Bernie Sanders’ presidential run will be a tonic for those who crave straight talk

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Sen. Bernie Sanders addressing the International Association of Firefighters delegates at IAFF Presidential Forum in Washington in March.

Bernie Sanders voted against the Iraq War resolution of 2002. He wasn’t the only one, but it’s a badge of honor, courage and good judgment.

Sanders voted for the Affordable Care Act, but always made clear that he considered it a weak half-step compared to single-payer.

He voted against Bill Clinton’s “Defense of Marriage Act,” which has since been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as an unconstitutional form of discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Today he will file papers to formally become a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president (even though he’s not a Democrat).

He says he has never run an attack ad in his long political career and he won’t start now. He says he won’t have any SuperPACs helping him.

Those for whom the meaning of life is handicapping the likely outcome of political races will likely rate him an ultra-longshot, and I have no serious reason to doubt them. The New York Times story this morning about his candidacy quotes him as saying: “I think people should be a little bit careful underestimating me.”

His presence in the race might put some pressure on Hillary Clinton. Like most front-runners, she will try to energize the liberal base of the Democratic Party but will be reluctant to take strong, concrete liberal positions that might interfere with her appeal to moderate swing voters in the general election campaign. Sanders presence in the race will complicate those calculations a bit. The Times put it this way:

Mr. Sanders’s bid is considered a longshot, but his unflinching commitment to stances popular with the left — such as opposing foreign military interventions and reining in big banks — could force Mrs. Clinton to address these issues more deeply.

For those, like me, who crave honest conviction and straight talk (which the pundits have decided to call “authenticity”), Sanders will be a tonic, however long he lasts in the race.

Writing this morning for Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi, who followed Sanders around for a month, described him thus:

He is the rarest of Washington animals, a completely honest person. If he’s motivated by anything other than a desire to use his influence to protect people who can’t protect themselves, I’ve never seen it. Bernie Sanders is the kind of person who goes to bed at night thinking about how to increase the heating-oil aid program for the poor.

This is why his entrance into the 2016 presidential race is a great thing and not a mere footnote to the inevitable coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. If the press is smart enough to grasp it, his entrance into the race makes for a profound storyline that could force all of us to ask some very uncomfortable questions.

By the way, I mentioned above the strangeness of Sanders seeking the Democratic nomination, since he is not a Democrat. He calls himself a “democratic socialist.” He caucuses with the Senate Democrats, which enables him to have better committee assignments (for example, he is the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee) in exchange for which he agrees to vote with the Dems on procedural but not substantive matters.

In some of his early successful campaigns (for mayor of Burlington, Vt.) he benefitted from a multi-party split. Vermont Democrats seem to have ultimately figured out that running a candidate against him would only increase the chances of a Republican winning the seat.

In recent campaigns, he has reached an agreement with the Vermont Democratic Party that enables his name to be on the Democratic primary ballot, with the understanding that he would decline the Dem nomination if he won it. He does win it, and does decline, but no one else gets the Dem nomination, which enables him to go on the ballot as an independent often with only a Republican opponent or some minor parties. In his most recent race (2012) he defeated his Republican opponent by 71-25 percent.

Sanders released some excerpts from the statement he will be making to declare this candidacy. It includes:

“It’s not just that, for forty years, the middle class has been disappearing. It’s that 99% of all new income is going to the top 1%, and the grotesque level of wealth and income inequality today is worse than at any time since the late 1920s. The people at the top are grabbing all the new wealth and income for themselves, and the rest of America is being squeezed and left behind.”

You can read the longer excerpt here.

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Comments (45)

  1. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/30/2015 - 11:11 am.

    Mr. Black states that Clinton may be reluctant to take liberal position for fear it may scare off moderate voters. I think she may be reluctant to espouse liberal positions because she doesn’t believe in them, at least for economic and foreign policy matters. She’s a hawk, even more than Obama, and soft on Wall Street.

    Run, Bernie, run!

    • Submitted by jason myron on 04/30/2015 - 03:24 pm.

      But it’s those qualities

      that make her more electable to the general populace. I like Sanders, but he’s of more value in the Senate and since he’s a straight up socialist, unelectable in a national election.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 05/01/2015 - 07:37 am.

        How Well

        Did Republican-Lite work in the 2014 elections? Did soft-pedaling a populist message get a lot of Democrats elected?

        If we continue to elect corporate Democrats, the middle class will continue to shrink. Polls have shown clearly that solid majorities, including majorities of conservative voters, are in favor of raising corporate taxes, regulating Wall Street and the too big to fail banks, and raising the minimum wage. Clinton will do none of those. The likes of Robert Rubin and the rest of the gang at Goldman Sachs will still be directing the economy, in favor of the 1%.

