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Think about it: Sanders uses the word ‘socialist’ and is still a leading candidate

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
For Sen. Bernie Sanders, the root of the problem is the maldistribution of wealth and power in America.

I grew up in the 1950s and ‘60s, the peak of the Cold War, when Soviet-style Communist dictatorship (or “Godless Communism” if you really wanted to lay it on thick) was the great threat to freedom-loving God-fearing America.

So as I’ve watched Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president in recent months, I’ve had this recurring thought: It’s amazing that Sanders, a “democratic socialist” who unflinchingly refers to himself that way, is one of the two leading candidates to become the nominee of one on America’s two mainstream political parties.

I was reminded of this when I heard what Donald Trump said of Sanders the other day. At an appearance in Virginia Wednesday, reacting to the Democratic debate of the night before, Trump, a capitalist-slash-robber-baron, said of Sanders:

“I call him a socialist-slash-communist, OK? Because that’s what he is.”

There is no basis whatsoever to use the word “communist” to describe Bernie Sanders, but that sort of facty problem doesn’t seem to bother Trump much.

Yes, for those who care about the meaning of terms, communism was a form of socialism, although not a form of democratic socialism, since democratic socialism is committed to peaceful democratic means to advance its goal, means like advocating for them and running for election to try to implement them.

Yes, Sanders says he is calling for a “revolution,” and he says it constantly. In fact, ironically, it is his “electability argument” because he believes a non-violent revolution of attitudes will motivate millions of non-voters — who have given up on the system — to get involved, at least by voting.

In roughly 100 percent of instances when he advocates his revolution, he specifies that it is a “political revolution” he is trying to start, as in a radical but peaceful change accomplished through the ballot (which is not how Lenin took power in Russia in 1917).

But back in the 1950s in Cold War freaked out America, there was no time to make fine distinctions between different varieties of socialism (although, even then, anti-communist democratic socialist parties were in or near power in lots of countries with which the United States was allied).

So, as a child of those decades, I did not much expect to live to see the day when any U.S. politician could call himself a socialist (even with the “democratic” attached) and expect to have the kind of poll ratings Sanders currently enjoys.

True, hardly anyone among the seers who can tell the future of such things thinks that Sanders will become president or even the nominee of the Democratic Party. But he has already demonstrated that you can call yourself the s-word and not have to run from the stage. And that’s new.

Never a socialist movement

The United States, different from pretty much all the other established democracies, has never had a socialist movement of much influence. For example, although socialist presidential candidates appeared on the ballot in most elections during the first half of the 20th century, the all-time high-water mark was 1912 when Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs (who ran for president on the Socialist ticket five times early in the 20th century and was generally on the ballot in most states) got 6 percent of the popular vote. (On the other hand, Debs was thrown in jail for advocating his views.)

Of course, Sanders isn’t exactly running as a Socialist. He’s running for the nomination of the Democratic Party. He’s a “democratic socialist.”

Sanders chief rival for the nomination, Hillary Clinton, calls herself a “progressive.” There’s a problem with using that term if we want to understand the choice between Clinton and Sanders.

Clinton uses the term “progressive” as the relatively new word-of-choice for those who used to call themselves “liberals.”

The word “liberal” in American political usage (roughly the opposite of European usage) used to be the word-of-choice for those who were left of center but not radical. “Liberal” has gone out of fashion. In Tuesday’s debate, it was mentioned only twice, both times by Lincoln Chafee, and both times it was a reference to his former identity as a member of a now-extinct species called “liberal Republican.” But that’s a topic for another day.

Most practicing politicians, including many who once embraced the term “liberal,” now prefer “progressive” because righties did such a number on the L-word during the Reagan years and since.

(A famous ad run on behalf of Rudy Boschwitz in 1996 against Paul Wellstone called Wellstone “liberal, liberal, embarrassingly liberal.” Wellstone, by the way, won that race and wasn’t ashamed of the l-word. He wrote a book called “Conscience of a Liberal,” but in the last days before his tragic death he also asked the media to call him a “progressive.”)

But the trouble with “progressive,” at least at the moment and if we are trying to understand the difference between Clinton and Sanders, is that those like Sanders who are to the left of liberals also call themselves “progressives,” as in: Sanders at the debate and referring to a 2007 vote on an immigration bill: “I was not the only progressive to vote against that legislation.”

Liberal or radical

So, for purposes of exploring the differences between the two leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, we might go back to two out-of-fashion words and call Clinton a liberal and Sanders a radical. Clinton and Sanders almost perfectly typify the old liberal/radical dichotomy.

“Radical,” both in politics and math, refers to things that go to the root (in math it’s the square root, in politics it’s the root of the problem you’re trying to solve through public policy).

For Sanders, the root of the problem is the maldistribution of wealth and power in America.

“The top one-tenth of 1 percent” of Americans “own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent,” he says in pretty much every speech and interview, a fact that fact-checkers have rated as “mostly true.”

“There is something profoundly wrong when 58 percent of all new income since the Wall Street crash has gone to the top 1 percent,” he says on his campaign website and pretty much every chance he gets.

In a properly functioning democracy, the majority of the electorate should be able to defend their interests through politics, but, as Sanders likes to say, the “millionaires and billionaires” are able, through the benefit of the Citizens United ruling and other means, to buy excessive influence over the political and governmental process through their domination of campaign finance. Sanders backs up his aversion to the world Citizens United made by refusing to affiliate with a SuperPAC.

To sum up his proposwed solution, the 90 percent should put him in charge, he suggests. He will raise the minimum wage nationwide to 15 bucks an hour (he always says “15 bucks”); raise taxes on the wealthy in several ways (inheritance tax, a new tax on Wall Street speculators, pop the cap on Social Security taxes) and use the proceeds to provide free tuition at public colleges and universities, expand Social Security benefits and more.

He also favors a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling.

Actually, so does Clinton, who pledges to take the need to overthrow Citizens United into account when she considers nominees to the Supreme Court. She also wants to raise the minimum wage (just not as high as Sanders) and has big, expensive ideas for helping kids afford college (just not as sweeping or expensive as Sanders’ free college at public schools idea). Although she has not held all these positions as long as Sanders has, and in many instances her position doesn’t go as far as his, she mostly favors heading down the same general path of taxing the rich to help the poor.

Clinton is a liberal, although she prefers the p-word. She generally agrees with the direction in which Sanders wants to take the country, but she wouldn’t go as far or as fast. She triangulates. She doesn’t want to scare Wall Street, she wants to co-opt it. But that leaves those with more radical views worried that she’s the one who will get co-opted.

She wants progressives to think of her as a “a progressive who likes to get things done,” as she said in the Tuesday night debate, a progressive who knows “how to find common ground, and how to stand [her] ground.”

That last formulation suggests that Clinton knows how to compromise, which used to be the way to get things done in Washington. Radicals don’t generally talk a lot about the need for compromise. Sanders doesn’t. In a post on The New York Times “Upshot” blog, political scientist Brendan Nyhan suggests that it is vital in today’s climate for candidates to talk about how they will make any progress toward their policies in the new era of no compromise.

Sanders, by the way, is crushing Clinton among younger Americans. An NBC poll taken after the debate, had him ahead by 54 percent to Clinton’s 26 percent among those age 18-30. Of course, young people don’t vote in the same proportion as older voters, and that’s one reason Sanders says he will lead the kind of “revolution” that will get more people to vote.

But is it possible that younger voters, who didn’t grow up in the Cold War, are also less likely to freak out when they hear a candidate call himself a democratic socialist?

Mid-Monday-morning update: While campaigning Sunday in Iowa, Sanders said that he planned to give a “major speech” on what he means by “democratic socialism,” acknowledging that he must continue to define the term because it makes some people “very, very nervous.”

Comments (103)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 10/19/2015 - 08:49 am.

    The difference is Trump capitalist/robber baron CREATES 10’s of thousands of jobs for all different groups of Americans while Sanders socialist/communist TAKES folks money and promises the moon for free. The only folks who thrive in socialism are those at the top, that is why it never works for more than a short while. If socialism worked it wouldn’t have to be created by force and with guns. We would all line up to give our money to the smartest man in our society and life would be great.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/19/2015 - 12:32 pm.

      A Different Perspective


      The difference is Sanders socialist/communist CREATES 10’s of thousands of jobs for all different groups of Americans while Trump capitalist/robber baron TAKES folks money and promises the moon for free. The only folks who thrive in capitalism are those at the top, that is why it never works for more than a short while. If capitalism worked it wouldn’t have to be created by force and with guns. We would all line up to give our money to the smartest man in our society and life would be great.

      All joking aside, this is not an issue of one social/economic system or the other, but more of a balance between the two. I’ve always contended that the goal should be to find the best solution for the problem at hand, no matter where it comes from. Sometimes that will be capitalism and sometimes that solution is pure socialism. More often than not though, it’s a mixture of both as that gives us the best blend of goodness.

      Take a look at our roads, for example. On first blush they may look like they’re purely socialist in nature. They’re made by the people for the people’s use, a government entity that we can all use and benefit from because we tax ourselves to get the job done.

      But dig a little deeper and you’ll find there’s a capitalist underpinning to the whole endeavor. The roads and freeways also benefit our capitalist businesses and make it easier for them to reach markets with their goods and services. More directly though, the roads themselves are built by for-profit capitalist contractors who pay really good wages to their workers. It’s a blend that has worked well for roughly ninety-five years, since the boom of the middle class in the post Great War era.

      I treat the whole socialist vs capitalist argument the same way I look at the people who are all Mac or all PC. As someone who works in IT, I frequently get asked which camp I’m in, to which I reply with a hearty “neither!” They’re both great tools and both work well for their intended jobs. Would you throw away a hammer and use a screw driver when you’re trying to drive a nail? Or would you use a hammer when you’re trying to get a screw in place?

      Be sensible, people, and keep an open mind.

      • Submitted by joe smith on 10/19/2015 - 03:09 pm.

