Opinion: Sanders’ views are now mainstreamn
Your recent (Sept. 7, 2015) editorial on the cost of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ various proposals for universal health care and other social safety net programs raised only part of a critical question facing our society. At the bottom of the debate about the affordability of these proposals are Mr. Sanders’ concerns about economic inequality.
He unabashedly embraces a vision of “democratic socialism” as a pathway to restoring some balance. The “costs” of government programs that would move us in that direction amount to significant income redistribution. The fact that this cost shift would be out in the open makes it appear to be “revolutionary” as Mr. Sanders openly, and even proudly admits.
We are about to have a great debate in our society about the “S” word, socialism. It will not be a debate about ideology, and probably too rarely about morality, which is where Mr. Sanders is coming from. It will probably obscure the fact that the once “revolutionary” and radical policies of socialism, such as social security, unemployment insurance, state health care systems, maternal health and leave, and public education, not to mention equal rights for women and minorities, were all once highly controversial and deeply threatening policy aspirations sought by socialists. These are now mainstream and established policies in most of the industrialized world, although we in the U.S. are notorious slow adopters.
Americans, especially politically conservative Americans, claim to deplore big government programs and government interference in business, often citing the cost factor. This is the ideological position of the right. However, when big business and big finance manipulate “free markets” and bring them to the verge of global collapse, these same individuals seek the nationalization of debt and scramble for bailouts. Clearly ideology and views on the cost of Sanders’ proposals arise directly from one’s wallet and not from moral considerations, as Pope Francis and Bernie Sanders argue.
Sadly, there is too little discussion of the “costs” and murky income redistribution of the recent decade caused by a Federal Reserve policy that keeps interest rates at near zero for pensioners and middle-class savers. The same monetary policy has inflated stock prices for those affluent enough to have such holdings. (The giant insurance company Swiss Re has calculated the income loss due to low interest rates at one half trillion dollars and the increase in stock prices at $9 trillion, between 2009 and 2013.)
The Fed is not the sole cause of this growing economic inequality. The Justice Department does not, except in the most rare instances, jail executives manipulating commodities markets, CFOs giving fake economic reports, heads of banks manipulating international borrowing rates, or insider traders. Super wealthy CEOs leave their positions with golden parachutes after running their companies into the ground, reducing the labor force, and gutting pension systems.
It is troubling that the costs of these capitalist and free market “programs” for our society are not put side by side with Mr. Sanders’ “costly” proposals.