        Just as the right uses social issues to get people to vote against their economic issues, Clinton will use abortion to get liberals to vote against their economic interests.

        In ’92 Bill Clinton did pretty well with a very populist economic message. Unfortunately, after that he listened to Bob Rubin and the rest of the Wall Streeters and deregulated the financial markets. We don’t need more of that.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 05/01/2015 - 02:32 pm.


          was a midterm. I’m interested in winning and taking a long view. There will be SCOTUS justices to be named in the coming years, and that alone should wake you up. Aligning with someone who can’t win against someone who should win and win handily is what’s truly against our interests.

          • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 05/01/2015 - 03:15 pm.

            Winning What?

            Ms. Clinton will “win” us more free trade agreements that ship jobs overseas, more and greater income inequality, larger too-big-to-fail banks, and continued foreign mis-adventures that cost us blood and treasure ans make the world more dangerous.

            How any liberal or progressive defines that as winning is beyond my comprehension. The above has been brought to us not just by evil Republicans, but just as eagerly by corporate Democrats. With friends like that…

            • Submitted by jason myron on 05/01/2015 - 04:58 pm.

              In your opinion.

              Frankly, I think your fears are overblown. What I fear is the simple fact that if a republican wins the presidency and they retain legislative control we WILL see more attacks on women’s rights, gays, the poor and middle class, dismantling of environmental regulations, an escalation of an already overblown defense budget and a lot of laws that push this country towards a theocracy. Add that to the future of the Supreme Court and you have some very real concerns. If worrying about that is beyond your comprehension, there’s not a whole lot I can do for you. I respect your opinion, I just don’t share your negativity towards Clinton.

  2. Submitted by jody rooney on 04/30/2015 - 11:26 am.

    Yep run Bernie run

    He seems sensible to me.

  3. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 04/30/2015 - 11:58 am.

    I wish….

    Bernie Sanders would run as an independent. That way he would take votes from Mrs. Clinton.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/30/2015 - 01:47 pm.


      Would lose far more votes to the GOP nominee than to any independent. Just like Al Gore did, Democratic whining not withstanding.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/01/2015 - 10:34 am.

      Because . . .

      . . . the Republicans can’t win the election based on policy, or even on the likability of their candidates. Their only hope is a split in the opposition, perhaps seasoned with a fair dose of voter suppression and post-ballot chicanery.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/30/2015 - 12:32 pm.

    His presence in the race

    seems Quixotic, but so have some other presidential long shots down through the years. You never know. At the very least, I look forward to seeing if he can nudge Ms. Clinton closer to some straight talk herself. Even better if he could nudge some of the Republican candidates toward candor. When not couched in very careful language, the views of some of the Republican contenders at this point would give many people pause.

  5. Submitted by James Hamilton on 04/30/2015 - 06:13 pm.

    It’s interesting

    that a piece which begins by extolling Sanders’ honesty ends with a description of his manipulation of the electoral process in Vermont.

    That said, he’s a bit too far to the left for me to be enthusiastic about at this point, but it’s nice to see some challengers enter the ring. Now, if only we could get a fresh Democratic face with some ideas hatched since the turn of this century . . .

  6. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/30/2015 - 09:19 pm.

    Mr. Sanders is probably an honest person (unlike Hillary) but he still agrees to play political games with Democrats in order to easily win the elections. That, however, doesn’t bother me – it should be a problem for people of Vermont. The problem is that he thinks about “how to increase the heating-oil aid program for the poor” instead of how to find the way to empower those people to stop being poor through education and hard work. As we all should have learned by now, socialism doesn’t work.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/02/2015 - 10:38 am.

      Capitalism and upward mobility

      There’s an interesting article in the NYT about the realities behind upward mobility and the American Dream:

      ‘Education and hard work’ won’t get you a well paid job if those jobs are not there.
      And the supply and demand economics underlying capitalism predict that as long as there is an excess supply of a good or service (read labor) over demand, the value of that good or service will be low.
      So as long as there is an excess supply of labor due to outsourcing and automation, its value will be lower than historical rates.
      So unless you believe in some magic that will cause corporations to increase production beyond demand, rather than allocating their excess resources to more profitable investments, wages will remain low, and ‘those people’ will end up in jobs that pay less than they did a generation or two ago.

      And since socialism has never been tried beyond the scale of the Israeli kibbutz (calling totalitarianism ‘socialism’ does not make it so) we have no idea whether it would work or not.

    • Submitted by Solly Johnson on 05/01/2015 - 02:00 pm.

