With Bernie Sanders gaining widespread notoriety by challenging Hillary Clinton this year for the Democratic nomination, his record as a “Democratic-Socialist” has come under examination. He’s the only self-described “socialist” in the United State Senate, which certainly bears some further exploring.

The dictionary definition of “socialism” is:

A political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

However, it’s not that simple, as Oxford goes on to explain:

The term “socialism” has been used to describe positions as far apart as anarchism, Soviet state communism, and social democracy; however, it necessarily implies an opposition to the untrammeled workings of the economic market. The socialist parties that have arisen in most European countries from the late 19th century have generally tended toward social democracy

Interestingly, as noted in Oxford, Europe tends toward “social democracy,” which is defined as:

A form of socialism pursued by democratic rather than autocratic or revolutionary means, especially by respecting a democratically elected legislature as the source of political change; (also more generally) moderate or centrist socialism.

So Bernie Sanders is not advocating nationalizing of industries, such as in states such as Venezuela. And, as noted above, there are many forms of socialism. That brings us to a surprising article in the Huffington Post—“Bernie Sanders is Not the Socialist Conservatives Should be Scared of.”

Few Americans would support turning all public roads private with toll booths at every corner or being forced to write a check to the fire department before they put out a fire at their house. Polls also show that Americans are very fond of some of the most socialist policies currently at work in the U.S. such as Social Security, Medicare and the Military.

It would also seem likely that the majority of Americans support socialist programs like public parks, state snow removal, border security, sewer systems, the Hoover dam, the VA, prisons, public libraries, police, the postal service, the court system, free lunch program, and public schools.

The article calls Chapter 11 Bankruptcy a “social safety net” and goes on to complain that Donald Trump has used it four times, to protect his wealth—to the detriment of creditors and employees. It also points out that Trump has taken government handouts in the form of tax breaks, to “bribe” him to locate in an area. Just one such Trump tax abatement cost tax payers $60 million in the first decade of a 40 year agreement. States and cities have “redistributed” taxpayer wealth to corporations and wealthy individuals to the tune of $70 Billion, last year, alone.

What about Social Security? Did you know there’s a cap on taxation for Social Security? After a certain level, the wealthy just stop paying, and it costs Social Security $100 Billion every year, according to economist Paul Solman.

Meanwhile, the libertarian Cato Institute says that we are losing $100 Billion a year in unnecessary “corporate welfare.”

While corporate welfare may be popular with policymakers who want to aid home-state businesses, it undermines the broader economy and transfers wealth from average taxpaying households to favored firms. Corporate welfare also creates strong ties between politicians and business leaders, and these ties are often the source of corruption scandals in Washington. Americans are sick and tired of “crony capitalism,” and the way to solve the problem is to eliminate business subsidy programs.

Corporate welfare doesn’t aid economic growth and it is an affront to America’s constitutional principles of limited government and equality under the law. Policymakers should therefore scour the budget for business subsidies to eliminate. Budget experts and policymakers may differ on exactly which programs represent unjustified corporate welfare, but this study provides a menu of about $100 billion in programs to terminate.

Bernie Sanders’ form of socialism is having tax payers provide benefits for individuals directly, such as paying for college tuition. But the other form of socialism is redistributing wealth upward, to rich corporations and individuals—hoping the benefit would, somehow, “trickle down.”

12 COMMENTS

  1. Bernie made clear when he began campaigning that he is “a Democratic Socialist”. Fear-mongers (#HillNo) & Republicans seized on the “Socialist” label and frantically pushed the “Commie” button. God save us from Trump! He’ll have the nuclear button pushed within weeks of taking office with his boorish mindset & indiscriminate rants.

    • But then, Bernie has exhibited an attraction to the USSR model of “socialism”. He took his honeymoon in Moscow, not in Helsinki.

      • Actually, it was Yaroslavl, not Moscow. The trip was an official delegation from Burlington to cement the two cities’ sister-city relationship.

  2. I appreciate this article… It’s been a long time argument that I drive within our community. However, I believe it needs to go a step farther…

    The truth is that Bernie is ‘no’ socialist… Not in any shape or form. And that’s not to drag down ‘socialism’, but to simply state the facts. ‘Democratic Socialism’ is a made up term; it means nothing in real world application, and yet everything to anyone on fantasy island. It’s not a real thing; anyone wearing ‘that’ badge gets to make up what it stands for, which means it ultimately stand for nothing.

    … It’s ‘Bullshit’. It’s a total fabrication to signify ‘difference’. And I say that as a Sanders supporter. Bernie wanted to stand out; he needed to stand out. He’s been fighting a corrupt system since day one, and he needed to be a dangerous flavor of koolaid to entice his ever growing ‘Revolution’.

    The truth is that his policies do not control the ‘distribution or production’ of anything. Even with universal healthcare, there would always be a private option for those willing to pay extra. Bernie ‘coined’ his Democratic Socialism to stand out as something different, which has both helped and hurt his cause. In my opinion, it has cost him this election… It was a dumb, yet spirited gamble, that has proven to be his demise. There is simply too much ‘fear mongering’ around the word ‘socialism’, for him too secure a nomination.

