“The magician and the politician have much in common: they both have to draw our attention away from what they are really doing.” ― Ben Okri
The American temper boils amidst the cool winter breeze; the once subtle, but ever-present recognition of the oligarchy pierces the American psyche, as the witch-hunters and magicians collude ’round the campfire. ‘Tis the season.
Much has been made of Donald Trump’s status as a political demagogue, but little of the fact that Bernie Sanders is a demagogue of at least equal nature. Demagoguery, though, is not a frightening prospect alone; much more worrisome than Sanders’ demagoguery mask is the unrivaled ideologue that hides behind it, and the evolving culture that empowers it.
His demagoguery is simple: you’ve been taken advantage of, sold out, and abused; we’re going to hunt the witches and Bern them at the stake; it’s time to make them pay.
It’s an effective message, because by and large it is true. The American oligarchy exists whether organized and deliberate or not. The political establishment has colluded for decades with global corporate interest and subsequently harmed the average American citizen. Both Trump and Sanders are speaking to something real, whether wholly quantifiable or not, and it can’t simply be ignored or reduced to any single talking point. The difference here, however, is that Trump recognizes his position in the loosely-defined establishment, and Sanders does not.
“I looked, and looked, and this I came to see:
That what I thought was you and you,
Was really me and me.” ― Ken Wilber
Sanders personifies the political magician. He is, in fact, such an astounding would-be magician that not even the other magicians take him seriously. This is where his claim to antiestablishmentism is borne: though a career politician himself, his ideological values are so far outside the spectrum of the United States’ political landscape that he is, by nature, an outsider. Despite noted corruption, underperformances and sometimes unsettling politics, America is by and large a centrist nation. The far right balances the far left and, most of the time, the parties meet somewhere in the middle to form at least a modicum of sense.
Sanders is so far left ― so entrenched in his ideological views ― that he has forced an already left-leaning panderer in Hillary Clinton to pander even further left; ideas that once required too much magic for the average performer are now on the table. The trickery that has for so long pulled the wool over people’s eyes and created the circumstances that Americans find themselves in is now being expanded full-force.
Enter Commissar Sanders. While comparisons of Trump to Hitler and Trumpism to Nazism or fascism are deliberate hyperbole and sensationalism, the link between Sanders and communism isn’t so easily brushed aside. Giving the benefit of the doubt, for all intent and purpose, we will assume that he truly is past his romanticism of the Soviet Union; that he’d no longer freely display the hammer and sickle upon his desk as he once did, and that he doesn’t actually believe that government should control the means of production.
But while the United States spent decades fighting communism both literally and figuratively, it did not have an equally effective campaign against the soft Marxism that has since infiltrated its institutions, and subsequently, the psyche of many Americans. Sanders may no longer see communism as a viable or constructive form of government, but even a cursory observation of his proposals and deliberations reveals that he is still largely molded and influenced by the Marxist ideology that has, ever so subtly, disseminated throughout pockets of the West.
The following paragraphs will attempt to, lightly, review and explain existing policies and proposals and how they have influenced the American circumstance. In doing so it will become clear as to how how Sanders and his Marxist worldview would invariably affect Americans of all demographics and persuasions in ways not often contemplated, or, at the very least, acknowledged ― ultimately leaving them buried beneath a perpetuity of the circumstances they so decry.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the momentum that has fueled the rise of Situation Sanders, but it’s no stretch to assume that it has direct ties to the Occupy Wall Street movement that rose from the ashes of the Global Financial Crisis. The tenants of the OWS movement have become pertinent talking points across the political landscapes of the Western world; namely, that 1% of the people hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, and by extension power, compared to the other 99%. Thus, they argue, the 1% in collaboration with the political elite have fostered an environment that treads upon the common man. It is in essence a movement for social and economic equality.
But seldom do the contentions of the movement face any serious empirical or analytical scrutiny. Lord forbid the commonly held delusions that inspire the witch-hunts of social justice warriors be shattered.