      “socialism doesn’t work”

      The Nordic countries of Western Europe all have socialist democracies, which work better than our current system here in the USA. They have honest governments, good economies, excellent health care and education, equal opportunities and pay for women, and people who are among the happiest in the world. Your statement is incorrect.

  7. Submitted by Joe Musich on 05/01/2015 - 12:46 am.

    Quixotic or …

    Not it has to happen. Sensibility has to begin somewhere. Let be here. Maybe Booker will run with him,

  8. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 05/01/2015 - 07:54 am.

    I think Bernie’s biggest contribution will be

    to keep both sides more honest. Never totally honest because politicians can’t seems to get there. He will keep both sides off balance and hopefully force them away from their stupid talking points.

  9. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/01/2015 - 08:48 am.

    What Bernie Sanders Will Do

    is pull back the curtain on the past thirty-plus years of economic warfare that those at the top levels of wealth have waged on the rest of us.

    What he will do is make it clear to those who are suffering as the result of the restructuring of our national economy to re-distribute nearly ALL the profits from everyone’s efforts,…

    into the pockets of those at the very top,…

    a redistribution of wealth and prosperity from those who were already just barely scraping by and those who used to be solidly middle class,…

    into the pockets of those who ALREADY had more than they could ever possibly need or justify,…

    that the sorry state of so many of their lives is NOT their fault,…

    but was carefully and deliberately orchestrated by those whose incomes have increased exponentially at the same time that the incomes of the poor and middle class slid backward toward the abyss.

    Bernie will point out how our society now, rather than substantially rewarding productive activity, invention and innovation,…

    rewards, above all else, the countless ways a substantial proportion of our wealthiest brothers and sisters have designed,…

    and arranged to have legalized for themselves,…

    to play games with other people’s money while stealing substantial parts of the proceeds from investing that money from the investors who should have received it,…

    to pocket MOST of the profit,…

    and to leave the general public (though decidedly NOT themselves) responsible for making up any losses they, through their high-stakes gambling games, have caused.

    It is my earnest hope that Bernie will provide Ms. Clinton (who WILL be the nominee) a combination of pressure to move away from the very unhealthy relationship Bill had with those who were, at the time of his presidency, with his acquiescence, and in some cases, unquestioning support,…

    re-writing all the rules of business and economy in the US in their own (free market) favor, thereby legalizing their own kleptaucratic and “vampire squidish” approach to their fellow citizens,…

    while, at the same time providing a new radical left boundary to the campaign for the Democratic nomination,…

    a boundary which will make Ms. Clinton look far more moderate as she, herself, moves quite markedly in his direction.

    In this way, Ms. Clinton will be able to be a candidate and president that Bill, so soon after Ronnie Raygun’s “morning in America” B.S. could NEVER have gotten away with being,…

    and will take the US back in the same prosperous direction that Mark Dayton has taken Minnesota and Jerry Brown has taken California.

    In joining the presidential race, Mr. Sanders will do us all a GREAT DEAL of good because he will amplify what used to be the middle left perspective in very powerful ways.

    He will change this presidential race and change the US, even though he will never be elected.

    He will help us begin to move from the twilight of America where the policies so favored by our “conservative” friends have absolutely INEVITABLY taken us,…

    back toward policies which are evidence-based and take the actual nature of us humans into account:

    back toward the light.

  10. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 05/01/2015 - 05:52 pm.

    More of the liberal failed policies….

    “Bernie Sanders is the kind of person who goes to bed at night thinking about how to increase the heating-oil aid program for the poor.” Matt Taibbi

    This is truly a scary thought built on the failed liberal policies related to the “war on poverty.”

    However, the primaries will be interesting. The Liberals will have a choice. They can choose between a poorly funded, totally transparent old white guy, or an extremely well funded, non-transparent…..

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/01/2015 - 06:34 pm.

      You must live in the UK

      There’s no Liberal Party in the United States.
      Sanders is running for the nomination of the Democratic Party.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 05/07/2015 - 04:34 pm.

      What’s REALLY scary

      are people that criticize someone for trying to think of ways to keep poor people from freezing to death.

  11. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/01/2015 - 08:46 pm.

    Capitalism and socialism

    Mr. Brandon, you are right, we have capitalism here, and some people will always have more than others. But I hope you are not going to deny that educated and hard working people have more chances to find a good job and earn more regardless of anything else. On the other hand, if you keep giving people fish, your will have to do it forever …

    Socialism is a society where the government owns all land and the means of producing and distributing goods and controls the economy – that is a definition of it (of course, there is collective ownership but that always works on a very small scale only). Political system is irrelevant in this case – even though, since socialism assumes government economic control, it usually is inclined to include government political control as well. But socialism does not work economically, regardless of the political system – just look at Venezuela.