        It is clearly documented that Trump has employed 10’s of thousands through Capitalism as distorted as Capitalism is in our country today by special interest groups, lobbyists and weighed down by regulations. Has career politician Bernie (never had a private sector job in his life but still a political outsider-hard to pull off) ever hired anybody to a private sector job and how many jobs has he created. I hope we all remember the 1 trillion dollar stimulus package that was going to produce shovel ready jobs. Even Obama laughed it off as “I guess shovel ready jobs were not quite as shovel ready as we thought ha ha ha”.

      • Submitted by mike Johnson on 10/20/2015 - 04:27 am.

        your first paragraph makes no sense whatsoever. I personally have no use for more socialism in this country. Do you really want to see people paying 60% taxes on $58,000 of income like they do in Norway? I sure don’t. And I won’t even go into the disasters that are Venezuela, Greece et. al.
        The whole tax the rich sounds nice in theory but it never happens in reality. Obama promised in his 1st campaign speech that no one making less than $250,000 a year would see their taxes go up. Then he raised the capital gains tax which affected me a great deal though I make around 20% of that amount. Not to mention the huge increases I’ve seen in my once fantastic health insurance plan. I’m still waiting for that $2500 reduction in premiums. No, the middle class always takes it in the shorts when democrats talk about raising taxes on the rich. Simple math shows that you could actually confiscate all the assets of the top 1% and it would not make a substantial dent in our national debt. The tax increases always trickle down to affect people like me too. I quit the democrat party when the far left took over. I have no use for their new agenda. How much money have we paid for the war on poverty only to have the same % of poor people that we had in the 70’s. Until the democrats start to encourage their constituents to make something of their lives by returning to programs like work to welfare for instance, instead of creating excuses for people who sit on their butts, I will continue to avoid them at the ballot box.

  2. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 10/19/2015 - 08:53 am.

    “tax and spend’ with creative “journalistic” spin

    The more the Sanders and Clinton talk – one begins to understand they understand very little about how the private economy runs. They only see Government and Government control as the solutions.

    These old and tired leading Democrat candidates are better described as good old fashion “tax and spenders.”

    If you do not agree with that – we can all agree on the “old” part.

    I agree, young people are not longer afraid of the term “socialist.” However, it is not a generational thing – it is a by-product of being a victim of the socialist – top down- trickle down – government – union – educational system.

    • Submitted by Tim Walker on 10/19/2015 - 03:53 pm.

      These old and tired leading Democrat candidates are better described as good old fashion “tax and spenders.”

      Tax and spend, eh?

      Congratulations Ron, you’ve succinctly described the major function of government, all governments.

      Well, except GOP-run governments, which operate on the “borrow and spend” paradigm.

      Which do you prefer?

  3. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 10/19/2015 - 09:01 am.

    Question for Liberals (or whomever)

    These distinctions are kind of hard for those of us, not on the left, to understand. Are there things that full blown socialists believe in, that modern urban liberals (or progressives) don’t? If you lined up policies from the Socialist party platform and compared them to the Democratic party platform, what items from the Socialists would be unacceptable?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/19/2015 - 10:06 am.

      There are very few

      real Socialists left (Sanders is certainly not one).
      The Socialist Party of the United States has renamed itself the Social Democratic Party, and appears to currently have less than 2000 members.

      Now, can you tell us on the Left how current mainstream Republicans differ from the Tea Party?

      • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 10/19/2015 - 11:29 am.

        Tea Party

        Paul, I’ll answer your question, but I really would appreciate a answer to my question too. What do socialists, or Democratic Socialists if you prefer, believe that modern mainstream Democrats don’t? I don’t mean it as a trick question. I honestly don’t know where the lines of division are.
        (And if you’re right that Sanders is not a socialist, then the point that Mr Black is making in this article is moot.)

        The Tea Party in 2009/2010 varied mainstream Republicans in that they were focused on more on spending than on other things, like social issues or national defense. After the surplus spending of Obama’s first days, they were concerned that spending was out of control and they wanted it to stop. You can credit the flat spending since 2011 almost completely on the Tea Party. Please keep this in mind the next time you read someone talking about how great Obama has been on spending. The Tea Party also focused on some ‘good government’ issues like pork barrel use and cronysim but the main focus was on spending.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/19/2015 - 03:09 pm.

          To quote Eric Black:

          “Of course, Sanders isn’t exactly running as a Socialist. He’s running for the nomination of the Democratic Party. He’s a ‘democratic socialist.'”
          And as Todd and others have pointed out; American politics is a continuum; there are no pure capitalist or socialist parties with any politically significant enrollment (less than 2000 in the American Socialist Party).
          So the differences are ones of extent rather than dichotomies.

          Social Democrats would like more government involvement in what the Constitution calls (promot(ing) the general welfare…) than the current government structure, while TPers, even more than mainstream Republicans, would like to reduce it. Again, these are relative differences rather than absolutes.
          The few right wing budget proposals that I’ve seen that are specific enough to draw conclusions would not even reduce the government deficit, much less the national debt. I have seen few TP proposals that would actually reduce defense spending; could you direct me to one?
          And a lot of the reduction in government spending relative to the GDP has been due to the increase in the GDP with the ending of the Recession, and the attendant declines in government social support spending due to increased employment for the same reasons.

          If you look at Sanders’ record as mayor of Burlington, I think you’ll find that most increases in spending were paid for by productivity increases (mostly the burgeoning tourist trade which Sanders encourage) rather than tax increases.

          Finally, I know of no political party that advocates increases in “issues like pork barrel use and cronysim (sp)”.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/19/2015 - 05:35 pm.

            Very Little

            To me it looks like there is little difference between the DSA’s short term goals and those of the Left leaning Democrats. See for yourself.

            The difference appears to be in the Long Term Vision… The true Socialists dream of a world where the people via government own the businesses. And the businesses are operated purely for the good of society.

            The idea that many people own the businesses via stock and they are operated to survive, grow, and make a profit is unacceptable in their view.

            As for Tea Party vs GOP… The GOP is ok with continuing to slowly move Left as a country. (% of GDP controlled by government… Was 10%, then 25% and is now ~36% ) The Tea Partiers think we have shifted too far and want to pull us back some before we go over a cliff. Thus they have a sense of urgency where as many of us are like cows going with the herd…

            • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/19/2015 - 08:25 pm.

              Of course

              there are about 1800 members of the DSA, while there are many millions of ‘left leaning Democrats’
              (I’m going to buy me a Republican cane to push me back to the right ;-).

              As for owning stock, most people own stock only as part of their retirement account funds, and have little to say about how the companies that issue the stock are run.
              That’s why increasingly large proportions of corporate earnings go to upper management salaries and bonuses, and to the owners of first level stock offerings rather than the ones that make up the mutual funds that most retirement funds are vested in.

              And in calculating “GDP controlled by government” do you include Social Security? F-35’s?
              And when was ‘was’?
              What is you source for these numbers?

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/20/2015 - 07:33 am.


                The DSA folks openly admit that they are not a political party and if you look the links, most of their beliefs are clear shared by Bernie and his supporters.

                As for stock, though I agree that corporate compensation is far from perfect and is some what incestuous… I think the big institutional investors that manage our retirement accounts do a lot to keep company management honest. If companies do not make profits, they get punished severely. And if our mutual funds do not return profits, we transfer our money ASAP. We often blame companies for being profit / low cost focused even though as individual small investors we demand this. I find this ironic.

                And yes the numbers include pretty much everything. Please remember that most government expenses have stayed the same or gone down as a percentage of GDP. Almost all of the growth has been in entitlement, wealth transfer, education, healthcare, etc. (ie government mandated savings, insurance premiums, charity) See here for details.

  4. Submitted by Matt Haas on 10/19/2015 - 09:05 am.

    I would say

    It’s the first crack in the armor for the boomer generation its stranglehold on US society. It will only accelerate as years go by.

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/19/2015 - 09:20 am.


    Let’s face it. Capitalism has had a pretty rough time of it lately. The near destruction it wreaked on our economy during the Bush years came pretty close to bringing the whole system down. Now more and more people are questioning it’s heretofore preeminent role in our economy. Speaking for myself, I am a big fan of capitalism myself. Historically it has a pretty decent track record. But if capitalists want their model to continue to be our economic system of choice, they really have to clean up their act. They simply must do a better job of delivering the benefits of their system to all Americans, not just a few. For decades, capitalism has been providing health care to it’s participants. For various reasons, the role of capitalism in providing health care is in decline. That trend might be reversible, but if it is, capitalists must lead the way in providing effective alternatives

    The flaws of capitalism, it’s cyclical nature, it’s tendency toward mal distribution of wealth have been known for centuries. The administration of FDR instituted certain measures that tended to ameliorate these problems, but they have proven to be only temporary measures that managed ease the impact but not eliminate those basic flaws. If capitalism is to survive, it’s leaders and it’s advocates need to do some hard thinking and maybe make some hard choices to address those flaws, and ensure the continuation of their system into the 21st century. It’s not too late, but it’s no longer early.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/19/2015 - 10:10 am.

      Labor supply

      Supplying health care to workers makes sense for private corporations when skilled workers are necessary and in short supply.
      When there is a labor surplus, workers can be treated as disposable and replaceable (the human interchangeable parts of mass production).

      And of course the winners of the Capitalist rat race have a lot more to spend on publicity than the losers.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/19/2015 - 10:33 am.

        Health care

        For various reasons, few of which have any relevance to the politics and economics of today, the burden of health care was placed on business. That wasn’t a very good idea then, and it’s a lousy idea now, but that was the decision that was made, and that’s how that critical issue was resolved. If capitalists want to revisit that bargain made so long ago, they must provide an alternative solution. I think other interest groups should play a role in that process also, but capitalists must understand that if they are going to be relieved of the consequences of the bargain they made for their own advantage, it’s going to come at some cost. As even the Republican candidate, Jeb Bush has pointed out, stuff isn’t free and that holds true for capitalists just as it does for everyone else.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/19/2015 - 12:13 pm.

          The history is

          that during the WWII wage freeze FDR’s administration was looking for a way to let industry compete for workers — providing health care was a way around the wage freeze.

  6. Submitted by James Hamilton on 10/19/2015 - 09:29 am.

    Get a grip, folks.