“That is the essence of a witch-hunt, that any questioning of the evidence or the procedures in itself constitutes complicity.” – Bergan Evans
The 2015 film The Big Short, based on the 2010 non-fiction book of the same name, addresses the 2008 global financial crisis. The film follows hedge fund managers and investors on Wall Street through the lead up to the Global Financial Crisis, providing the viewer with a Wall Street-centric view that affirms many of the OWS & Sanders’ crowds’ preconceived notions about the inherent evil of the rich.
While the film does allude to the triggers of the collapse ― namely the credit & housing bubbles ― it is so subtle that you’d be excused if you forgot they were even part of the equation. It is here in the film, just as it is in real life, where the politician becomes the magician: the politician is inconspicuously missing ― almost as if he’d never been involved in the first place ― in the kind of disappearing act that would make Harry Houdini himself a believer.
As Thomas Sowell robustly argues in The Housing Boom and Bust, politicians from across the spectrum ― Republican to Democrat; state to federal ― played an irreplaceable role in fostering the conditions that made the GFC possible, and usually done so by pandering to the social & economic equality demands of economically and socially illiterate social justice warriors.
It perhaps begins with the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 (sound at all like the type of feel-good program comrade Sanders would champion for the people?). The act sought to encourage lenders to “help meet the credit needs of the local communities in which they are chartered consistent with the safe and sound operation of such institutions.”
While the act in its infancy was relatively benign, and the vague aspirations seemingly harmless, it would later be used as the premise for disastrous policy proposals, government mandates, and destructive regulation in the name of social and economic equality.
During the Clinton Administration of the 1990’s, the Department of Housing and Urban Development began to require that lenders prove, empirically, that they were meeting their CRA obligations. In essence, banks and lending institutions had to prove to government that they were applying their social contract by meeting government-mandated quotas on risky loans for people who couldn’t afford them, under the guise of economic and social equality.
When it surfaced that ethnic minority applicants were being turned away at higher rates than white applicants (conveniently ignoring that whites were turned away at higher rates than their Asian counterparts), the Clinton Administration threatened law suits against lenders for failing to meet their obligations to the Community Reinvestment Act.
Prior to this, the American housing market had long been a risk-free boon for lenders and investors alike; the envy of much of the rest of the world and largely insulated against market volatility. It was in fact often a stabilizer for the American economy.
“Lending money to American home buyers had been one of the least risky and most profitable businesses a bank could engage in for nearly a century.” – Mark Zandi, The Financial Crisis in Perspective
Simply reducing lending standards to meet their CRA quotas would be too risky, and a once unshakable market would be opened to the kind of volatility it had for so long avoided. Meeting the quotas meant approving applicants with zero down-payment, terrible credit ratings and no verifiable ability to meet financial commitments; such heavy risk ensured that lenders would need to reduce risk in a more unconventional fashion.
This is where the securitization and subprime mortgages that got the lion’s share of attention in The Big Short came into play; it was a way for banks and lenders to meet their CRA obligations while kicking the potential can of implosion down the road. Government, again, was the real driver here: Andrew Cuomo, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development had pressured Fannie May & Freddie Mac into buying $2 trillion of subprime mortgages, decreasing the risk on the primary lending institutions in order to create greater “affordable housing” mortgage approval rates.
The story goes much deeper. Regulation in the interest of environmental protection, preservation, and open spaces was central to driving housing prices through the roof, culminating in low-income earners and minorities being forced out of the market. This was most obviously true in Coastal California, where building restrictions inflated housing values by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
These problems, however, existed only at isolated local levels, and local politicians were the cause. A nationwide problem of housing affordability never existed; politicians at the federal level had taken a real problem that existed at isolated local levels, because of aforementioned government regulation, and turned it into a nationwide talking point to gain public backing. The government essentially pledged to fix a social justice problem that didn’t exist in the first place.
Little has ever been so plainly true throughout world history: the vast majority of the time that the government steps in to solve a problem in the name of social justice, it invariably creates greater problems for the people that it is pandering to, irrespective of whether or not the problems are recognized by those they affect most.
Sowell shows in the revised and expanded edition of The Housing Boom and Bust that the primary drivers that caused these problems have not disappeared, rather they are still being employed en masse and are effectively inhibiting America’s economic recovery. In a brief synopsis, Sowell evaluates the situation: “It’s not that politicians never learn. They learn how much they can get away with, when they can blame others.”