    Ms. Johnson, if we use definitions, the Nordic countries are not really socialist – they just gravitate in that direction. And their system works only because of some very specific advantages they have. First, those countries would not have been able to sustain themselves if America were not providing their defense – they all spend minimally on their armed forces assuming that the NATO (meaning America) will take care of them in case of war. Second, all those countries are very homogenous and barely have any foreign population. But even there the problems are brewing – their economic situation is getting worse. So my statement is absolutely correct – socialism doesn’t work.

    Mr. Kapphahn, are you suggesting we all learn from California? Maybe not after this:

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/02/2015 - 10:20 am.

      “educated and hard working people have more chances”

      to find a good job, but it is by no means guaranteed.
      And choosing the right parents also helps 😉

      Venezuela is an example of totalitarianism calling itself socialism.
      It’s socialism only when the ‘government’ that ‘owns’ the means of production is a representative one.
      ‘Nazi’ means ‘national socialism’, but neither Hitler or Stalin were anything that Karl Marx would have approved of.

      And I’m always suspicious when someone claims to be “absolutely correct”; particularly when their statements rests on unsupported opinion.
      As I’ve said, in the real world ALL economies are mixed, with both socialist and capitalist aspects.
      Without a socialist component there’s little incentive to behave for the common good; without a capitalist component there are limited incentives to function beyond the minimum necessary for survival.

  12. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 05/01/2015 - 11:41 pm.

    Bernie Sanders, finally a ray of hope…

    Sanders is an honest man; rare indeed… which gives this nation the possibility, hopefully, to start rebuilding a more just society, but the trouble is so many have sold their soul to the getting-mine-and-to-h – with-anybody-else political philosophy?

    We applaud power brokers whatever their political sensitivities or insensitivity and show contempt for the poor; those who have lost out or been ignored in this dog pile society…says how far we have drifted from the concept of a democratic society?

    I listen to the voices that show contempt for others but am no longer surprised but saddened by it all.

    May Bernie Sanders be recognized as a serious candidate because there is no other.

  13. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/02/2015 - 10:49 am.

    Socialism in the U.S.

    It is true that the Scandinavian countries are not really “socialist” in the pure sense. They are Democratic Socialist reflecting the name of the dominant political parties which have designed toe policies which have brought the benefits of prosperity to its citizens and, from my observation, eliminated poverty at least in the extreme Third World sense that we see in the US.

    It’s also true that the Scandinavian countries don’t have to pay for “defense”. One might argue that they have freed up resources to benefit their citizens which the US supposedly cannot do.

    The US is also a socialist economy. Our socialism is practiced for and by the rich. Government policies are designed to take away from the many to prop up industries, including defense industries, which benefit primarily the 1% and have the added benefit of defending the propertied against restive masses who might become dissatisfied with being robbed by their government to benefit only the few who control it. Bernie Sanders is running and I hope gets elected to make socialism already practiced in this country democratic.

  14. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/02/2015 - 07:26 pm.


    Mr. Brandon, nothing is guaranteed in this life (actually, jobs were guaranteed by Constitution in the Soviet Union which did not make people happier or better off) but, again, education and hard work help so this is what Mr. Sanders should keep in mind. And of course, good parents help too – they instill the right values.

    Venezuela is not a totalitarianism (at least not yet) but its economy is rushing towards economic system called socialism; hence, all the problems such as lack of toilet paper (I don’t remember if I mentioned that before but it was a constant problem in the Soviet Union as well). Nothing in the socialism definition mentions that the government shall be representative… but Madugo did win the last elections. As for Marx approval, economically, Stalin’s Soviet Union did things according to Marx – expropriated all land and production means and abolished private property. So again, where is my “unsupported opinion?” I used definitions and facts about the Soviet Union and Venezuela. And by the way, people are social animals and survived as a specie only because of that – they didn’t need socialism for that.

    Mr. Kingstad, what you consider poverty in the US is called being rich in half of the world. And if not for American military, the entire Europe would have shared the fate of the Eastern Europe and Finland would have been a Soviet region. Do you think they would be happy then?

    And of course that 1% mantra is just an envy inducing exercise to help Democrats. If people are living well, why should they care that some are living exceptionally well? Where are those restless masses (and I do not mean those burning Baltimore – I hope they are not “masses.”)

    • Submitted by Solly Johnson on 05/03/2015 - 08:25 am.


      Mr. Gutman, Bernie Sanders considers himself a socialist in the Nordic tradition, not a Soviet style communist.

