Recently, Sen Bernie Sanders attended a town hall broadcast by the Fox News Network. On the face, the appearance was not as dangerous to the “democratic socialist” as it seemed to be.
The co-hosts, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum were not too aggressive in their questioning. The audience was largely composed of Bernie supporters or people who at least claimed to be on the fence.
The Washington Examiner notes one exception when a woman named Margret who had intimate knowledge of the sort of socialism that Bernie Sanders favors (whether he admits to it or now) rose to pose a question.
“As someone from Russia, a country that was greatly impacted by the negative effects of socialism, what assurances can you offer myself and other people impacted by socialism that Democratic socialism will not have the same results?”
Sanders was quick to deny that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was ever, in fact, socialist.
Here's the rest of his answer.
He doesn't explain how the nordic system represents his brand Democratic Socialism when these countries have in fact been embracing market reforms over the years that allow them to maintain their large welfare states. pic.twitter.com/85W0twh0J2
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) March 9, 2020
“What happened and existed in the Soviet Union was not socialism. It was authoritarian communism. Communism, whether in Cuba, whether in the Soviet Union, whether in other countries, was marked by totalitarianism, was marked by throwing millions of people into the gulag. Stalinism was about as bad as it got.”
The problem is, as the Examiner noted, Sanders has been in the past effusive with praise of the systems once practiced in the old USSR and currently in Cuba. To be sure, he has said, Cuba, in particular, has some bad aspects to its government (its tendency to imprison and shoot people) but it has a great literacy program and its healthcare system is first-rate. Other experts have noted that Sanders was being a bit too enthusiastic about the way Cuba teaches its citizens to read and how it dispenses healthcare.
At any rate, Sanders claimed that he is not in favor of the boot in the face version of socialism as practiced in the Soviet Union and Cuba. He favors the cute and cuddly version of socialism that he claims is extant in countries like Sweden and Denmark.
Fox News notes that MacCallum interjected that, strictly speaking, neither Sweden nor Denmark is socialist. Sweden is, in particular, lowering taxes and cutting regulations. Experts have noted that the Nordic countries are, in some ways, more capitalistic and free-market than the United States. They do have very generous social welfare programs, though not as all-encompassing as Bernie claims.
Besides, MacCallum concluded, the populations of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden are much smaller and more homogeneous than that of the United States. Therefore, attempting to enact Nordic-style social welfare systems in the United States likely would not work.
Fox News goes on to say that Bernie Sanders responded, “I’m not an expert on the current economy in Sweden. They have gone a long way to eliminate poverty, to make sure that all of their people have the basic needs that they need to live good lives.”
It should be noted that while the Nordic countries do offer free tuition for public universities, students are responsible for other expenses, such as housing and food. Also, Business Insider notes that Denmark’s system of free tuition has created a culture of what Danes call “eternal students.” A lot of young people are afraid to graduate and enter the real, adult world.
Forbes notes that Bernie Sanders’s dream of enacting a Nordic-style “socialist” system in the United States is a fantasy. The reason is that socialism has already failed in the Nordic counties and they are moving away from that system.
Sweden, for example, has drastically cut or eliminated a variety of taxes, including those that Sanders favors, such as the tax on dividends and capital gains and a wealth tax. Sweden also cut back its welfare expenditures. The result:
“The Swedish population willingly accepted that stripping back the welfare system would result in a more drastic decline in equality than almost anywhere else in the world. The Gini coefficient, a widely used measure of income distribution, grew by around 30% between the mid-1980s and the late 2000s.”
Sweden gave up a lot of its social welfare but got much more in exchange.
“As a result, Sweden lost its ranking as the world’s most egalitarian country. But this did not seem to bother the Swedes all that much. After all, despite the significant decline in equality compared with Sweden’s socialist phase, prosperity increased for the vast majority.”
The irony is obvious. If the United States were to try to mimic the Nordic countries, it would reject Bernie’s brand of “democratic socialism” and instead embrace the sort of reforms President Trump and President Reagan before him enacted.