When the government stepped in to reduce the result-deficit between African Americans and white Americans in academia, things were hardly different. The government introduced a positive-discrimination policy (Affirmative Action – Sanders might well have named this himself), whereby people would be accepted to tertiary education institutions on the basis of their skin colour as opposed to their academic merit, on the justification that African Americans had been unfairly discriminated against for too long, putting them at a significant and multipolar disadvantage.
But Affirmative Action, as per usual with government intervention, had unintended consequences. Poor black people suffered from the program, consistently losing out to wealthier black people, while falling further behind the rest of their peers. The disparity between well-off blacks and low-income blacks in the education sector is now greater than the disparity between blacks and whites ever was. Similarly, Affirmative Action has reduced the income rate of black single mothers, causing them to fall further behind white single mothers, reinforcing the social gap and furthering the familial cycle of poverty.
On the other hand, married black couples at least equal the income rate of married white couples. The trend is clear: African Americans who are already secure continue to be secure, while those that are disadvantaged are increasingly disadvantaged. In seeking to cure perceived racial ills, the government has inadvertently promoted social class divisions.
Another minority group, Asian Americans, have also been disproportionately negatively affected by the program. Despite them being a minority, they are the highest achievers by merit, but lose out on positions at the highest rate.
One of the more popular talking points in politics today is the minimum wage, another topic of interest to which commissar Sanders stands as the people’s [see: social justice warrior’s] champion. There are many economic topics that are contentious, and that provoke ideological dispute among those qualified to talk about them. The minimum wage isn’t one of those issues. Upward of 90% of economists in the United States are against a minimum wage hike. One could assume that their objections here could be reduced to complicity with the establishment and their blind faith in capitalism. But economists globally and across ideological isles largely agree at similar rates, including in nations with far higher minimum wages and wider adoption rates of socialist policies.
The problem with minimum wage increases is that, in line with the rule of government intervention, they have a disproportionately negative impact on those they intend to help. Indeed, minimum wage increases can be accurately predicted to most negatively impact young, inexperienced school leavers. These negative impacts are often compounded in nations that have a heavy reliance on tax-payer funded programs; across the European Union, where higher minimum wages and an abundance of social programs abound, the youth unemployment rate is a staggering 23%.
The conclusions of historical analyses of the relationship between the minimum wage and the rate of unemployment are unavoidable: the more generous the minimum wage, the greater the rate of unemployment. Irrespective of the state of the overall economy, either in growth or in recession, nations with greater minimum wages almost invariably have greater unemployment rates, and especially greater youth and unskilled unemployment rates. By assigning somebody an arbitrary market value, regardless of whether or not they actually warrant it, inevitably means that less people are hired. It’s a simple and ever-present function of economics.
Spain and Greece, countries with generous minimum wages and huge social programs, are two of the best examples of the phenomenon. Their youth unemployment rates routinely reach levels as high as 30%. On the other hand, Switzerland, a nation with no minimum wage, rarely encroaches the 4% barrier.
When bubbles burst and markets go belly-up as inevitability requires, the problems of these socialist principles are exposed to full-effect. Greece has served as one of the great basket cases of the world over the past few years. Its free market too weak and impeded to hire its youth; its youth too poor to contribute to the economy; its social programs too derived of funds to provide services; its government too indebted to its people with unsustainable promises, and to foreign nations with credit, to significantly recover any time in the foreseeable future.
It is posited by many, not the least by Bernie Sanders’ supporters, that ingrained, systemic, institutionalized (notice the preeminence of serious-sounding buzzwords wherever there is a lack of empiricism to be found) racism is the root cause of minority struggles in the United States, including youth unemployment rates. If one were to weigh this notion against reality, they would be faced with quite the conundrum.
Few people would argue that America today is more racist than it was in the 1940’s. It takes either a very special kind of retard, or an almost supernatural capacity for mental acrobatics to delude yourself into such a position. But if institutional and systemic racism is truly responsible for those conditions, then there would have to be some truth to the claim.