      In the Winter War of 1939-40 the Finns did not get much military assistance from the USA and fought largely on their own, with most of their foreign aid coming from Great Britain. In fact, Finnish soldiers often commented that the largest supplier of the Finnish army was the Soviet Army after they captured many of their arms. Also, some of the tactics that the Finnish army used are taught at the military academy at West Point even yet today. Since the Finns share a long border with Russia, they have always realized that they must have good relations with them and Russia today is their largest trading partner. Recent polls show that a majority of their citizens are opposed to membership in NATO.

      The Finnish government has a very progressive system of taxation, which allows them to have a high standard of living. They take a position, as in other Nordic nations, that health care, good education, and other social benefits are a right, not a privilege. Your comments about Finland are not correct.

      Incidentally, I am male, not female. No offense taken.

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/03/2015 - 07:47 pm.

      Poverty is wealth?

      So if you are poor in the US, under your logic you have no right to complain about unequal treatment or social injustice because half the world is worse off than you are. Social injustice is social injustice and the fact one may have nothing to complain about personally or even that one may be be among the “1%” does not deprive that person of the right to object and seek correction of social injustice. The gross disparities in income and wealth that exists today in the US is not because the “1%” are smarter or better people. It happened because of government policies that has helped a few get ahead and at the same time allow those people to prosper from the labor and efforts of the many. US productivity has been at all time highs for the past 30 years but the wages to pay for this productivity have remained stuck at 1970’s levels. Do you really deny that the middle class has lost relative ground and shrunk in the past 30 years?

      The US military did certainly play a role in containing Soviet Communism after WWII. But moreso did the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan hatched the western European governments and economies that became the primary bulwark against Soviet expansionist plans. They were and still are far more “left of center” in terms of economic policy than the US has even been. Too bad we never followed suit in this country.

      Envy does play a role. The rich would not wish to be rich or part of the “1%” if they did not feel envied by others. One might say being envied is the entire point of being rich so that you can pretend you are somehow better or smarter or more special than others, a “perfect snowflake.” In fact, the rich are just as ordinary as anyone else. Law and public policy have no place in building up certain peoples’ feelings of self importance.

      About guarantees, you are correct as a matter of principle and theory. But the truth is that the US government does guarantee a number of things. It guarantees that if a bank goes under, its depositors will be paid fully up (last I heard) to $250,000 per deposit. Another thing it guarantees is that certain financial entities considered “too big to fail” will be bailed out and guaranteed against any losses they may suffer despite any irresponsibility or recklessness on the part of its owners, managers or agents. This is socialization of risk and is part of the socialism for the rich which we have big time in this country.

      I have nothing against socialization of risk as long as the purpose and effect is to benefit the largest number of people possible to make the most people possible as happy as they can be. That is a fundamental principle of utilitarianism (also perhaps hedonism). Right wing (which is to say Republican) thinking on this is that there is some sort of automatic cause and effect relation between providing guarantees, tax cuts or other forms of largesse to the rich and the “public interest”, namely the happiness and well being of the greatest number of people. This is a gravely mistaken fallacy that is bankrupting this country and will eventually do so unless people with a more realistic sense of what is in the “public interest” take charge.

  15. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/03/2015 - 04:59 pm.


    I believe that Stalin was also ‘elected’.
    As for socialism, Marx did not invent it; you might read the earlier formulators of socialism, including GBS. Stalin did the first part; nationalization. He did not follow up on the second part; equitable redistribution.

    As for good parents, the data show that the main contributions they make are in education, and most importantly, social status (see my earlier link to data on social mobility.

    As for human behavior, as a professional psychologist I know that the research shows that people are much more likely to compare their current status with other people in their particular society, not with their grandparents or people in other countries.

  16. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/03/2015 - 04:14 pm.

    Socialism and more

    Mr. Johnson, as I pointed out, socialism, as an economic system, is independent from the political system, at least in theory. And I also pointed out that what works in Finland and Denmark will not work in America as it is so different and has so much more responsibilities. So Mr. Sanders ideas of copying those countries in America are unrealistic.

    Yes, in 1940 Finland was fighting alone and mostly held the Russian army but the main reason Soviet army poor supply and bad weapon not suitable for very cold winter – basically Stalin’s incompetency. Of course, the Finns fought very bravely but they lost a big chunk of their territory to Stalin (and that is what he wanted at that time). But it would be absurd to think that the Soviet Union would not be able to overcome Finland in the 50’s in a matter of weeks if it didn’t have to take America into consideration. Yes, the Finns realized that they had to have good relations with Russia but those considerations never stopped the Soviet Union from invading (the Czech government in 1968 always maintained its loyalty to the Soviet Union). And I never disputed that living standards in Finland are very high or that social benefits are significant. What I said was that only Finns live in Finland (and some Swedes) and that it spends hardly anything on its defense which allows them to live like they do. This will not work in America. So which of my comments about Finland are wrong? By the way, it is extremely difficult to get a Finnish citizenship and stay there…

    Mr. Brandon, Madugo was elected almost fair and Chavez was for sure. Stalin was a Communist Party leader so he was never up for elections. Marx did not invent socialism but he created a full economic basis for it. And a lot of confiscated properties after the revolution was given to peasants and industrial workers (or they took it themselves and the government allowed that) but it didn’t make them happy or made their lives better.

