It’s that crazy time that comes every four years in America—-we’re choosing a president. And GregoryBresiger.com—a blog that advocates dramatic reductions in size and scope of government along with offering basic money management advice—is finally going to give our opinions on the five major candidates. And this group—three republicans and two democrats—is generally a frightening mix of career pols and mountebanks.
They are mostly the kind of people who would spend your tax dollars like drunken sailors. Given their public statements they quite possibly could plunge our nation into more needless wars. And yet curiously, none has come up an effective plan to combat the scourge of the 21st century: Islamic terrorism.
Let us begin with the Democrats.
Senator Bernie Sanders
Who couldn’t like Bernie? His personality is so unlike the campaign leader, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Sanders seems like someone’s kindly and generous uncle or grandfather. He shows up at Christmas time and wows everyone with presents that make everyone happy. No one asks the presents’ price tag. Uncle Bernie will handle that.
Sanders has promised almost everything to everyone who isn’t a millionaire, using a federal government already a big one but one that would expand even more. He promises to those of us not among the well-heeled that these government services—including “free” medical and college tuition—will cost the average person little or nothing.
This kindly uncle approach has been unusually successful with the young. That is ironic. They were among the biggest supporters of President Obama—another big promiser—in 2008. Yet today many of them are very unhappy. Eight years later it is acknowledged that the young are suffering high levels of unemployment and student loan debt. Millions of young Americans today live with their parents because they are unable to establish their own households. But Bernie Sanders is telling them he’ll reverse that.
After all, everyone, even people who have never heard of the economist Milton Friedman, instinctively know that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”
Check the Hills
Bernie Sanders wants to use a strategy as old as the hills. Make the rich pay through the nose. There is a Spanish word with an Arabic origin. The word is “ojala.” It is a word applicable to a million circumstances in life.
Ojala means if only. If only we could solve all our problems by just taxing the rich. If only there were more rich to go around (A problem of this strategy is defining who is rich. For instance, say you make $125,000 a year and are married with kids, you are not rich living in New York City or many other of our big cities. These are cities in which people are rooked by high taxes in part caused by pols who never get enough taxes. That’s commonly called “raising revenue” by our ruling class).
Six Cents Isn’t a Lot
There is another big problem of this soak the rich strategy besides defining who is actually rich. There is human nature. Do you want to raise tax rates on the rich? Do you want to raise them a lot? Maybe you think these policies, which have been tried before, will fill government coffers and ease the burden on the rest of us.
It has happened before. Once in the 1940s and 50s, America had top marginal tax rates of some 94 percent. You got to a point where your CPA told you: “From this point on, for the rest of the year, you can only keep six cents of every extra dollar you make.”
Many people would stop when they approached the top rate. Why labor—even at something you like—when you can keep so little? People would stop working for part of the year (And many movie stars and others earning high incomes did so in the 1940s and 1950s). That means the economy becomes less productive. I guarantee you this: In a Bernie Sanders presidency, if he gets his soak the rich policies through to pay for his expanded welfare state, many productive people will work, save and invest less. Less of these things—and we want as much as saving and investment as we can get—will hurt our economy.
Raise Taxes, Less Comes In
And, in raising taxes through the roof, Sanders will ultimately get less in tax revenue. That’s because he will have discouraged work. The latter is something no tax code should discourage, no matter the person’s status. In a healthy economy, everyone—from the humble to the rich—wants to improve himself or herself. Bernie Sanders’destructive economics wouldn’t permit that.
Sure Bernie and his socialist economics—Sanders is honest. He says he is socialist; for which I commend him—will unintentionally hurt the people he wants to help. So beware, young people. There will be fewer opportunities for you to get ahead. Assuming a two-term Bernie presidency, you will likely feel the same now that you have in an Obama presidency: disappointed.
And there is another issue that should make us think twice about this would be president who never stints with the promises (By the way, Bresiger’s rule of politics holds that the man or woman who promises the least is likely the best candidate). Sanders has not been pushed by the media on his foreign policy. And yet, given that we are living in the age of terrorism, this might be the most important issue that any presidential candidate will face. This statement—made recently by Sanders on the campaign trail and overlooked by a mainstream media that loves him—I believe should disqualify him from consideration for president, no matter how likeable or well intentioned:
“It’s time to end the quagmire of perpetual warfare in the Middle East. As president, I will.”
Yes, he said that. I understand that pols get carried away on the hustings. I realize that politicians get all worked up when the boob tube lights go, but please. This is an outlandish statement. What’s next? In a Sanders’ presidency cancer will be ended?
There will never be any more wars? Yet with Sanders’ promises to end all the problems of the Mideast, the United States, already with a huge defense budget, will need to expand it dramatically.
Senator Sanders is either flim-flaming us or he has no idea how profound and difficult are the problems of the Mid-East. For example, think of the success of the Camp David accords of 1979 under Jimmy Carter. The three parties to that agreement didn’t even touch Palestine because it was impossible. They limited themselves to the problems of Egypt and Israel and got a good agreement (Again, less is often more). However, let us remember that one of the courageous principals of that agreement, Egyptian President Sadat, was later killed by Islamic extremists.
The problems of the Mideast—many of which go back to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after WWI and the problems of a deteriorating empire through most of the 19th century—are not going to be solved by Bernie Sanders even if the United States was 10 times as strong as it is today. Even if it was as revered by the Arabs as it is generally by Israelis.
Sorry, Sanders’ flawed thinking on the Mideast is as bad as his socialist economics. It is the economics of more government and taking from the rich and giving to the poor. It is the dreams of a fellow with a wand. It sounds great until you take it out of the television studio and tried to apply to the real world.
Let’s find a realistic candidate. A man or woman who isn’t promising to square the circle. Let’s find someone with a sense of modesty and the limitations of existence and, most especially, the limitations of government, whose expansion almost always leads to disaster.
Next we’ll examine Sanders’ democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.