    Take a look at democratic socialist nations that are humming right along, countries such as Canada, Denmark, Norway, et al. The youth who support Sanders are simply the counterweight to those (roughly equal in number) who support candidates such as Trump. They, howevrr, have a longer pedigree than do the neo-coservative end of the bell curve.

    • Submitted by lee wick on 10/19/2015 - 11:32 am.

      Humming Along?

      Do some research. The “socialist” countries are becoming burdened by migrants not sharing the social trust concept. Norway was a small homogeneous country looking out for each other based on the concept of social trust. Help provided when needed but not a lifestyle. New migrants want welfare. They are not humming along as you say and socialism will be their demise. Northern Europe is draining and southern Europe was always in the tank. EU is one big disaster. Do some research. The USA does not need to admire that world.

    • Submitted by joe smith on 10/19/2015 - 12:36 pm.

      Take a look at failed socialist counties, Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, most of Eastern Europe, China. If socialism was that great why wouldn’t Haitians travel 50 miles to Cuba in droves rather than risk a 500 mile plus trip to the USA? Haitians must not have read the same propaganda as you. When folks who do not live in Ivory towers look to improve their lives they don’t go to all the places you claim to be great, they die coming to the USA.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/19/2015 - 02:52 pm.

        Cuba failed

        (to the extent that it has)
        because of our trade embargo.
        Aside from the language barrier (most Haitians speak French, not Spanish, and would be more at home in Louisiana), we are certainly a much larger and richer state, and better able to absorb large numbers of immigrants.
        Even the small current relaxation of the Cuban embargo has had significant results.

        Russia, of course, has never been socialist in anything but name.
        In fact, since the 1917 Communist counter revolution it has (with a few recent years exception) been Fascist. Before then in was a monarchy.
        Eastern European countries when the Soviet Union existed were milked to support Soviet communism; without that their economies would have been in much better shape.
        And China is now our biggest economic rival, even given its current problems.

        There is no question that we are high on the list (along with Scandinavia) for immigration, but that is more a result of large quantities of land (and ask a Native American about that), other natural resources, and a population based on immigration rather than an indigenous population (even the ‘Native’ Americans immigrated here about 17,000 years ago).

        • Submitted by joe smith on 10/19/2015 - 06:23 pm.

          So Cuba failed because of a Capitalistic country that has an inferior system (Capitalism vs Socialism) won’t do business with them. That should have been a bonus to Cuba according to many of you.

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/20/2015 - 09:59 am.


            Hard to call Cuba a failure when its health and literacy numbers are better than ours.
            Granted that its economy could be stronger, but most Cuban seem satisfied.
            The political exodus of the Batistas ended long ago.

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/20/2015 - 03:49 pm.

        Joe, you’re talking about a lot of different countries with

        different histories.

        I visited Cuba with a church group, so I’m not just speaking theoretically. It can be argued that the people of Cuba live better than those in some of the other poor countries of Latin America, because they are guaranteed education and health care, and for all his faults, Fidel Castro was never accused, not even by his worst enemies, of massacring entire villages, as the leaders of our “allies” in El Salvador and Guatemala were.

        By the way, there ARE some Haitian refugees in Cuba. I don’t know how many, though.

        Russia under the Soviets was a dictatorship. It’s still a dictatorship. It was a dictatorship before the 1917 Revolution. The main difference is that their social safety net is now nearly non-existent, and it is one of the few developed countries where life expectancy is falling.

        Eastern Europe? That’s about a dozen countries, each with its own culture. Even in the Communist era, some of them had a better quality of life than others. The same is still true.

        The same is true of China. It has never been a land of personal freedom, not under the emperors, not under the Nationalists, not under the Communists. Even in Taiwan, where the Nationalists liked to brag about their “freedom,” people didn’t get to elect their own president till 1996.

        I suggest reading up on Venezuela, which is too complex a story to lay out here.

        I think that half the people who think they’re discussing “democratic socialism” are discussing something else entirely, based on what they’ve heard in the media, not on experience or careful study.

      • Submitted by Colin Dunn on 10/21/2015 - 03:48 pm.

        Do you really believe…

        Do you really believe that countries like Cuba, Venezuela, the Soviet Union and China have governments or social/economic policies that are analogous to social democratic states like Sweden, Finland, Norway, or Canada? I think you need to do some research on this and not just regurgitate the standard Fox News meme of the week.

  7. Submitted by Rod Loper on 10/19/2015 - 09:30 am.

    Democracy versus oligarchy

    Look at how the middle classes of european democracies fare compared to ours.

  8. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/19/2015 - 10:42 am.

    A frustrating thing about Sanders

    Is that his principled obstinacy appears to extend to intentional anti-marketing.

    Party names always have been about propaganda. Soviet Communism was a form of state/crony capitalism and had nothing to do with (lower case) communism. The Nazis named themselves a “Socialist Workers” party even though they were elevated by industrial and aristocratic interests precisely to do the dirty work of crushing the labor movement and the left. The present-day motive force of so-called “Conservatism” is nihilism. Every new party everywhere tries to lay claim to all the Frank Luntz-tested terms like Freedom and Liberty for their monikers even when their platforms are the opposite. Even the Khmer Rouge called their genocidal regime Democratic Kampuchea.

    Sanders, meanwhile, insists on a label that will only create an obstacle for voters to perceive a platform that otherwise is common sense and popular. And it isn’t even accurate. As Mr Udstrand notes regularly in this forum, to speak in terms of “capitalism” or “socialism” is incoherent. Every developed nation is a mixed economy, as any functioning economy needs both privatized and collectivized elements. The ongoing, complex task is how to best marry these elements to optimize the well-being of the citizenry. Sanders insists on a label that describes a platform that doesn’t, and can’t, exist.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/19/2015 - 12:15 pm.

      Good points

      But if you look at Sanders’ career in Burlington, he was in fact more pragmatic and less dogmatic than his public pronouncements would lead one to expect.

      • Submitted by Phil Dech on 10/19/2015 - 05:27 pm.

        Ideals vs actions

        I agree. He has never stopped espousing the ideals of democratic socialism, ever since his first election for Mayor of Burlington, however when it has come to actual governance I think that he has been quite pragmatic. Vermonters must agree, he was elected state-wide to the US House, what 7 times (Vermont has only one representative, so election is state-wide), and then to Senate twice. If he was a socialistic ideologue who was exclusively interested in advancing some far-left agenda I doubt he could have pulled that off.

        As an aside, I will add that something the Democratic frontrunners have that Republican frontrunners don’t is “track records” in elective office, which I for one appreciate.

        • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/19/2015 - 06:56 pm.

          I agree as well.

          That’s my point. Why does he insist on hanging the albatross around his neck (to mix a metaphor), to gratuitously create a roadblock in the minds of those who don’t think very hard? There’s probably 10 socialists in the country, “Democratic” or otherwise, who actually subscribe to “socialism.” Socialists just think that the optimal arrangement for the well-being of the citizenry involves more collective features in appropriate parts of our economic system than at present, not that all economic decisions should be collective.

  9. Submitted by Hal Davis on 10/19/2015 - 11:27 am.

    The taxonomy can be confusing

    …but the Socialist Party still exists:

    For a history of the party, see

  10. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 10/19/2015 - 12:09 pm.

    Some people’s naivete

    It’s amusing, that Joe and Ron easily dismiss Sanders by applying textbook definitions of Socialism while still believing they live in a textbook Capitalist country.

  11. Submitted by Bill Willy on 10/19/2015 - 05:10 pm.

    The Third Party

    “The wealthiest 1% will soon own more than the rest of the world’s population.

    “Global wealth:

    “48% owned by richest 1% in 2014;

    “54% owned by richest 1% by 2020;

    “$1.9 trillion wealth of 80 top billionaires equal to bottom 50% of rest of world.

    “$600 billion increase in wealth for 80 top billionaires in 4 years – or 50% rise.

    “$750 billion drop in wealth for the poorest 50% of the world in 4 years.

    Which political movement or effort, or “philosophically dominate perspective,” do you suppose the people possessing that wealth are loosing sleep over?

    Democrat, Republican, liberal, progressive, conservative, libertarian, socialist, capitalist, communist… Does anyone believe those people and the type of organizations they operate — that one person that pays a lot of attention to, and reports on, describes as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money” — care who gets elected anywhere?

    They don’t. They are the near-invisible Third Party that never runs for election but wields more political power than all other parties or political movements combined, and they are perfectly content to just look down out of the Gulfstream window every once in a while to check to confirm the political trains are still rolling down the left and right tracks.

    One of the most interesting things to me about this particular round is the way in which Bernie Sanders and the “barn burners,” or “Freedom Caucus,” are almost exactly in sync on the issue of how “corrupt politicians doing nothing more than Wall Street’s bidding” have got to go.

    It falls apart beyond that because the “Freedom Caucus” (and so many who identify with the Tea Party, and plain old Republicans) insist on projecting or extending all of that (totally justified) outrage onto “the government” when, in reality, it OUGHT to be directed at that vampire squid. The unfortunate part of that is, for better or worse, government is the only entity on Earth powerful enough to stand a chance of stopping it before it sucks up EVERYBODY’s money, including, if you’ll pardon the expression, yours (they’ve already gotten most of mine).

    Believe it or not, it looks like the same people and organizations that (consciously, cynically) brought us the near-total global meltdown of 2008 are on the verge of bringing us the sequel. For just one (relatively tiny) example, take a close look at the Iron Range and what’s been happening in the commodities markets for the past few years and see if you see any similarities between that situation, its “bigger picture players,” and what was happening in the years leading up to the 2007-2008 “housing crisis.”

    The strangely “bi-partisan” agreement between B. Sanders and the barn burners is the kind of thing that might be able to actually start fighting back and doing some real longer-range good for millions, or even billions, of people here and all over the globe. But, unfortunately, it looks like the predictable train of politics-as-usual has way too big a head of steam to do anything other than stay glued to those left and right tracks.

    There are a lot of them out there, but this one provides a pretty good, non-conspiracy theorist’s, look at the current overall situation:

  12. Submitted by John Appelen on 10/19/2015 - 05:13 pm.

    More Interesting

    I find it much more interesting that for years many Democrats have denied the reality that they are truly Democratic Socialists at heart. Republicans would say that the Democrats on the Far Left were socialists and the Far Left would yell back denying the reality and insisting that those on the Far Right were incorrect.