    The data shows that the best contribution parents can give to their kids is the values – I did read about that recently but can’t find it. I think it was also mentioned in one of the articles here on MinnPost. As for social mobility, it would be interesting to compare it now and 100 and 50 years ago and I would guess that it was much higher than. Moving up the ladder requires hard work and when people have their minimal needs met, they prefer to stay with that rather than work hard to get more – I wrote about that many times. So those people who now live on welfare, a hundred years ago would have worked to survive and in the process could have move up the ladder.

    Sure, people are more likely to compare their lives with their neighbors – immediate and distant. And if that forces them to work harder to get what their neighbor has – it is great. Unfortunately, quite often they just want to take away from the neighbor (how do you think the Russian revolution was justified?) and that 1% campaign reinforces this bad desire rather than suppresses it.

    • Submitted by Solly Johnson on 05/04/2015 - 04:55 am.


      The USA was more like Scandinavia in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, and the nation was in much better condition then than now because our tax system was more fair and progressive and we valued social programs that had benefit for most citizens. Our military was well funded and efficient during the period of the Cold War and corporations and the wealthy paid more in taxes. Now major corporations such as GE, Comcast, and others pay no taxes, and in some instances get rebates.

      Now the USA has military spending greater than the rest of the developed world combined, while ignoring the needs of many of its citizens at the bottom half of the economic scale. The government here which is tied closely to big business chooses to waste much money on the military, much of which is not related to defense but simply protects interests of our major corporations as they operate abroad. To state that the richest nation in the world can not have social programs on the scale we had a half century ago is not correct.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/04/2015 - 06:35 pm.

        The difference

        Mr. Johnson, in those years America did not have any economic competition in the world which was the reason it seems (now) that it was so good. But in fact our lives are much better now than then if you consider all the technological advances. You should also take into account that immigration and diversity were practically non-existent at that time making it more similar to Scandinavian countries. And even militarily, Soviet Union was not that strong after the WWII and America was betting on that…. so it lost the Vietnam War. And of course, we spend much more on social programs now than then – the Great Society concept was launched in mid 60’s.

  17. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/04/2015 - 09:57 pm.

    This is scary

    This is what I am talking about: Why work hard if you can take it from your neighbor? It is a sure way to disaster but those who want to do it don’t know it and don’t care.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/06/2015 - 12:17 pm.

      Indeed! Why work hard if you can take it from your employees?

      For that is what has been happening and why incomes are more unequal than they ever have in my lifetime.

      The idea that rich people work harder is a self-serving myth. The founder of a business may work hard to establish his business, but if he sells it to outside investors, the new executives will “work hard” pushing papers and having endless meetings and thinking up new ways to get more work out of their subordinates without paying them more. These executives aren’t necessarily the smartest people around either. (My smartest students were in the sciences and math; the ones in business administration were, with few exceptions, average or below average.)

      You know who works hard? Hotel maids, warehouse workers, daycare workers, nursing home attendants, restaurant cooks, K-12 teachers, nurses, grocery cashiers, and countless other types of workers whom the right wing sees as inferior. They may not say those people are inferior, but what they do say is, “If they want more money they should go to school and train for a better job.”

      Yet I bet that if all the top-level business executives disappeared off the face of the earth overnight, society would function a lot better than if all the low-paid workers who perform low-status but essential jobs disappeared.

      Why are the Waltons paying their employees wages that are below subsistence level? They didn’t work for their money; their father did, making them by far the richest people in America without any effort at all on their part, and yet, they underpay the people who make their continued enrichment possible.

      I don’t know how old you are, Mr. Gutman, or how long you have been in the U.S., but we used to have a system in which the minimum wage was enough to maintain a modest standard of living (rent on a small apartment, sufficient food, utilities, everyday clothes, maybe a used car). Just as an example, in 1968, you could buy a pair of jeans at Penney’s for $5.00, and it was made in the U.S.A. The minimum wage at the time was $1.25, so a full-time worker made $200 a month. For rent, one assumed that an apartment would cost $50 per bedroom, or the ideal 1/4 of one’s monthly income. I recall going shopping for food for the weekend in 1972 with $5.00 and coming home with change.