In the 1930’s, African Americans and white Americans faced virtually identical [low] rates of unemployment. In 1931, the Davis-Bacon Act was passed to require minimum wages in the construction industry. Reason? Construction companies that employed black non-union workers were consistently able to out-compete companies that had white union-member employees.
However, the disparity between the unemployment rates between whites and blacks remained relatively equal for over a decade following the introduction of the minimum wage. Blacks and whites were competing with equal federally-mandated market values and being hired at roughly the same rate; this was largely due to the fact that inflation of the day meant that the minimum wage essentially didn’t exist.
When social justice warriors demanded that the minimum wage be upped to fall in line with inflation, that was no longer the case. Black youth unemployment skyrocketed, and has increased in relationship with minimum wage hikes ever since.
Mandating that people be paid an arbitrary market value, irrespective of whether or not they are worth it in terms of their productivity or suitability, has an invariably negative consequence on people of lower incomes. This is especially true as it pertains to people employed by small businesses that operate on lower profit margins. The rule is simple, tried & true: the more a worker costs relative to their output, the less workers there will be.
Other government forays into workplace relations in the “interest” of the employee have shown similar effects. Most generally, companies hire workers on the basis of supply and demand. When demand outstrips supply, companies generally have to increase their human capital (hire more workers) in order to increase their supply and meet demand. But as the government has mandated that employers provide their employees more benefits, it has been cheaper to simply pay less people more overtime hours as opposed to hiring more people. Again, this affects unskilled low-income earners and minorities most negatively.
Mandating benefits also reduces the freedom of transaction between employees and employers, by reducing the total potential expenditure an employer has toward the employee’s wages.
The government has mandated that the benefits are so beneficial that an employee has no choice but to, in many cases, accept a lower rate of pay than they otherwise would have in order to receive them, impeding his or her ability to decide where and how the total economic sum of their productive efforts should be spent. Freedom is good, until the government has decided what’s best for you, in the “interest” of society.
One of the most pervasive political falsehoods of all-time is the “wage gap”. Despite having been empirically disproved for almost 40 years, politicians continue to peddle the myth that women are victims of lower incomes for no good reason, affirming the preconceived notions of the hetero, white patriarchal conspiracy theory harbored by many millennials.
The reality, evidenced by the figures, simply proves otherwise. While the nominal figures show that women earn 78 cents to every dollar a man makes, it is nothing more than an empty figure used to gain political points.
When all variables are equal and accounted for; education, experience, tenure, profession & field, lifestyle influences such as marriage & motherhood, etc; the math shows that women at the very least are on par with their male counterparts, and in some cases experience higher rates of pay. There is no discrimination against women due to them being women. That women are paid nominally less does not say anything about some ingrained discrimination against women. What it says is that women generally have an interest in different fields that draw different revenues and subsequently can afford different rates of pay, and that they’re more likely to take make lifestyle decisions like taking extended leave from the workforce in favour of parental duties, etc. When these factors are absent so too is the wage gap.
One can only imagine the result if the government ever decides to step in and solve the “problem”. It’d probably go something like this: government introduces a mandate that all women be paid equal rates to men on order of social and economic justice. Women who have less experience, tenure, or qualifications than men now no longer have the market advantage of attracting a lower pay rate, thus forcing more women out of the market, increasing the wage gap, and disproportionately affecting women who were already disadvantaged.
Social justice warriors are of course not absolved from allowing this imaginary problem to persist. Radical feminists have long detested that men work in fields that women are less prone to, because those fields attract greater revenue and thus greater pay rates. It has become common among women influenced by radical feminists (often too ugly, physically and mentally, to ever consider becoming a mother without trapping an unsuspecting male into fatherhood) to consider the duty of motherhood and parenting as inherently inferior.
Those same radical feminists and their slightly more erudite moderate compatriots are rarely ever themselves involved in the fields they profess more women must undertake to achieve social equality. They are typically ranting maniacs, emblazoned with blue & pink hair, from atop their moral high-horse attending a gender studies class that offers a degree not worth the paper that it’s written on. Somewhere along the line for an increasing number of women, being an unemployable naive moral authoritarian became not only preferable but superior to being a traditional mother.