    Maybe Sanders is giving many Democrats the courage to face reality and come out of the closet.

    • Submitted by Phil Dech on 10/19/2015 - 11:04 pm.

      That’s because Democratic Socialists are not Socialists. Only the intellectually lazy on the right think so.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/20/2015 - 09:20 am.

      What’s Your Point?

      For too many on the right, “socialism” is the same as “communism,” or the variant of it practiced in totalitarian states. Any mention of socialism leads to rants about the failed states of Cuba, North Korea, the Soviet Union, etc., even if that is not the brand of socialism being advocated. The “yelling back (we know only leftists do that, right?)” was in response to that kind of red-baiting.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/20/2015 - 10:03 am.

        My Point

        I am curious why many Democrats like Eric are surprised that the Left Side of their party are Democratic Socialists… This has been common knowledge to most of us for a long time.

        Per my continuum on the bottom of this page. The moderates from both parties seem okay if we stay at about 33%, whereas the Left folks (ie DSA, CPC, etc) want to get to >45% and the Right folks want to get back to <25%...

        I just find it interesting…

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/20/2015 - 11:52 am.

          My Take Away

          One could also see this as evidence that a growing segment of the electorate is willing to look beyond labels and focus on policy. After years of hearing President Obama described as “Marxist” by the right-wing agitprop machine, the force of the word “Socialist” as a demonizing cry has been blunted. Terms like “socialist” and “capitalist” have less and less real world meaning, whatever pundits and wannabe pundits might think.

          On the other hand, I had no idea a person’s ideology could be so readily quantifiable. We truly are in a data-driven era, aren’t we?

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/20/2015 - 12:38 pm.

            I Guess

            I saw this in one of the DSA docs and I think it sums things up well.

            “Wealth is a social creation and should be controlled by society as a whole.” DSA

            How one feels about the above statement probably clarifies where one is on my continuum…
            1 Strongly Agree = Left Democrat / Dem Soc
            3 Agree = Moderate Democrat
            5 Indifferent = Moderate
            7 Disagree = Moderate Republican
            9 Strongly Disagree = Right GOP / Tea Party

            How complicated do you think this is?

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/20/2015 - 01:18 pm.

              How Complicated?

              Leaving the math aside for now, I think the complexity lies first in the understanding that wealth is, to some extent, a creation of society as a whole (the myth of the lone capitalist building his fortune on his own isn’t even good compost any more). While individual effort and ability are important, it is not the sole factor in creating wealth.

            • Submitted by Dan Berg on 10/21/2015 - 10:24 am.

              It is social

              Wealth is largely developed as a function of social interaction. The idea that the opposite of socialism is the belief that every individual creates all of their wealth as a lone person is one I have only heard spoken by those who advocate for socialist policies. The better question is whether social interaction including that which has economic implications (all do to some degree) should be prescribed to individuals by those in the majority through the force of government.

  13. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/19/2015 - 10:00 pm.

    Denied yes

    Reality no.

  14. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 10/19/2015 - 10:47 pm.


    We Americans have a reputation for short memories in history and politics. The tactic known as “Red Baiting” worked because people years ago never understood the difference between Communism or Socialism or even liberalism so you could always count on putting someone with a new proposal on the defensive by calling it “Communistic” and people would ignore it lest they e associated with it as a “Red” or “Communist” idea.

    The new generation has never been exposed to all that. It’s all ancient history to them. There’s a new generation who know “Green” but not “Red” and also know that Democratic Socialism has established a version of the welfare state that has been actually working for ordinary people in Western Europe and elsewhere for quite a long time. There’s a growing movement of people who are ready to give that a better try in this country. Bernie is proving that Red-Baiting will no longer work because no one is afraid of it anymore. No-one knows what a “Socialist” really is or that a lot of confused people once thought it made you disloyal to your country.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 10/20/2015 - 04:27 pm.


      “The new generation has never been exposed to all that. It’s all ancient history to them.”

      Yes indeed. While just one of too many to count examples of stupid, destructive, immoral things that have been swept under the “Let’s move on” carpet, or conveniently buried by the “Sands of Time” and short attention spans (see: mass extermination of “Indians” in the name of Free Real Estate! acquisition and Ta-Nehisi Coates on slavery’s contribution to the Free Labor! pool, etc.), when it comes to the general and still thriving political pastime of brow-beating demagoguery and the damage it can do to innocent people (in the name of More Votes for Meeeee!), there aren’t many better examples than Joe McCarthy’s hyper-cocksure and self-righteous brand of mental illness on mass public display (when — try to imagine this — Television was a brand new thing and there wasn’t much else on besides the Joe Reds Hunt Show).

      If you’re in that “new generation” category, aren’t familiar with it and curious, check out the basics sometime…

      (Side note: He was from Wisconsin and looked a lot like he could have been a not-so-distant relative of Scott Walker’s.)

      I agree that the newer generations are probably going to bring positive change to the current “dynamic,” simply because they look at all the things the old folks get so bent out of shape over and, as younger generations do, think it’s mostly all just stupid.

      But at the same time, and speaking of nearly instant amnesia and short attention spans (not limited to any generation, by the way), I DID hear a segment on NPR a couple weeks ago in which “political party preference” was the topic of a few quick, “On campus” interviews with college-age people, and one young woman said she was kinda leaning toward voting Republican because “Obama has done such a terrible job with the economy.”

      Apparently (or obviously) the lead-up to, and the devastating impact of the 2008 cratering wasn’t part of her frame of recent history reference and she had been hearing and paying attention to the endless, “Obama bad. Wrecked economy. Obama bad. Caused student loan piles. Obama bad. Conservatives good” drone in the air since the day he took office.

      Or something… Whatever made her think that made me wonder how many others in the younger generation (she was probably 13 or 14 in 2008, and just eight or nine when Iraq was invaded) have been slipped what some would call “the Kool Aid Mickey” since their sippy cup days.

  15. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/19/2015 - 11:32 pm.

    My 2¢

    The historical record seems likely to show that capitalism is the greatest (i.e., most effective) system of wealth-creation that humans have yet devised. Industrial capitalism has made what we think of as “modern life” possible.

    Unfortunately, industrial capitalism also has several very sizable flaws, which its disciples seldom acknowledge, and have only rarely attempted to address. Those flaws include both the unequal and the inequitable distribution of the wealth created by the system, largely (though not entirely) due to rules for the system’s operation that have historically been written by those who’ve benefited the most from those very same rules. Corporations themselves are generally the antithesis of democratic in either thought or operation, so the rules that business interests lobby for at every level of government seldom reflect what will benefit the greatest number of people in the society. They’re generally written to protect and/or enhance the power and wealth of those already wealthy and powerful. In addition, it increasingly appears that industrial capitalism, at least as it’s been practiced for the past century or so, is economically and environmentally unsustainable.

    We really need a new economic model, but I’ve yet to encounter one. If it exists, it hasn’t made it out of academia yet. I’d like it to hurry up.

    In the meantime, Eric has provided what I think is a fascinating little insight. In every presidential campaign in this country over the past half-century and more, the label “socialist,” when attached to a candidate, was a death sentence, and those candidates associated with that label typically disappeared from the historical record quickly. Sanders has not, which suggests to me that – just as tea party types have tapped into a pool of working class anger and resentment – the perception that he (Sanders) is interested in the welfare of working class citizens is pretty widespread. He’s tapping into a similar pool of working class anger and resentment, and the fact that he’s still around and still in the race further suggests that his message has gained – and held – some traction.

    European countries that practice the sort of democratic socialism with which Sanders identifies have generally done quite well – both economically and socially – in the past century. Per-capita incomes sometimes match those in the U.S., their health care is far better, and far less expensive, than ours, and to a degree, they’ve been more innovative and successful than the U.S. in solving some modern problems of urbanization and industrialization. Some of these societies are currently having some difficulty absorbing sizable numbers of immigrants fleeing the Middle East and Africa, but that seems to have more to do with their homogeneous populations and cultures than their the details of their economic systems. Absorbing immigrants is one of the things that the U.S. has, historically, done rather well, though not without pain and suffering for the immigrants themselves.

  16. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/20/2015 - 06:32 am.

    The historical record seems likely to show that capitalism is the greatest (i.e., most effective) system of wealth-creation that humans have yet devised.

    But the historical record also shows that it’s intensely cyclical and prone to crises which can be so severe as to threaten it’s survival. We had such a crisis in 2008, and the scary thing is that there are many who want to return to the very same policies that nearly destroyed our economy so recently.

    Now I am a supporter of capitalism. The rise of socialism in this country from what I think of as the second floor of the State Fair to becoming close to the main ideology of one of the two major parties is a major concern. But it isn’t enough to dismiss that phenomenon out of hand. Capitalists and their supporters need to come to a deeper understanding of their system, not just of what it has done well, but also of it’s flaws, the aspects that if left untended, might very well bring their economic system crashing down in the not too distant future.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/20/2015 - 09:21 am.

      the myth of capitalism…

      “The historical record seems likely to show that capitalism is the greatest (i.e., most effective) system of wealth-creation that humans have yet devised.”

      Seriously? You think the Roman and Greek empires or the Chinese emperors were NOT wealthy? How would you even compare the US economy to Rome at the height of it’s power?

      Capitalism doesn’t create wealth more efficiently than feudalism, what it DOES do is create “markets” by commodifying EVERYTHING. That process of commodification can be an abject disaster, look at the American Slave Trade for instance.

      Where people go wrong is in attributing equity and standards of living to Capitalism as if wealth distribution rather than wealth accumulation is some kind of natural result of Capitalism. In fact Capitalism can create more crushing poverty than feudalism ever did.

      The thing that saved Capitalism from a violent death was the layering of democratic governments ON TOP of Capitalist economies… i.e.”liberalism”. Even Adam Smith recognized that without government controls Capitalism likely would not survive due to the miraculous imbalance of wealth it tended to promote.