      Even the new Minnesota minimum wage of $9.00 is only $1440.00 a month. I challenge anyone to live on that as an adult in the Twin Cities. (Try to find a 1-bedroom or even a studio apartment for 1/4 of that–$360.00.)

      The wages paid to the people who do the real work of this country have stagnated or declined in purchasing power, while the majority of the income gains have gone to people who do nothing but boss other people around or manipulate numbers. Thirty years ago, Robert Reich decried what he called “paper entrepreneurism,” in which rich people became richer through mergers and acquisitions, not from creating new products or services, but often through destroying jobs.

      Now it’s even worse. We have “electronic entrepreneurism,” where people become billionaires by manipulating numbers on a computer screen and thinking up new types of shady deals. To add insult to injury, a loophole in the tax laws has them taxed at a lower rate than ordinary working stiffs.

      These distortions in the economy are hurting everyone except the top 0.01%.

  18. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 05/06/2015 - 02:28 pm.

    I thought government workers didn’t work hard

    Also that the ideology dictates that they’re forcibly taking taxes from their productive, private sector neighbors. I believe the proper term they use is “confiscation”.

    Maybe people who have at least one family member’s labor being disciplined by private sector market forces would probably understand things better.

  19. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/06/2015 - 07:32 pm.

    It is capitalism

    Ms. Sandness, employers living off their employees is the main feature of capitalism as Marx pointed out. You may think that this is unfair but I can tell you that the “fair” socialism system doesn’t work and doesn’t make those low paid workers (or any other workers) better off; in addition they can’t even buy what they want with their minuscule wages because it is not available in stores.

    Marx also explained that labor is a commodity, just like bread, butter, and cars, so the market dictates how much people are paid. Establishing a minimum wage is no different economically than establishing maximum price for a car or bread (and we all can see how well the latter works in Venezuela).

    Now, there is no direct correlation between wealth and hard work because, as you said, some wealth is inherited. But small business owners, doctors, scientists, and many others work very hard even though they are, by most standards, rich. Yes, maids, custodians, waitresses, and so many others also work very hard and I would never see them as inferior (by the way, a lot of liberal elite does). And yes, many CEO’s are not very smart and do not deserve their millions (do top actors and athletes?)

    But that is all beyond the point I was trying to make. As I said, wages are decided by the market and interfering with that may be dangerous. People have different abilities and what they earn reflects that (hopefully) and paying a store cashier the same as the store manager doesn’t make sense. And what is a modest standard of living? Should it include a separate apartment or it may be shared with a roommate? On the other hand, if we use your numbers as a basis, in 1968 a minimum wage worker had to work five hours to buy a pair of jeans while today it will take just three ($7.50 x 3 = $22.50). On the other hand, he can buy a TV after working 10 – 15 hours which I doubt was possible in 1968 (and I am not even talking about the difference in quality of TV’s then and now). And I would prefer those jeans to be made in the USA even though they will cost four hours of work in this case but I think it was Clinton who started all this…

    But the worst thing, as I pointed out, is the envy factor. It drove the Russian revolution when “exploiters” were “exploited” and all their wealth was confiscated by the government and part of it was given to the poor. During the Stalin’s years, again, all hard working peasants (kulaks) were rounded up and their property was confiscated and given to poor peasants. As a result, millions died from famine. Envy is a very destructive force – it never produces anything. And that is what frightens me – I came from the country where this was tried and where people used to call NKVD about their neighbors just to move to that person’s slightly larger room.

    Mr. Willemssen, your anger and attempts to undermine me personally doesn’t speak highly of you. But just for your information, I had been in private sector for more than 15 years and started with $6.00 per hour; I know what it means to be poor…

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/07/2015 - 10:22 am.

      I think your opnion is colored by your experiences in the USSR

      No one is talking about a planned economy, where the government decrees how many toothbrushes and snow boots should be manufactured each year. That always was a stupid idea.

      The point is not that everyone should be paid the same. (That didn’t even occur in the USSR, as far as I know.) It’s that the people who do the real work of a company–and who work HARD–should be sufficiently rewarded instead of treated like machine parts.

      Right-wingers are fond of saying, “If you want to be rich, work harder.” But those people I mentioned–the hotel maids, the warehouse workers–work VERY hard and cannot make it to the end of the month without EBT, no matter how they economize. Indeed, even white collar workers tell of executives who don’t replace retiring workers or others who have left the job and simply tell the remaining workers to work harder.

      It’s not envy at work. People are realistic enough to know that they will never be billionaires, and no one with any brains thinks that having seven houses and twenty cars will make them happy. But it makes them angry when the 0.01% tell everyone that they need MORE money (through tax cuts) while ordinary people should “just be glad to have a job,” even if that job leaves them exhausted and unable to buy the necessities.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/07/2015 - 10:32 am.

