Newspaper column: Could a socialist be the Democratic presidential nominee?

To their eternal ignominy Nevada Democratic caucus voters have helped jump start the presidential candidacy of self-identified democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders, a man who could not have voted for himself if he lived here because he is not a registered Democrat.

The Vermont independent senator won 47 percent of the state’s equivalent delegates, picking up strong pluralities in 10 counties, a 78 percent majority in Eureka and a 58 percent majority in Esmeralda. Tom Steyer won Mineral, while Pete Buttigieg took Douglas, Lincoln, Nye and Pershing. Steyer and Buttigieg both dropped out after poor showings in South Carolina this past weekend.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who won handily in South Carolina, finished second in Nevada overall.

With Super Tuesday this week there were 1,344 delegates at stake in 14 states — 415 in California alone — on the way to the 1,991 needed to win the Democratic nomination outright. Biden now leads Sanders by 75 delegates.

Sanders on the stump has been making a whole host of mostly socialistic promises — Medicare for All, free college, Green New Deal, open borders, workplace democracy, housing for all, expanded Social Security, free child care and pre-kindergarten, justice and safety for all, teacher raises, forgiving medical debt, fair banking, jobs for all, women’s rights, racial justice, gun safety, rights for the disabled, rights for all forms of gender identity, revitalizing rural areas, getting corporate money out of politics, corporate accountability, legal pot, fair trade.

In a recent op-ed in the Las Vegas newspaper Sanders even promised: “Together, we will make sure that no child in Nevada goes hungry. Hundreds of thousands of Nevada school children are in need of school lunches. Instead of saddling families with debt and stigma, we will fund universal school meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

In Bernie’s brave new world, as in Aldous Huxley’s, “parent” is a dirty word. The state will take care of everything and everyone will be just a cog in the socialist machine.

To pay for it all, he’ll just tax the rich, like in that old rock tune “I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After: “Tax the rich, feed the poor/ ‘Til there are no rich no more.” What will he do when he runs out of rich people?

Sanders is reportedly especially embraced by so-called millennials who apparently have no concept of the price of socialism as recorded repeatedly in history — the re-education camps, the gulags, the purges, the lack of free speech or press, the lack of private property — such as the millennials’ beloved cellphones.

According to a recent Heritage Foundation article, a YouGov survey reported that 44 percent of young people between the ages of 16 and 29 would prefer to live in a socialist nation rather than a capitalist country.

“Another seven percent would choose communism. However, the same poll revealed that only 33 percent of the respondents could correctly define socialism as based on the common ownership of economic and social systems as well as the state control of the means of production,” the article states. “What most millennials mean by ‘socialism’ seems to be a mix of our welfare state and what they perceive to be Swedish democratic socialism. But Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries including Denmark favor the free market and are content with private rather than government ownership of their major industries. However, Danish domestic spending including comprehensive health care has a high price — a top personal income tax of 57 percent.”

Sanders himself has taken recently to apologizing for the excesses of socialist regimes by trying to point to some positives.

“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know?” Sanders said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” in a recent interview. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

They might be able to read, but just ask the throngs of Cuban expatriates in Florida what they were allowed to read.

How many Sanders supporters have any inkling of the carnage due to socialism? According to “The Black Book of Communism,” published by Harvard University Press, the total deaths due to socialist dictators from Stalin to Mao to Pol Pot to Castro and others is 100 million. Still want socialism?

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

 

Editorial: Steyer ups ante in bidding war for votes

All of the candidates still seeking the Democratic presidential nomination have at one time or the other advocated doubling the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Recently billionaire businessman Tom Steyer upped the ante in his vote buying scheme by calling for tripling the minimum wage to $22 an hour.

As The Wall Street Journal editorialists point out, this is not a serious campaign ploy. It is the punchline of a Republican joke. “When liberals call for a nationwide $15 minimum wage, conservatives often offer a half-serious rhetorical response: Why stop there?” the editorial recounts, adding that Steyer doesn’t get the joke.

Tom Steyer illustration

At a campaign stop in South Carolina Steyer told his audience, “The fair number should be $22 an hour. That should be the minimum wage in the United States of America: $22. Think about what this country would be like if we had a $22 minimum wage: completely different.”

Yes, think about the number of people who would be unemployed. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, though a number of states and cities have raised their minimum wages, with often counterproductive results. One study found the average low-wage worker in Seattle lost $125 a month because the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour and hours were cut.

This past year the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that somewhere between 1.3 million and 3.7 million would lose their jobs if the minimum wage were raised to $15 an hour. What would that number be at $22? How many businesses would be bankrupted by such a wage hike?

A Cato Institute analysis in 2012 found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent. Image what a 200 percent increase would do.

The problem is that study after study has found that raising the minimum wage does not lift more people out of poverty, but rather its net effect is to actually increase the portion of families that are poor and near-poor, according to an analysis of those studies by the Heritage Foundation. This is because a few will see higher income, others will have their work hours reduced and some will drop from minimum wage to zero wage due to layoffs and businesses closing their doors.

But all the Democratic candidates are on board for raising the minimum wage.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has called for $15 an hour and indexing to the median hourly wage so low-wage workers keep up with middle-income workers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “A job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it,” calling $7.25 a starvation wage.

Pete Buttigieg could also phase out the subminimum for tipped workers.

Warren also would index the minimum wage to median hourly wages.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar would start in her first 100 days in office by raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour.

Mike Bloomberg would hike the minimum wage and index it to inflation.

They are all in the same choir. Just one is singing much more loudly than the others.

As Thomas Sowell points out in his book “Basic Economics,” “Making it illegal to pay less than a given amount does not make a worker’s productivity worth that amount — and, if it is not, that worker is unlikely to be employed. Yet minimum wage laws are almost always discussed politically in terms of the benefits they confer on workers receiving those wages. Unfortunately, the real minimum wage is always zero, regardless of the laws, and that is the wage that many workers receive in the wake of the creation or escalation of a government-mandated minimum wage, because they either lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force.”

Nevada’s Democratic caucus is Saturday. It doesn’t look like Democratic voters have much choice on this issue.

Now that Nevada has election day voter registration, we wonder how many Republicans might switch over just to keep this bidding war alive. Not suggesting it, of course.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.