      Too many contemporary “liberals” have forgotten how we saved Capitalism in the 20s and 30s with liberal controls and regulations. Now we have another crises in Capitalism because liberals have fallen prey to magical thinking about qualities of capitalism. Capitalism isn’t some evolutionary product of society, it’s an economic system human beings created, here’s nothing magical about its “efficiency” or ability to create “wealth”.

      Frankly it amazes me that anyone could live through the recent collapse and still walk around with these notions of magic capitalism in their heads. Sure capitalists systems can create wealth, but they can also destroy wealth on much more massive scale than anything that came before them.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/20/2015 - 09:56 am.


      The problem is that pure capitalism is inherently unstable.
      In any field, one corporation will inevitable gain a slight advantage, which will increase because of economies of scale, political leverage, etc., until the field is controlled by a single monopoly (redundant I know). That’s why (beginning with TR) antitrust legislation was enacted.
      Legal limits on monopolization (socialist control if you wish) is the only way to maintain competition in a closed economy.
      Hence, the current blends of capitalism and socialism in the developed world (even China).
      The outlier is Russia’s current oligopoly (Putinopoly? A blend of the worst features of captalism and socialism), which doesn’t appear to be particularly successful.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/20/2015 - 10:08 am.


        That’s what liberal reforms and regulations have generally done, they stabilized markets and cushioned the crashes. And then we dismantled those reforms and deregulated and to EVERYONE’S surprise I’m sure we had the biggest recession in decades. And nobody (except the progressives) all the way back in the 90s saw it coming.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/20/2015 - 12:23 pm.

        Instability is inherent in capitalism. It’s cyclical and crisis prone. Since the Great Depression, we as a nation, thought that we had solved these problems through various forms of recognition. Prior to the Great Recession, we had not had a banking crisis since 1933. But what we have learned over time that what we thought were fixes, were merely temporary band aid solutions. As soon as capitalists had the political strength to throw them off, they did so, returning in effect to capitalism’s state of nature. We are now returning to a crisis oriented economic system, and one result of that could well be the rise of various alternative political movements, that had lost their reason for existence, during capitalism’s long historical period of economic and political stability. That’s why socialism, long relegated to the second floor of the State Fair grand stand is returning in force in the Democratic Party. And it may not be the only such economic and political movement. There are theocratic and fascist forces at work as well.

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/20/2015 - 08:49 am.

    Progressives have been thinking about this for a long time

    Basically, progressives have always believed (known?) that socialism works and sells, but liberals have always been too afraid to try it. This was the schism on the left back in the 70s and 80s, when the republicans attacked liberalism progressives tended to fight back while liberals tended to shrink back and start denying they were liberals. Progressives understood that the Left was where we needed to be (compared to the right) while liberals sought out the “middle”. Well, the rest is history, there were always more liberals than progressives, and the power elite supports the status quo so the “middle” won out and we’re now discovering that Jim Hightower was right, the only thing in the middle of the road is yellow lines and dead armadillos.

    So it doesn’t surprise progressives at all that a “socialist” can slug it out with a liberal and remain in the ring because the most popular and successful liberals in American history have all been progressives.

    As for Bernie, I hate to tell you this but in order to understand why he calls himself a socialist or a democratic socialist you have to go back to the rift between Marxists and Weberian’s back in the 20s and 30s. The problem with Marx turned out to be that the “dialectic” progression of history he thought he’d discovered didn’t really exist, but his critique of Capitalism has never been equaled, to this day all anyone can do is rephrase his observations. Any solid critique of capitalism you’ve ever read is paraphrased Marx, you just may not know it because you haven’t read Marx, or if you have read Marx you read the “Communist Manifesto” instead of the “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts” or the “Critique of Capitalism.

    Max Weber recognized Marx’s error and went in a different direction that leads to socialism rather than communism (remember actual “Communism” is a product of the Dialectic, so if there’s no Dialectic…). The Democratic Socialist we see in Europe are mostly descendants of Weber, as are American Progressives (Marxist’s by and large have been a dwindling bunch because they’ve tended to more dogmatic and the liberal mind tends to ovoid dogma). This was all big stuff in progressive intellectual circles back when Bernie was a young buck, and when American progressives look around for a successful model they end up looking at either the Greens or the Democratic Socialists. Obviously Bernie went with the socialists, and those guys don’t call themselves: “Progressives” because of that obscure debate about whether or not “progress” ala Marx’s dialectic is inevitable. To sum up: for Marx, progress was inevitable, for Weber, (and the socialists) we MAKE our progress.

    Now by the time I was young buck in the 80s American Progressives were using Marx’s critique but leaving the language of the Dialectic in the history bin. So you have terms that are all over the map, Chomsky calls himself a: “Social Anarchist” (and Anarchists’ accuse him of merely being a socialist), you got some “Neo-Marxists” out there, some old guard socialists, etc. etc.

    American liberals and especially the Democratic party are NOT progressives, and they are most certainly NOT Democratic Socialists, I wish they were.

    Bernie still calls himself a Socialists because that’s the era he came out of, THAT’S what progressives called themselves back then. Clearly he’s “progressive”, (Hillary is absolutely NOT) but if you think American’s are confused about Socialism, try talking to them about Progressives and neo-liberalism. Bernie is simply (IMO) trying to maintain a distinction between left/progressive approaches and the “middlism” of traditional democrats like Hillary Clinton. In theory progressivism is perfectly compatible with democratic party agendas so why strike out as a third party if you can run as a democrat? Bernie isn’t stupid.

    All Americans need to know is that American Progressives AND Socialists by and large do not believe that the US Constitution needs to be torn up, we tend to believe that progressive principles and solutions are perfectly compatible with our Constitutional framework (hence the rejection of violent “revolution”). The “revolution” (most) progressives talk about is a shift in power that take place peacefully within our constitutional framework, basically the shift calls for a more equitable distribution of power. Some progressives think we could write a better Constitution, but that’s a wholenuther can of worms.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/20/2015 - 12:42 pm.

      In Summary

      A Strong Progressive is similar to a Democratic Socialist. And both believe “Wealth is a social creation and should be controlled by society as a whole.”

      • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 10/20/2015 - 04:34 pm.

        No man is an island.

        How exactly do you propose a person create wealth for him/herself if they have no one with whom to barter and trade?

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/20/2015 - 06:19 pm.


          As I mentioned to RB above. I am fine with flat to slightly progressive total taxation like we have today. As we have discussed before… Society is the house and it gets it’s cut. It is the desire to impose highly progressive tax rates that I disagree with so additional freebies can be given out is what I disagree with.

          Currently the low income folks are net recipients of our society. (ie get back more than they pay in) And this cost is born by the higher income folks. Not sure how many net recipients the Liberal folks want, but it seems like many more.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/20/2015 - 08:03 pm.

            Mumbo Jumbo

            “Currently the low income folks are net recipients of our society. (ie get back more than they pay in) And this cost is born by the higher income folks.”

            This statement is simply ridiculous. Everyone is net recipients, and if you look our tax incidents studies clearly document that the wealthy are actually the biggest recipients. Show me the poor folks getting billion dollar stadiums. Walmart gets over $6 billion in wage subsidies every year. Whatever.

            The idea that the wealthy pay for everyone else may be a persistent myth, but we should be talking about the real economy.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/21/2015 - 09:47 am.


              Most people receiving a combination of SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, ACA Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, etc are likely receiving far more back in direct benefits than they are paying in taxes. The hope is that at sometime they can become more successful and start paying some it back.

              Until that time it is the people who pay Federal and State Income Taxes, and receive little back in direct benefits who are carrying the financial load of the first group. This is not bad or good, it just is. What is odd to me is that instead of being thankful to people who are paying these bills, many villify them and demand more.

              • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/21/2015 - 03:19 pm.

                You and Mr Udstrand

                Both neglect to include income in what folks “get back.” Very few folks would derive much income at all – returns on labor or on capital – without a functioning society surrounding their labors and transactions. With this more complete definition, of course those with higher means receive vastly more back in direct benefits than those of lesser means. And this is entirely aside from, and independent of, the assumption that one’s income bears a relation to what one contributes to social well-being.

                • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/21/2015 - 05:33 pm.

                  Careful with that big brush Mr. Holtman

                  I certainly never signed onto notion that wealth exists in nature or outside of human culture. Don’t assign that absurd proposition to me.

                  • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/21/2015 - 05:58 pm.

                    Paul (if I may call you that) –

                    You mistake my comment. I was referring simply to your response to Mr Appelen in which you undertook to contest his assertion based solely on the incidence of post-income (i.e., tax-based) redistributional benefits. I’m making the point that the argument is much, much stronger because the initial incidence of income is also the result of our collective construction and maintenance of a functioning society.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/21/2015 - 07:18 pm.


                      That is why a person with a million dollar salary pays hundreds of thousand of dollars in taxes and gets no checks back. And a person who makes $20,000 pays in $4,000, and then gets back over $4,000 in checks back from the government. (direct benefits, tax credits, cash) And they both drive on the same roads, have access to the same libraries, etc.

                      One is paying for our society, the other is costing our society. Not good or bad… Just true.

                    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/22/2015 - 08:21 am.

                      Well, no, not true.

                      Each of your two folks exists in some fashion in society, and engages in some productive activity or not, and ends of with some portion of the social wealth. The person with the $1M salary ends up with a much larger portion of the social wealth, even after giving back a big chunk of it in taxes. Is that person contributing to society commensurate with the portion of social wealth he or she is receiving? Your arguments assume this is true without recognizing it is a question. In some cases yes, in some no. In some, that person will be obtaining a large portion of the social wealth for doing things that actually are very costly to society. And further, of course, as a society we don’t leave to die those who aren’t able to contribute. We don’t want to give handouts to the shiftless but we do want to assist those who are limited in the personal capacities they can commodify. It’s not as simple as you suggest.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/22/2015 - 10:52 am.

                      Better Option

                      “person will be obtaining a large portion of the social wealth for doing things that actually are very costly to society”

                      So are you advocating for the “State” to collect all of our incomes, then to have a “Board” who can divvy out the money based on whether they deem our behaviors/us to be Damaging Society, Free Loaders, Value Added or Highly Value Added?