    I love the fact that this writer can see through the minutiae of politics.. The truth is that ‘fear mongers’ declared social security and Medicare as ‘socialist’ programs when they were introduced, just as they are doing now… Yet most working Americans have a 401k option, or working healthcare option. They are not socialistic programs mandated on all, but rather a base ‘quality of life’ guarantees for the less fortunate.

    Bernie is only looking to employ base standards for healthcare and the workforce to protect the people from industry that had proven to take advantage of them. He wants basic rights for us all. And one must wonder the motives for those who fight him… I mean, wasn’t our Government built of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE, and most importantly, for the PEOPLE? We should all ponder on that…

    • Democratic Socialism is NOT a made up term. It has been around long before Bernie ever ran for office. Yes, SSI and Medicare are socialist and there’s nothing wrong with that, as are public roads, public schools, police stations, fire departments, the US military, environmental and industrial regulation, medical R&D, or any other kind of social investment that the entire society benefits from. Rather than falling prey to the fear mongers, why not put them in their place with the TRUTH?

      As for you’re claim that MOST Americans have a 401k or working healthcare option, that’s simply not true.

      Most implies almost all: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/most
      And not only is your claim way off the mark, but to even suggest that a majority have a work related retirement plan is extremely misleading:
      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-21/bad-math-68-million-americans-no-401-k-epic-savings-crisis

      Just how many people in the restaurant business do you think have any kind of healthcare or retirement plan? There are people who work in that industry 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, and have ZERO benefits of any kind! No health insurance, no retirement, no vacation, no sick time, etc… We basically have a system of class warfare in this country and yes I agree, Senator Sanders is the ONLY one out there making us take a long hard look at the slave class this country has created and trying to do all he can to change that so that no matter what occupation you have, you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and not thrown out into the streets to die of starvation or exposure when you are no longer able to work. Funny how the ONLY person WALKING the Christian path running for the presidency this election is of Jewish descent, but then again, so was Jesus so maybe not so surprising after all.

      • So many Americans are misinformed as to what Social Democracy is. Social Democracy has been around in the European democracies for many years. The current president of France is a Social Democrat. As a Canadian I`m well aware that most Americans are like “The Captain” and are unaware of social democracy and equate it with communism which it is not. It is fitting that the two women in this forum are aware of what Social Democracy is and the men are not. Women are beginning to bring great changes in not only politics but in science and many other fields in the western world. My own dentist is a woman and far better than any male dentist that I`ve ever had. In North America you`ll find more women on the left than men and I think it is because up until now they`ve been subordinate to men. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the western world. It costs billions of dollars to keep people in jails and does more harm than good to these people to keep them there. This is one the things that social democracy has changed in the the rest of the western world except in the USA. The world is changing and women with their more nurturing oriented ideas are responsible for this change.

        • You obviously need to reread my comment, because it’s appearant that you misunderstood the point. Anyone following politics knows that there’s a new definition for Democratic Socialism every time a candidate invokes the term… And that’s besides the point, because it’s appearant you think I’m some how against Bernie, which is the total opposite of the truth…

          YOU either didn’t read the full post, or YOU failed to understand it… Either way, that’s YOUR problem. I support Bernie, and I, as a man of God; Christian; moral human being support taking care of our poor & sick.

          Bernie is the closest thing we have as an honest politician, and I 100% support his candidacy. I pointing out a simple truth; he’s not a socialist… Not that I’m attacking socialism, but rather stating facts. NOTHING he is proposing is anything related to ‘socialism, and with an ever evolving term of ‘Democratic Socialism’, any historian knows the phrase is nothing more than verbal plado to signify difference… Bernie’s system would IN FACT be Capitalism, but simply with a few more labor laws to protect the people. THAT is fact by definition.

          The problem is that he’s not embracing that truth, coupled with the fear mongering around the word “Socialism’. Bernie is NOT (by DEFINITION) a socialist…. Nothing even close. Look up the definition. He’s not a Democratic Socialist, he’s an advocate of human rights within a Capitalist system. That makes him a damn fine human being, and he should embrace his actions without muddying them up with false labels. I’m NOT attacking socialism, I’m not even COMMENTING on Socialism’, other than stating clear fact that Bernie has nothing to do with it.

          IF YOU READ my full comment, you would understand that I support Bernie, Life, and basic human rights for all….

      • You obviously need to reread my comment, because it’s appearant that you misunderstood the point. Anyone following politics knows that there’s a new definition for Democratic Socialism every time a candidate invokes the term… And that’s besides the point, because it’s appearant you think I’m some how against Bernie, which is the total opposite of the truth…

        YOU either didn’t read the full post, or YOU failed to understand it… Either way, that’s YOUR problem. I support Bernie, and I, as a man of God; Christian; moral human being support taking care of our poor & sick.

