Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is running for the Democratic nomination for president, represents everything wrong with the populist redistributist left. Channeling his inner Hugo Chavez in an interview with CNBC, Sanders bemoaned the choice of deodorant and sneakers in this country, because children are starving. Via CNBC:
You can't just continue growth for the sake of growth in a world in which we are struggling with climate change and all kinds of environmental problems. All right? You don't necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country. I don't think the media appreciates the kind of stress that ordinary Americans are working on.
Sanders, of course, is mistaken on the fundamentals. Economic growth is not a goal for the sake of itself—economic growth ignited by the freeing of markets has lifted more people out of poverty in the last century than any other force in history. Choices in the market contribute that improvement of the human condition—not just because 23 choices of deodorant mean more jobs than one choice of deodorant but because in a very real sense more choices mean more wealth. Bernie Sanders and those attracted to his economically illiterate, anti-capitalist rhetoric live in a world where working conditions haven't changed since the 19th century, where the United States is perpetually one tax or spending cut away from collapsing into Mad Max style chaos.
Sanders peddles in the brand of populism where the wealthy are openly villainized, but he's careful not to say he begrudges Hillary Clinton for pulling in six figures a speech (for her insight, of course, not her political connections). He may be hedging his comments because he sees Clinton as vastly better than any Republican alternative, or he may be hedging his comments because he career hopes are for a similar speaking circuit. Here's the relevant exchange from CNBC:
HARWOOD: It came out in disclosure forms the other day that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, in the last 16 months, have made $30 million. What does that kind of money do to a politician's perspective on the struggles you were just talking about? Does it make it difficult for recipients of that kind of income to take on the system?
SANDERS: Well, theoretically, you could be a multibillionaire and, in fact, be very concerned about the issues of working people. Theoretically, that's true.
I think sometimes what can happen is that—it's not just the Clintons—when you hustle money like that, you don't sit in restaurants like this. You sit in restaurants where you're spending—I don't know what they spend—hundreds of dollars for dinner and so forth. That's the world that you're accustomed to, and that's the world view that you adopt.
It's a world view popular in the Washington, D.C.-area, where 5 of the ten wealthiest counties in America sit. Government is big business, for politicians and for business. Sure, "theoretically" out-of-touch politicians like Sanders may be "very concerned about the issues of working people." But they also have an obligation not to be so ignorant, because their policies, however well-intentioned they say they are for working folk, are destroying opportunities for all people of all classes. But, for Sanders and the rest, it's a good hustle if you can keep it.
Sanders is expected to have a big, symbolic campaign event in Burlington this afternoon. Ben & Jerry's, the Vermont ice cream company owned by socialists who, naturally, are fans of Sanders, will participate, by handing out free ice cream. Let's hope they've limited it to one choice in order to supply Vermont's hungry children too, or something.