                      All I read here is that people who have money must pay much more to support those who do not. There is no questioning of Free Loading or High Value Add people. There is just an assumption that to be fair the wealthy must support our society. (whether they are fraudulent or hard workers) And that the low income folks must receive from our society. (whether they are fraudulent or hard workers)

                    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/22/2015 - 01:07 pm.

                      To answer your question:


                      Meaning no disrespect, you have a strong tendency to extract from others’ comments erroneously and simplify (or caricature) excessively. It suggests you have a strong filter and makes attempts at colloquy frustrating.

                      This chain concerns your initial assertion that those of lesser means obtain more benefits from society than those of greater means. My response and Paul’s were to point out that this is very much not true. I haven’t asserted anything about how social wealth should be allocated or the extent to which there should be collective involvement in that.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/22/2015 - 03:05 pm.

                      Sorry if my style frustrates. However I want to understand if you think my assertion is wrong, or if you think “it depends on the specific circumstance / person”.

                      Do the wealthy always get more than they give?
                      Do the poor always give more than they get?
                      Or does it depend on many values, factors, etc?
                      Who should determine if a BB star is adding enough value to justify their income/wealth?
                      Who should decide if a welfare Mom with 3 kids is contributing enough?
                      How can we tweak the tax code and benefits to be optimized?
                      (ie not just saying the poor deserve more and the rich should pay more)

                      I fully accept the idea that is is complicated, gray, fuzzy, etc. I just have a better system than a slightly capitalistic leaning mixed economy to optimize everything.

                    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/23/2015 - 09:42 am.

                      If the question contains the word “always,” the answer is “no.”

                      I don’t understand your last sentence, which may be the crux of your comment. But otherwise, you’re asking for a unified theory of how humans should organize and run a society, which can’t quite be expressed in a MinnPost response. Reposing economic decisions and economic consequences in individuals is socially productive in some respects but also creates counterproductive incentives and tendencies. The same for reposing these in the collective. Centralizing and standardizing serve important purposes but bureaucracies (public and private) bring social cost. Systems that involve collective administration or enforcement incur substantial transaction costs and will be imperfect in aligning benefits and penalties with social goals as to merit. Collective prerogatives can be reposed at many levels: federal, state, local, neighborhood, etc. Choices of individuals can be considered an indicator of demand but pure autonomy doesn’t exist, preferences are massively manipulated, and in important realms the collective may be just as reliable as individual choice in determining the goods society should value and produce. The complexities and tradeoffs go on and on.

                      In other words, self-government is a matter of optimizing (ordered) freedom thru an unending exercise of making imperfect judgments. The only thing that can be said for sure is that a society’s highest priority (beyond meeting the basic needs of its members) is to educate all to be critically thinking, morally considered and civically engaged participants. After that, what we create is what we’ve got. Unfortunately, as in many other things, in the production of critically thinking citizens our society fails consequential (and intentionally). That’s why we are governed largely by charismatic mountebanks and grifters working (knowingly or unknowingly) for the benefit of the very few at the cost of the many.

                    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/22/2015 - 08:54 am.

                      Not true at all

                      This notion that the wealthy pay for everything and take little or nothing in return is too incoherent to address. Suffice to say that primary characteristic of the wealthy, indeed the thing make some people “wealthier” than others, it that hey extract more capital from the economy than everyone else.

                      This notion that simple math, i.e. the observation that 10% of a billion dollars will yield more dollars than 10% of $50k dollars somehow proves that the wealthy pay for everything and get little or nothing in return, is nearly delusional. Again, the wealthy may not use food stamps, but they receive billions of dollars in other direct and services and subsidies.

                      And of course as Mr. Holtman points out, the idea the the wealthy somehow exist, or could exist independently of government or society is ridiculous on it’s face.

                      I’m not trying to insult anyone but it is sad that soooooo many Americans are sooooooo ignorant regarding basic government expenditure and revenue practice and tax collection strategy. I’ve written extensively about this:

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/22/2015 - 01:10 pm.

                      Okay, I read it again and it still makes no sense.

                      We do have a flat to progressive “total tax & direct benefits” system. The poorest get far more back in programs than they put in and the richest pay a huge amount to enable the government to pay for those benefits.

                      What you would like is for an ever increasing tax rate that would provide funds for wealth equalization… This may make sense if everyone in society is adding the same financial or labor value ad. (see comments above)

                      By the way, it looks like individual taxes were higher for a while… And they have been much lower. (ie non-existent)

                    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/25/2015 - 09:57 am.

                      In reality

                      It’s the middle class who pay the highest overall (as opposed to marginal) total tax rates.
                      The rich have many ways to bury their unearned income.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/21/2015 - 05:30 pm.

                Not sorry enough

                “Most people receiving a combination of SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, ACA Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, etc are likely receiving far more back in direct benefits than they are paying in taxes. The hope is that at sometime they can become more successful and start paying some it back.”

                This concept of taxation and government spending is incoherent. You’re only considering a small fraction of government programs and spending, and a self selected group of “direct” benefit programs.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/20/2015 - 01:33 pm.

      The constitution

      I do think the Constitution is being torn up, or maybe a bit more precisely, the system it created is breaking down. In 2008, we came very close to a collapse of the economy, which was barely saved when the various parties were able to unite and work together to stop it. Faced with another such crisis, I don’t know if that could happen again.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/20/2015 - 01:53 pm.

      Marx’s problem

      was that when he conceived the structure of the ‘dialectic’ he never envisioned socialism being tried in feudal second world countries like China and Russia, which had not yet built up a capitalist structure.
      He expected Socialism to be the next stage of economic development in Germany, England and the United States.
      So it is not surprising that Communism in practice has been a fascist society bearing little resemblance to Marx’s plans (more Groucho than Karlo).

  18. Submitted by joe smith on 10/20/2015 - 09:34 am.

    Wow, the pain folks are going through to explain how Bernie either became a socialist or to put a bloom on the dead socialist flower is interesting. Capitalism has been weighed down by special interest groups, lobbyists and regulations all passed into law by politicians that we voted into office. Now the Socialists want us to believe if we give the same politicians that polluted Capitalism more of our money, more power and more control of our lives it will work out beautifully.
    Just a quick look at giving our elected officials more money and power, 1 trillion dollar stimulus package sold as “shovel ready jobs/infrastructure” package, 6% of the money went to infrastructure. Obamacare, sold as a money saver, ($2,500 per family) and insuring 10’s of millions, administration just announced projected folks on Obamacare will fall from 21M to 10M for 2016 and costs are skyrocketing.

    We need to take power away from elected officials on both sides of the isle not give them more.

  19. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/20/2015 - 03:28 pm.

    I’m seeing a lot of right-wingers here who

    are commenting on something they don’t fully understand, namely, the different types of socialism and why they work or don’t work in various contexts.

    They’re throwing around the names of a lot of different countries without realizing (or perhaps not caring) that each country has unique strengths and weaknesses and historical contexts.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/20/2015 - 05:20 pm.


      And your point is? The Liberal commenters do that here daily. “The USA should be more like Finland, or Sweden, or Germany, etc, etc, etc.” Often it is the moderates like myself who try to explain that Finland is about as complex as Minnesota… And that the USA is much more equivalent in complexity to the EU…

      We who are further to the Right just like controlling our savings, investments, insurance, etc instead of having this controlled by the politicians / government / bureaucrats/ “society”. Whereas people further to the Left like having by the politicians / government / bureaucrats/ “society” remove that burden from the common person and seize control of it. (ie mandated retirement savings, insurance, charity, etc)

      No problem. Just a different belief system.

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/20/2015 - 08:22 pm.

    Another myth of capitalism…

    “Instability is inherent in capitalism. It’s cyclical and crisis prone.”

    Capitalist economies can be more or less unstable, and crises can strike any economy. The idea that capitalist economies “cycle” is simply without merit. If there were cycles we could predict them, there are no “cycles”, there are fluctuations, highs and lows, bubbles and bursts. There’s no law of the universe that capitalist economies will always recover no matter how bad the crash. The world didn’t “cycle” out of the Great Depression, a combination of factors, WWII, New Deal interventions, etc. brought the Depression to an end, these were NOT features of capitalism that kicked in and “cycled” us out.

    Again, there’s no such thing as a “natural” state of capitalism, human beings create economic systems, they don’t discover them in nature. This natural state stuff is just another way of claiming that “free markets” exist or can exist, this is a false claim.

    How stable can a capitalist economy be? How much can crises be diminished, modulated or ameliorated? More than likely no one knows. What we do know is that certain restraints and precautions limit risks and more equitable wealth distribution diminishes class struggle.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 10/22/2015 - 06:27 am.

      If there were cycles we could predict them, there are no “cycles”, there are fluctuations, highs and lows, bubbles and bursts.

      Historically, in America, financial crises appear about every 20 years or so. Their severity is variable. And the reasons for them are similar. Capitalists become over confident building up excess capacity. Some triggering event occurs, everyone tries to sell at once, and the market collapses. There is a consequent loss of faith and a period of contraction.

      Capitalism may not have a natural state, but it is subject to certain forces embedded in human nature that keep it flux. We thought that capitalism could be stabilized through regulation, but we underestimated the destabilizing effect of capitalism on regulation and regulators. We made the mistake of thinking that regulation existed outside the system instead of just being another thing that contributes the boom and bust cycle.

  21. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/21/2015 - 09:08 am.

    Just to sharpen the point a little

    The reason I object so much to this notion of capitalist “cycles” is that the use of the term promotes incoherent economics. The notion of cycling capitalist economies implies that they are self-correcting etc. etc. In fact, capitalists crash economies and governments come to the rescue, capitalists don’t “correct” themselves. The profits are private but the risks are socialized.

    This is reason #436 why the idea that poor people are bigger net “gainers” than the wealthy is so absurd. It’s a system where billionaires crash and store clerks, construction workers, and bus drivers bail them out. We only add to the confusion when describe that as some kind of “natural” cycle. And it’s not harmless confusion. THAT confusion led liberals (like Hillary Clinton) to accept the notion that we could safely deregulate self regulating markets, and we know what happened. At a time when we should have been designing and applying new and better regulations Bill Clinton took us in the opposite direction. I know people may get tired of me saying this but it really was magical thinking.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/21/2015 - 12:24 pm.


