them opposites). When you listen to Bernie “with a critical ear,” as the author encourages, you will hear a message very similar to Trump’s.
I will offer some brief notes on what makes Sanders a decent candidate. He is very good on civil liberties and opposes unconstitutional domestic spying. He also endorses the legalization of recreational marijuana. He is right when he said that illegal immigrants should have an opportunity to be Americans. He takes the bold position that police who murder people should be imprisoned. He also could offer Hillary Clinton some ideas on foreign policy, as I wrote about in an earlier opinion piece on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
It really is a shame that Bernienomics is complete garbage. There is perhaps a short list of high-wage cities that could cope with a $15 minimum wage, although none that are likely to benefit from it. The nation as a whole would certainly suffer from it. It is true that modest increases in the minimum wage rarely lead to significant job losses. However, a $15 minimum wage is not a modest increase. Sanders would roughly double the minimum wage in most states. And since it is a federal minimum wage, it would apply to all businesses in the country engaging in interstate or international trade, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The first common argument against increases in the minimum wage is that it will increase prices for consumers. According to The Economist, the poor are disproportionately vulnerable to expensive consumer goods because they spend more of their income on them. The second argument is that it will lead to layoffs and delayed hiring of low-wage workers. In other words, a $15 minimum wage will hurt the people it is meant to help. Businesses will not readily lower their profits, so in response to such a dramatic increase in labor costs, they will take other measures to reduce costs, such as automating labor-intensive jobs (labor-saving machines improve the lives of most people, but not for those who are replaced by them) or businesses will raise prices. Either of these would harm poor Americans in particular.
The sheer size of this increase will make labor effectively impossible to pay in some parts of the U.S. because many businesses will not be able to afford the new legal wage. When this happens, the infamous black market argument begins to apply to poor wage-laborers. Many workers will be paid below the $15 mark, off the books, and will lose all their legal labor protections as a result. A minimum wage this high would outlaw an entire economic class of Americans.
What America needs in order to increase wages is more competition in the market. If this were to happen, employers would have to compete with one another for employees and bid up wages, and they couldn’t readily increase prices to counter this because they would also have to compete against one another for consumers. A $15 minimum wage would ruin competition in the market because only large businesses could even hope to comply with it, driving small businesses out of the economy.
This point on competition also helps to explain why Sanders is wrong on international trade. According to his Website, Sanders has historically opposed all free trade agreements, especially the larger ones such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He claims, like Donald Trump, that various Asian and Latin American countries are taking advantage of free trade to take our jobs. Most of the evidence is to the contrary. Free trade makes all those nasty corporations compete against foreign businesses, forcing them to raise wages or risk losing their trained workers, and maintain affordable pricing or risk losing market share. If Toyota wants to hire Americans (they currently employ over 30,000 Americans), and sell quality cars to them, why shouldn’t they be allowed to? Trade also allows Americans to buy cheaper and more diverse goods from abroad, and when goods are cheaper, Americans are effectively richer.
Bernie also offers a new order of fear mongering and corporatophobia. Every issue from global warming to poverty can be blamed on money in politics according to Sanders. He, like Trump, claim to be immune to special interests. Their crazy ideas are entirely their own. Trump and Sanders both peddle the same anti-modern drivel and target the same audience. According to the Washington Post, both are wildly popular with blue collar workers and white men. According to BBC News similar dynamic exists in France, where the Socialists and the neo-Fascist National Front party compete for the same voters. If Trump and Sanders are “polar opposites,” as Taylor suggests, why do the same demographics support them? Don’t let all Bernie’s free gifts and undeliverable promises cloud your good judgment. He is a lunatic in lunatic’s skin.
On top of not knowing how to manage the economy, Sanders presided over arguably the largest scandal in the history of the Veterans Association’s (VA) health system. According to The Daily Beast, dozens of Veterans died waiting for care at Phoenix Veterans Health Administration, and over 100,000 waited for over nine months for care, all on Bernie’s watch. Instead of looking for a solution, he stood up for the VA claiming in a May 2014 interview with Nation Magazine claiming that the VA provides quality care, and that the whole scandal, like all the nation’s problems, was created by the Koch brothers and “money interests.”
And this is to say nothing of Bernie’s plan to tax the U.S. to death and expand a Social Security program which, according to its own trustees, is already running a deficit and will be insolvent by 2035. Like Taylor said, “It is vital that the public take a long, hard look at what their candidate is really saying before casting their ballots.” Expect for most Americans to get significantly poorer under a Sanders Presidency. But that’s another thing he has in common with Trump: he will never be president.
Students share opinions around campus
Are you feeling the Bern?
“I don’t really (follow) politics… (But) I do believe that he’s for the people and he’s the lesser evil (of all the candidates).”
“I’m a fan… I think that he genuinely stands for his beliefs compared to (Hillary Clinton).”