While Sanders and many of his supporters often look toward Europe as a beacon of social welfare, and a model for equality and fairness, it’s more often than not a matter of selective viewing. Most of the problems that plague America are exasperated in Europe to the point that many European nations are increasingly looking at America as a model for success & sustainability. The economic models of Europe, driven by notions of social justice and equality, have been progressing toward failure for decades; the continent is buried so far beneath government regulation and intervention that it will likely not see any significant economic recovery for decades. The economic stagnation that is keeping people out of work and driving governments and social services further toward insolvency doesn’t look to be going away any time soon, short of a political and social revolution.
Europe isn’t the only region looking to reverse its trend of government control in exchange for a more prototypical American-like structure. Communist China has been slowly moving away from the central control policies of its Maoist era, and seeking to liberate its markets in the name of capitalism. In a revelation that would be antithetical to many Sanders supporter’s worldviews, a Chinese economy that was once so tightly controlled and regulated that it unleashed starvation upon its people, has been observed lifting people out of poverty at historic rates right in line with the rate at which it lets the market operate more freely. Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist, observed that “China is lifting a million people a month out of poverty”. (This doesn’t negate the fact that preexisting market controls in China may yet send the global economy into a spiral)
Whatever truths there are to the Occupy Wall Street claims, and whatever pros exist in Bernie Sanders’ ideology, they’re extremely hard to locate empirically. Surely, though, that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer holds true. Well, maybe.
Earlier in January, Oxfam reported that the world’s 62 richest people now own as much wealth as half the world’s population, much to the chagrin of just about everybody.
But statistics without context are just that. Statistics without context. Over a 20 year period from 1990 to 2010, global poverty more than halved from 43% to 21%. The overwhelming majority of said poverty reduction can be attributed to economic growth (wealth creation, not wealth redistribution). While there is a measurably positive relationship between equality of income and poverty reduction, there is also a disproportionate beneficial impact of investment. China in particular has benefited enormously from foreign investment by the world’s super-rich. The same is happening in sub-Saharan Africa and India, places with massive rates of poverty and otherwise unsustainable population explosions.
Oxfam have quipped that it would require $60 billion annually to bring the remainder of the world’s population out of poverty. They note that this is less than a quarter of the income of the world’s top 100 richest people. The statement alongside the facts makes it hard to decipher as to whether they think that $60 billion would best come from the kind of voluntary free-market investment that is already working wonders, or whether it should be redistributed by force, running the risk of further entrenching people in poverty as so many redistribution schemes have done in the past. Given the group’s natural inclination to emotion above reason, the answer is probably obvious.
Moreover, the world’s super-rich are arguably more altruistic than ever. While Republican front runner Donald Trump once defined the uniquely American glitz, glamour, and greed of the 1980’s, today’s super wealthy entrepreneurs are known moreso for their philanthropy and altruism. It is through social incentive, via a free market frame work, that they are contributing unheralded amounts of their personal wealth to global social causes.
Domestically in the United States, it is true that wages have stagnated and that the “income inequality gap” has also widened significantly. But the framing is often misleading.
Conversations about “the top 1%” and “the bottom 20%”, or any other arbitrarily-selected values, are posited in a way that suggests those ranges are stagnant, almost as if they invoke the premise that all poor people remain poor and all rich people remain rich.
The Internal Revenue Service, perhaps one of the most deservingly-hated agencies in America, has at least one saving grace: it tracks individuals, and not just static brackets (unlike the Census Bureau from which these fallacies are often derived). Based on IRS data the truth about income inequality and the inferences invoked therein become much less bothersome. Socioeconomic mobility in the United States is far higher than most of its European & OECD counterparts.
The IRS data shows that people who belonged to the bottom 20% of income earners increased their rate of income by 91% over a 10 year period from 1996-2005. Conversely, the data shows people who belonged to the top 1% saw their income rates drop 26% over the same period.
Income brackets are not merely stagnant figures, they are populated by real people, and in the United States the vast majority of people are constantly moving to and fro between income brackets. The rich get poor, and the poor get rich. Richness may get richer, and poorness may get further away from richness, but seldom do people ever stay stuck. Those that do stay stuck are generally those worst affected by people voting against their interests in the great, relentless drive for cosmic justice; a cleverly disguised selfish pursuit into the self-affirmation of their moral superiority.