      The reality is that most items wear out or run out thankfully… And sometimes people over expand or over buy… Thus business cycles are normal and self correcting. The governments can help or hurt depending on how they try to interfere.

      Now if the USA had deficit spent during the recession and cut back during the recovery to pay back their debt. We would then be much better prepared for the next normal business cycle. Instead we are deeply indebted and the next blip should occur within 2 years. (ie ~8 year cycle since ~1985)

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/21/2015 - 05:36 pm.

        We’re not talking about business cycles

        We’re talking about economics.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/21/2015 - 07:10 pm.


          See the bottom of this link for a history of recent recessions.

          Now does anybody actually remember the recession of the early 2000’s? Odds are that few people do because it was so minor and short. The GOP screwed around cut all of our taxes, kept rates low, started war spending and consumers /home owners pretty well spent their way through what could have been a big recession. I mean the tech stocks had bombed and Americans were scared, but no the government let us keep and spend more money than ever.

          The downside to this is that home owners started to think that home values only go up faster than inflation… And man they bought and inflated the market ever faster. I mean why not, it was like printing money and you could live in a really nice house to boot. (ie over expand) Then when the natural correction occurred, everyone cried foul.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/22/2015 - 08:26 am.


            I actually remember every recession that’s occurred during my lifetime, including the 2001 recession. Frankly, I don’t think there actually were two separate recessions, I think the great recession actually started in 2001, it just wasn’t recognized because of quirks in the way we actually define “recessions”.

            At any rate, again, we’re (and Bernie) are talking about economics, not tax policy. Taxes don’t trigger or prevent recessions. Taxes pay for government services. And before someone goes off on the predictable mumbo jumbo about the percentage of government spending in the economy let’s simply point out that historically the higher that percentage is, the more stable economies tend to be. And in modern liberal democracies government spending always increases during recessions because the government is rescuing the economy.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/22/2015 - 06:19 pm.

              Facts and Data

              This is a pretty fascinating graph.

              I have one of those problematic questions… If huge government spending is required to rescue an economy from recession… How did the world and all of it’s economies over the last ~10,000 years survive before big government? Since that method really did not occur in earnest before the 1930’s…

              By the way, I do agree that government borrowing /spending during down turns, and repaying / saving during up times can help reduce the pain, duration and depth of these natural economic cycles. Just like Bush’s actions did in 2001- 2003. Unfortunately sometimes government intervention can make the next cycle more intense. Especially when the government is in debt when it needs to borrow like in 2008.

              It is kind of like building levies in a flood zone, it helps in many cases. However it can be catastrophic in other ways.

  22. Submitted by Howard Miller on 10/22/2015 - 05:23 pm.

    it’s only 2015

    Perpetual political campaigns are exhausting. Our friends in Canada just wrapped up a national election … in something like 3 months. Our own national election is still more than a year away.

    For the next 12 months we’ll be politically carpet-bombed with labels …. “socialist” is looking to have banner year, given Bernie Sanders as a candidate. People lacking in good faith, devoid of any willingness to listen to opponents will use those labels to project onto opponents the simplest and most foolish of characterizations, unattached to the reality that the real human opponent presents. The least interesting words in our political conversation are those slung by opponents of candidates.

    The most interesting are the observations of reservations by fellow travelers to the candidate, and moments of praise by opponents. Note, for example, a car interview this past year of Lindsey Graham, as conservative a South Carolinian as there is, and he was singing personal praise for Joe Biden, tho’ they agree on little politically. I crave more coverage of those moments, and less, frankly of what lefties think the right wing is all about, or what righties think the left is all about.

    Its only 2015 … and We, the People need to govern together, despite our differences. Let’s act like we understand working together is the better path than insisting on ideological rigidity and purity. And let’s go easy on stuffing candidates into narrow labels. It is rarely justified.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/22/2015 - 07:32 pm.

      3 Cheers

      That is an excellent comment !!! Bernie’s belief / plan may be too far Left for me. However I will be interested to hear what Hillary and Jeb have to say…

  23. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/23/2015 - 08:25 am.

    Economic cycles don’t exist

    The problem with history is it won’t stay put:

    “Historically, in America, financial crises appear about every 20 years or so. Their severity is variable.”

    We’ve actually been averaging a recession once a decade since 1973, and that’s if we stick to the narrow official definition of a recession. The last two recession were back to back. American workers have actually been in recession for almost three decades now. There’s no cycle here, These are not natural cycles, these are economic fluctuations, they were all caused, from the Savings and Loan crises in the 80s to the Dot-Com collapse, to the financial market collapse, by regulatory failure. In every instance we had tools in the box to avert these collapses and failed to use them because of magical thinking like that of Allan Greenspan’s.

    “We thought that capitalism could be stabilized through regulation, but we underestimated the destabilizing effect of capitalism on regulation and regulators.”

    No, we deregulated, and failed to regulate, starting with Jimmy Carter. The regulatory regime was repealed, it didn’t simply fail. And to the extent that it failed, it failed because it wasn’t enforced.

    What Hiram is actually demonstrating here (as an avowed democrat) is the phenomena of “Neo Liberalism” that progressives have been talking about for decades. This is the process by which liberals embraced magical thinking about market economies as passionately as conservatives. Now a lot of democrats cling to it because if they didn’t they have to admit that democratic presidents starting with Jimmy Carter and running up through Clinton helped sow the seeds of the Great Recession with a series of de-regulation and privatization schemes. On one hand Carter and Clinton proved that republican economics don’t work, even if they implemented by democrats. On the other hand they’re left in the uncomfortable situation of trying to explain why they magic “might” work in the first place?

  24. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/23/2015 - 08:11 am.

    Stable economies

    Just to be clear, economies fluctuate (although not in “cycles”), and perfect stabilization is obviously impossible and not even a good idea. So you will have up and down swings in any event. The Liberal (as apposed to the neo-liberal or the conservative) agenda is to limit the severity of those swings and the damage they do to people’s lives. Hence the unemployment insurance, safety net, and social security programs of the 1930s kept millions of people out of abject poverty during the Great Recession, in fact those programs kept this Great Recession from becoming another Great Depression.

    Regulation can limit (not completely eliminate) the dangerous excess and criminal activity that typically triggers the really big recessions.

    I forgot to point this out earlier… in fact the big recessions are all caused by flat out criminality in the crashing sector, whether it be the Savings and Loan’s of the 80s or the rigged mortgages and derivatives of the 2000’s. These are not economic “cycles”, these are white collar crime sprees.

    • Submitted by joe smith on 10/25/2015 - 10:37 am.

      The housing crash is directly related to Democrats pushing banks to give out high risk housing loans to unqualified folks going back to the Clinton era. That surely didn’t limit the severity of the housing crash.

  25. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/23/2015 - 08:22 am.

    False claims remain false even if you repeat them

    “… The poorest get far more back in programs than they put in and the richest pay a huge amount to enable the government to pay for those benefits.”

    You can repeat this false claim forever but it will nevert convert into the truth. The claim itself is based on a collection of incoherent and false assumptions about everything from “wealth” to “benefits”.

    “If huge government spending is required to rescue an economy from recession… How did the world and all of it’s economies over the last ~10,000 years survive before big government?”

    Speaking of incoherent principles: Why is it that NONE of the wealthiest countries in the capitalist era look like Somalia? From China to Norway not a single “small” government is to be found among the wealthiest nations on the planet. And by the way, they may not have been capitalist economies but neither the Roman Empire, the Ming Dynasty, or the Inca, were outstanding examples of “small” government.

  26. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/23/2015 - 10:38 am.

    So getting back to Bernie

    The Progressive (Socialist) tradition he hails from seeks to limit extreme hazards of corporate crime sprees. Part of that is a more equitable distribution of economic gains and product because massive inequality is often associated with extreme recessions. When we have recessions we currently seek to limit the damage to corporations and wealthy while barely keeping the bottom afloat.

  27. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/23/2015 - 10:47 am.

    By the way…

    For those following at home, there are basically two reasons that the claim that the wealthy pay for government they don’t use and the poor get more than they put in: 1) The claim is based on a limited examination of government revenue, it’s limited to income taxes and excludes ALL other taxes. For instance while a millionaire may pay more dollars in income tax, someone making $50 million pays not a dime more in Social Security that someone making $113k a year. 2) This false claim assumes that the ONLY benefit any citizen derives from government is an actually check in the mail, or set of stamps etc.

    If you look at the tax incidence studies you’ll see that our tax structure is actually regressive right now. That means basically that the bottom quintiles are contributing more than they get back.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/23/2015 - 03:11 pm.

      Facts and Data

      I find Chapter 2 in this document fascinating.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/24/2015 - 08:07 am.

        Bogus facts and obscured data

        OK, so I took the bullet and wasted some minutes of my life looking at John’s link (you’re welcome). Almost immediately you can see there are problems with the tables and graphs, later graphs contradict data in previous graphs and tables etc. Despite the fact that income taxes only account for around 30% of government revenue the “study” (and commentors here) ends up focusing exclusively on income tax. Eventually a conclusion that US are very progressive and the wealthy are paying for everything emerges from the fog. So I look up who the: “Tax Foundation” is and of course it’s a republican think tank. The Tax Foundation’s “conclusions” are contrary to those produced by peer reviewed academic studies over the last three decades.

        Again, if you simply look at the number of dollars the wealthy contribute you’ll see that they put a lot of dollars in, but that’s just a mathematical artifact- the wealthy will always put more dollars in because 10% of $50 million will always be more than 10% of $50k. That tells you nothing about tax “burdens”. In fact, whenever you see more dollars coming out of the top deciles than all the other deciles all that really tells you is that the top deciles are accumulating massive wealth and capturing more income than the bottom deciles. In order to figure out what kinds of “benefits” people are getting comparitively you have to dig into government expenditures, not simply look at programs for the poor.

        At any rate, if you want to look at academic study Tufts University has a couple nice online documents, one looks specifically at who’s paying and how fair it all is:

        And the other simply explains the nature and rational of progressive tax systems while examining the US system:

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/24/2015 - 07:49 pm.

          Flat to Progressive

          From the intro of your source.