      Oh, and I forgot to mention that the sky-high compensation

      paid to top executives is not “market forces” at work. It’s sheer cronyism. Every corporate board is made up of executives from other corporations, and they all “reward” one another.

      If an ordinary employee does something that damages the company or even a major projectd, the security guards frog-march him out of the building after giving him 15 minutes to clean out his desk.

      If one of those top executives does something that damages the company, he is given a multi-million dollar “golden parachute.”

      Please do not assume that there are no decent midpoints between a Soviet-style planned economy and the predatory capitalism we are seeing in America now.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 05/07/2015 - 04:40 pm.

      The “envy” factor

      is nothing more than a myth made up by republicans to validate their lack of empathy and justify their lack of concern about income equality. It’s the political equivalent of a playground argument by two twelve year olds that ends with one of them saying “you’re just jealous because I’m better than you.”

  20. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 05/06/2015 - 08:19 pm.

    Mirrors can be unflattering

    “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

    The mark of a serious, principled person is the one who is thorough and judicious in making sure they live by the notions they claim to value before trying to impose them on others, either in judgment or through policy.

    The mark of an unserious person is one who is angered by being measured by their own measure, projecting this anger onto others. This is much easier than the hard work it takes to align one’s actions with one’s beliefs.

  21. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/07/2015 - 08:20 pm.

    Personal experience counts

    Ms. Sandness, of course my opinion is based on my knowledge of life in the Soviet Union – it would be strange if it were not. But planned economy was just a side note of mine and you did not address other things I mentioned (even though when government makes all decisions from whom to take and whom to give, it is quite possible that some people in it would think that they also know what to make and when – after all, it does make sense since there is so much waste in capitalism and government is here to make everyone happy).

    You said that people who work hard should be sufficiently rewarded. But what is sufficient? You never addressed my point that a separate apartment or house may not be necessary and rooming is acceptable. Who decides what is sufficient? Now it is market but you want it to be the government and that is what the government in the Soviet Union did – set all wages. So teachers and doctors were getting half of what factory workers were paid (after all, workers were MAKING REAL things). On the other hand, a factory director was getting just about twice as much as a worker (but was able to get some perks not available to others). As soon as government starts deciding those things, the fairness becomes a matter of political expediency.

    You also did not address my point that people have different abilities and what they earn should reflect that, too. In the Soviet Union they were saying that any dishwasher can govern the country – look what happened. But in most cases working harder (by the way, that includes the school as well) does help and brings more money – don’t they say that college education adds so much to the average income? How many college graduates who work according to their degrees do you know who barely make ends meet? And of course, there are different degrees and engineering degree pays better than sociology degree… And by the way, you did not respond to my comparison between minimum wage and maximum price…

    And yes, it is envy when people get angry at someone who earns more and Democrats try to reinforce that envy to win the elections. I do not think that George Clooney deserves all the money he gets for his movies but should I demand that the government limits his earnings at not more than a million a year or tax him at 90% rate? (By the way, how come Democrats never complain about those people who get so much money for… playing?) And 0.01% you refer to is just 35,000 people – can we leave them alone even if many of them do not deserve what they have – and concentrate on our work and life? Will it make you happier if that top executive who almost bankrupted his company would go on welfare? There are things in this world that are unfair but you can’t assume that government should be fixing all of those things…

    As for decent midpoint, America right now it that midpoint if you consider how it was here a hundred years ago. Scandinavian model, which you probably consider a midpoint, is not sustainable in America (and even there) – I talked about that in my previous posts for this article.

    Mr. Myron, I don’t know where you went to kindergarten, but it does happen that kids get jealous of each other – and usually good teachers try to stop it right away rather than support.

    Mr. Willemssen, I understand that you can’t argue about issues and logic so a natural choice for you is to attack opponent’s credibility. I already told you that I know what it means to be poor and to work hard to get out of that but you never give your opponents any credit. So I can ask you: If you are such a defender of equality and fairness, did you give up your house and give away all your income to leave only minimum for yourself?

    • Submitted by jason myron on 05/08/2015 - 01:03 pm.

      Once again

      You fail to grasp the nuance of my point. It isn’t that 12 graders act like that, it’s that conservatives fall back on the same parochial thinking…which is no more valid in adulthood, than it was on the playground.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/08/2015 - 05:57 pm.

        Mr. Myron, I think you failed to get my point: envy in kindergarten is as bad as among adults and responsible people should try to discourage others from it. Unfortunately, Democrats do the opposite.

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