The economics have been so concise and so concrete on these issues for so long that it’s hard to imagine that anybody who ignores them does so for any reason beyond selfishness; the drivers of “free tuition”, assuming they actually got accepted based on academic merit, surely aren’t stupid enough to believe that free tuition would do anything beyond reduce the worth of their own degrees and entrench future generations and marginalized demographics further into poverty. The support for Obama’s Affordable Care Act is no different. Perceived affordability issues fostered by government were to be solved with government in the name of social equality; the results provided anything but.
But as an article in The Atlantic recently noted, millennials really are that confused. They seem to be exposed to such a wide range of world views that they’re unable to decipher fact from fiction; compatible ideas from incompatible ideas; good intentions from blatant lies.
While perhaps more politically engaged than ever, they’re also probably more politically illiterate than ever. They endorse soft Marxist principles, but want to retain pillars of the free market, classical liberalism and libertarianism that shaped America, seeming not to understand why such a philosophy is completely incoherent. Small government and low taxes, but free health care and free tuition. Economic freedom, but mandated benefits. Minimum wage, but lots of jobs and low prices. This is the kind of economic and political ignorance that it takes to believe that Bernie Sanders will be handing out free tuition (there is no such thing as free) with a “tax on Wall Street speculation”, while simultaneously improving the economic conditions of America and the pockets of its people.
The Millennial confusion is perhaps best summed up with the following: we want equality of opportunity, but not at the expense of equality of result. So long as you have equality of opportunity in a framework which freely allows people to rise & fall based on merit, you will not have equality of result.
And this is where America has fundamentally shifted in its view, and how the younger, more confused crowd has empowered a Marxist to rise to the forefront of American politics. It is more preferable in the mind of many of these people that everybody be reduced to the same shade of shit than it is to see a select few rise above the foray of mediocrity into the realm of success. If there isn’t enough room for everybody at the top, then they should all sink to the bottom.
Sanders is misleading already misguided people, through the power of demagoguery, into believing that everybody can reach the top together. But as the application of his ideology and political philosophies have shown time and again throughout history, it is to the bottom that they will all sink.
All of this barely scratches the surface, and says nothing to plethora of complexities and threats that both America and the West faces because of the gradual, but real erosion that Marxist ideology has done to long-standing identities and value systems. As people are coming to realize, the undoing of Europe is now much larger than simple economics. A culture of misplaced white-guilt; a cowering to global political bureaucrats that have robbed the people of their power to stand up for themselves; a deep sense of shame for things they were never involved; a collective loss of confidence and self-esteem. These kinds of problems are no better represented than in Sanders’ little favourite Sweden, where government openly opines about the country wishing they were as “cultured” as Africans, while willfully replacing their own population with refugees and low-income immigrants, turning Sweden into the nation with the highest rate of rape in all of Europe. Destroying yourselves and your own people in the search for social & cosmic justice is the new form of altruism.
Republicans are often accused of voting against their own interests in favour of corrupt corporatism. And while that may be true, if one thing is definitely true, it’s that Democrats – particularly Democrat minorities – vote against their own interests full-stop.
Far be it from an Australian to lecture Americans on freedom, liberty, or self-determination, but Americans might do well to heed the warning that Europe has long been sending; a message that America itself was once sending to Europe: careful what you wish for.
Where the false and impossible promises of government in the past perhaps stood as polite fictions, they stand now with Sanders as a symptom of full-blown denialism, whereby the people most affected by absurd proposals stand idly by pretending to themselves and others that it’s not possibly as bad as it seems.
Bernie takes everything that has been bad and misguided about government over the years (left or right wing) and extends it to its limits with destructive Marxist ideology. But he’s going to get the witch. He’s going to tax Wall Street and redistribute their income. The people will have their redemption; they shall bathe in their social justice.
While it isn’t difficult to imagine that Hillary Clinton may be genuinely evil, it’s hard to say the same of Sanders. Indeed, calculated evil was probably not a characteristic inherent in his closet idol Karl Marx, either. But as even those in the 12th century knew, the path to Hell is paved with good intentions.