          “The results show that the overall federal tax system is quite progressive. But when state and local taxes are included as well, the overall U.S. tax system is only slightly progressive. Further, most of the progressivity of the overall tax system occurs in the lower half of the income spectrum. At upper-income levels, progressivity levels off and actually reverses at the highest income levels. Median-income taxpayers pay about 25% of their total income in taxes, while taxpayers in the top 1% pay about 31% of their income in taxes. Thus claims that America has a “highly progressive” tax system do not appear to be valid.”

          “There is no clear long-term trend in the progressivity of the federal tax system – it is about as progressive now as it was in 1979 with progressivity generally declining in the 1980s and rising since then. The limited data on state and local tax progressivity also fail to indicate a trend in either direction over the last 15 years.”

          Now please remember that this was in 2010 before the tax increases hit the wealthiest Americans. I am thinking we are pretty well back to “Progressive”. And these folks did not even discuss the cash / Medicaid benefits exclusively given to lower income citizens. Thank you for confirming my point.

          • Submitted by Bill Willy on 10/24/2015 - 11:33 pm.

            Pretty much

            “Median-income taxpayers pay about 25% of their total income in taxes, while taxpayers in the top 1% pay about 31% of their income in taxes.”

            “According to the Census ACS 1-year survey, the median household income for Minnesota was $61,481 in 2014, the latest figures available.”


            So, let’s see. In simplest, totally gross terms, that would mean that a MN household pulling down the median income would pay about $15,370 in taxes.

            And now that you’ve read those articles I recommended (even though you know R. Stone has an agenda, is looking for villians, etc.) you know that Lloyd Blankfein, a highly respected CEO of the kind of firm you believe to be working for the good of all Americans, earned $42,900,000 in 2010 which, I’m pretty sure, would put him in that “top 1%” that pay “about 31%” in taxes.

            So, let’s see again… $42,900,000 X .31 = $13,299,000 (assuming, or pretending, his investment income capital gains tax rate wasn’t really just 15%).

            That would mean that the median income Minnesota household/family’s “after tax discretionary income” was somewhere in the neighborhood of $46,000 while Lloyd Blanfien’s after tax discretionary income was approximately $29,000,000.

            So let’s break that down to really dumb and simple terms of a weekly paycheck and see what happens…

            If we divide the median income Minnesota family’s after tax income by 52 weeks we see their household’s weekly take-home pay was right around $885, while Mr. Blankfein’s family’s weekly take-home pay was about $558,000.

            “Now please remember that this was in 2010 before the tax increases hit the wealthiest Americans. I am thinking we are pretty well back to ‘Progressive.’ ”

            Yeah… Pretty much.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/25/2015 - 08:10 am.


              Due to AMT, ACA extra tax on wealthy, the recent tax increases on the wealthy, etc, the numbers are likely pretty good. Even capital gains for these folks is charged at 23+%.

              Med Family (25%): $ 15,370
              Lloyd’s (31%): $13,299,000

              Now the big questions, who is paying their fair share to keep the government running for the good of all of us? What is the purpose of taxes? To fund the government or to punish the successful?

              I think that is where the Liberals and Conservatives differ.

  28. Submitted by John Appelen on 10/23/2015 - 10:52 am.


    Sorry for the typo above. It should have read.

    “I fully accept the idea that this issue is complicated, gray, fuzzy, etc. I just have not found a better system than a slightly capitalistic leaning mixed economy to optimize everything.”

    I guess I disagree with your comment from above. “That’s why we are governed largely by charismatic mountebanks and grifters working (knowingly or unknowingly) for the benefit of the very few at the cost of the many.”

    I think most of them are working for the many. They just have very different views on how to help the many. The socialists want to give people things, and the capitalists want everyone to strive for everything and share through charity. And us in the middle want some of both. For the folks who think Denmark is a very good model, you may find this article interesting.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 10/23/2015 - 01:06 pm.


      “I think most of them are working for the many. They just have very different views on how to help the many.”

      I suppose if someone took a poll and asked people whether they considered themselves to lean “capitalist” or “socialist,” the idea that “most capitalists are working for the many,” MIGHT be valid… That is to say, the vast majority of people would probably be in the “capitalist” column, and therefore, the idea that most people are working for the many would probably hold up (most people aren’t “greedy rats, trying to steal their neighbor’s shirt,” etc., no matter how they vote or who they support).

      But when you look at those that are what many would consider to be the most rabid, gung-ho, full-tilt true believers engaging in capitalism, the idea that they are working for the many couldn’t be further from the truth. That may be a case of “a few bad apples” (in view of the hypothetical survey above), but as we all know, it doesn’t take all that many bad apples to turn the whole batch into vinegar (if they’re not removed).

      Regarding Denmark, I read the link to the article you said one of your left-leaning readers sent you (last week?), and didn’t find myself profoundly disturbed by what I read. Didn’t sound like utopia, but, at the same time, didn’t sound like the worst place or system in the world either.

      I invite you to read the articles I linked to in my comment below (I just posted and assume will be showing up — if not I’ll get back to you here with them). Not that the articles advocate for implementation of socialism or the abolishment of capitalism (any more than Bernie Sanders or most people that agree with him are, if that’s what you’re thinking). But they do tend to shed some interesting light on what I’m pretty sure you would agree are some “less than optimal” aspects of capitalism that are no good for ANY of us (except those “rotten apples”).

  29. Submitted by Bill Willy on 10/23/2015 - 12:35 pm.

    THE issue of the 2016 election

    Paul (Udstrand) is, and has always been, as close to 100% accurate on these “profoundly fundamental” issues as anyone could be, and they are so important, key, central to “the American Way of Life” (in that ideal sense most think of) that they (or it) should be THE central issues of the the upcoming election, at both the presidential and state levels.

    This, to me, is why Bernie Sanders is such an important candidate. Not because he’s the “smartest,” or “most presidential,” or “most electable,” or any of those usual “benchmarks.” To me, he’s the most important candidate because he’s the only candidate from either party that is clearly, simply, consistently addressing THE issue that overshadows all other issues, by far.

    Everyone — whether they consider themselves a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or any other political group — who agress with the idea that one of the most important things in practical life is the “well-being of America” ought to do what they can to take a break from trying to score rhetorical political points and spend some objective as possible time not only taking a good look at what Bernie Sanders is saying, but the history and actual nuts and bolts realities (context, facts, figures, real life results and circumstances for Americans). Not because I think it will “prove” anything to anyone, but because I sincerely believe that ALL of us — no matter which “party” or “ideology” we agree with — that like to think of ourselves as the type of people that do their best to be among that increasingly rare group of “informed voters” can’t make that claim unless we do that.

    A lot of what’s happening right now reminds me of that old idea, “We study the past in hopes of not making the same mistakes in the future” (or however exactly that’s phrased). As far as my perception of that goes, as it relates to this election, and Bernie Sanders being the most important candidate, there are two or three prime examples:

    The first is whatever exactly was going on at the beginning of the last century when Theodore Roosevelt was (the “progressive Republican”) president and the anti-trust actions he took that thwarted the hog-wild takeover of the American economy and majority of American wealth, or capital, by the business Whales of the time.

    The second was Franklin Roosevelt’s handling of the catastrophe that followed the implosion of America’s economy on the heels of the similar, but different, “activities” of the “business interests” of post world war one times.

    The third is what has been happening in the period of time beginning with, as Paul pointed out, the savings and loan crisis in the 80s, up until today.

    The difference in those three examples is that the third has “yet to be resolved”: We are now hanging in an economic/political limbo that, depending on what we decide to do, collectively, could make a huge difference for all of us, as well as the next generation or two or who knows?

    To me, the question related to “We study the past,” etc. is, are we in one of those pre-Roosevelts eras (which it certainly looks like we are) and, if so, what should we do about it?

    I say Bernie Sanders is the most important candidate because he’s the only one talking about that question and presenting a vision of how to approach it. None of the other candidates (with the exception of Martin O’Malley, to a degree) are talking about it directly, if at all, as if everything is basically okay, except, on the Republican side, “Obama’s president, the government’s too big,” etc., and, to the extent the other leading Democratic candidate is talking about it, she seems to be doing so only because Bernie Sanders has been talking about almost nothing else and has been gaining such surprising (and threatening) political traction. I get the impression she’d rather not discuss it, and would prefer to stick to the usual gauzy generalities that are the usual norm.

    But steering clear of all that for now, I’ll go back to the main point and suggest that anyone interested in the (interesting) issues that have been the main topic of discussion in the later part of this comment thread (and what I’m saying should be THE issue of the election) put these three articles on your Weekend Reading List:

    The Great American Bubble Machine (April 5, 2010)

    The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks’ Most Devious Scam Yet (February 12, 2014)

    Hillary Clinton’s Take on Banks Won’t Hold Up (October 14, 2015)

    All three are directly related to the economic aspects of what’s been discussed here so far. directly related to why Bernie Sanders is such an important candidate, and, a bonus, I’m pretty anyone who reads them won’t be bored or disappointed and may, like me, find them be some of the best journalism they’ve read in quite a while.

    And while I’d recommend all three to anyone, if you’re one of the people interested in the copper-nickel mining issue, or the serious real life recession that’s hitting the Iron Range right now and impacting thousands of Minnesotans, I strongly recommend the first two, but the second (Squid Strikes Again) for sure.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/24/2015 - 12:18 am.


      I am happy this is America and we are all free to believe differently, because I can then disagree with the vast majority of what you wrote above.Your sources definitely have an agenda, and they want to create villains. Of course since I own a lot of financial stock right now (ie good buys in 2009), I disagree with Rolling Stones interpretation of reality. And since 72% of the company is owned by institutional investors, I am pretty sure that everyone who has a diversified pension, IRA, 401K, etc likely owns some of these villains and benefits when they earn a profit.

      Now I have no doubt that these institutions do strive to earn good returns within the bounds of the law. That is what we investors expect of them and pay them for. If they don’t, we sell their stock and look for a better performer. So as we have discussed before I see the contributors to the Great Recession being irresponsible Mortagees (30%), inattentive regulators (15%), Mortgage companies (30%), Investing Entities (25%)

      Remember what WC Fields said “You can’t cheat an honest man…”

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