        Bernie is the closest thing we have as an honest politician, and I 100% support his candidacy. I pointing out a simple truth; he’s not a socialist… Not that I’m attacking socialism, but rather stating facts. NOTHING he is proposing is anything related to ‘socialism, and with an ever evolving term of ‘Democratic Socialism’, any historian knows the phrase is nothing more than verbal plado to signify difference… Bernie’s system would IN FACT be Capitalism, but simply with a few more labor laws to protect the people. THAT is fact by definition.

        The problem is that he’s not embracing that truth, coupled with the fear mongering around the word “Socialism’. Bernie is NOT (by DEFINITION) a socialist…. Nothing even close. Look up the definition. He’s not a Democratic Socialist, he’s an advocate of human rights within a Capitalist system. That makes him a damn fine human being, and he should embrace his actions without muddying them up with false labels. I’m NOT attacking socialism, I’m not even COMMENTING on Socialism’, other than stating clear fact that Bernie has nothing to do with it.

        IF YOU READ my full comment, you would understand that I support Bernie, Life, and basic human rights for all.

        • There are variations in socialism just like any other forms of governance. There are no hard cut rules to socialism. In Sweden and Norway you will find the most advanced forms, In countries like Britain, France and Spain they have milder forms hence they call themselves Social Democrats. The fact remains though they are always Democratic. Despite the fact that the old USSR called itself the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics they weren`t socialist they were communist and didn`t allow democracy or elections. All socialists allow free enterprise they do not however allow corporations to have unchecked control over nations. At one time they believed that government should control key industries now a days none believe that anymore. Most socialist governments believe society should be allowed to progress and welcome change, right wing governments don`t like change unless it gives corporations complete control over ordinary people. What Bernie Sanders has recognized is that it is rather uncertain that the US really is a democracy anymore rather that it has become a Oligarchy controlled by the rich and powerful. .Despite his advanced years it is rather admirable that he fights on supported by ordinary people like yourselves. I hope that if Hillary wins she invites him to join her cabinet.

          • All good points, and in reality, I think we’re arguing the same side of different coins…

            However, the fact remains that ‘Socialism’ has a definition, and Bernie’s proposal literally has nothing to do with it.

            Is there variations/exceptions within ‘socialism’? Yes, as you stated (and I agree), there is. There are also variations/exceptions to Capitalism. For instance, America (a Capitalist state) has ‘social security’, ‘Medicare’, ‘Medicaid’, ‘food stamps’, ‘labor laws’, and many more governmental progrmas designed to help/protect its people from unfettered Capitalism. Many of these programs were also labeled to be ‘socialistic’ in nature (at the time of adoption), however, we are still defined as a Capitalist country.

            Why? The reason is simple…
            Even with these programs, the government does not control distribution or production of anything that is not already available in a free/private market. While financial situations vary from one to another, the fact remains that there are thriving private markets for retirement, medical care, food, ect.

            Bernie is not suggesting any major systimatic changes to what we have (today)… He’s simply adding to that recipe. He’s expanding Medicare, which is in place today. He’s expanding labor laws that are in place today. It’s still a free market, and he will not be controlling the ‘distribution’ or ‘production’ of anything (or anything even remotely close to ‘socialism’).

            So while both ‘Socialism’ & ‘Capitalism’ have variations, my point is simply to drive at the reality that Bernie is not driving change on our current system (which is Capitalism); he’s driving change within, tweaking the same policies that have been tweaked under the Capitalism flag since it’s inception.

            It’s almost a moot point, except that the word ‘socialism’ caries baggage from fear mongers… Tag on ‘Democratic Socialist’, and we change nothing to the fear already spread amongst the people. Education should be the answer, but sadly it’s not. At this point in the game, avoiding a tag line (which in fairness he doesn’t really meet anyway) is the better solution. He’s advocating human rights; run on that without labels.

            • Technically, Bernie has always been an Independent. There IS a “Socialist Party,” but he’s not part of it. It was not until last year that he identified himself as a Democrat, and then, only to run for president.

              Even then, he didn’t want to be called a “Democrat,” so he uses the term “Democratic Socialist.” It’s probably a poor choice, since “Democratic Socialist” has a dictionary definition which is quite different from “Social Democrat.”

              http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/14-things-bernie-sanders-has-said-about-socialism-120265

              “I myself don’t use the word socialism,” he said in 1976. . .Even when Sanders ran for mayor of Burlington in 1981, “Bernie never mentioned the word ‘socialist’ in his campaign,”. . .

              When he won, though, it wasn’t Sanders’ choice anymore.

              “The media probably made that label stick,” said Alan Abbey, who covered Sanders at the time for the Burlington Free Press. “It makes for good headlines.”. . .Two months later, in the Boston Phoenix, he said he didn’t want to be “a spokesman for socialism.”

              Apparently, it was the media which “named” him a socialist, and after fighting it for years, he just decided to embrace it.

              This link lists 14 things Bernie has said about Socialism.

Comments are closed.