With Senator Bernie Sanders sweeping to Victory in the New Hampshire primary, it is safe to say socialism’s popularity is rising in the United States.
Bernie claims his form of socialism, democratic socialism, is completely different from the socialism that arose during the Cold War. He’s dead wrong. Democratic socialism is just as bad as any other form of socialism, it makes life for ordinary people worse.
Bernie says his democratic socialism is a continuation of FDR’s New Deal (which he claims was socialist), and he often cites the Nordic states as prime examples of democratic socialism in action.
Denmark’s prime minister would say otherwise. While speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Prime Minister Rasmussen told the audience “the Nordic model is an expanded welfare state which provides a high level of security to its citizens, but it is also a successful market economy with much freedom to pursue your dreams and live your life as you wish.”
Prime Minister Rasmussen is not alone in holding this view. While the government of Denmark provides healthcare and tuition-free public universities to its citizens, Denmark ranks twelfth in the world for economic freedom (just under the U.S. in eleventh) and is considered “mostly free” by economic standards.
Just because a nation has subsidized higher education and healthcare does not make a country socialist. While Bernie touts the social welfare programs that the Nordic model provides, he ignores the fact that much of the model’s success comes from deregulation, massive reforms to welfare and other government programs.
Such welfare programs are also much easier to maintain with small populations. The Nordic states know this, which is why they have recently sacrificed their reputation for generosity in order to prevent Syrian refugees from increasing the strain on their welfare programs.
If you want a real example of democratic socialism, look to Venezuela, not the Nordic states. President Hugo Chávez’s socialist government spent heavily on programs for the poor. This functioned ok until, in 2005, the Chávez government began to run out of money.
These figures reflect the quality of life in Venezuela. The supermarkets are without food and, when food is available, prices are outrageous. Everything is being rationed. There’s even a shortage of toilet paper.
With the Maduro government in power and an economic czar in place who does not believe in inflation, the situation is only expected to get worse. Pretending economic truths do not exist does not make them go away.
Bernie’s policies would be similarly disastrous for America.
It has been estimated that his promises would come with an $18 trillion price tag. He admits this require raising taxes on the middle class, but he also claims that his “Medicare for All” plan would save taxpayers money by costing less in taxes than they currently pay in health insurance fees.
Similar promises have been made in the past, and history has proved them false. Costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, for example, are much larger than earlier projected — a total of $46 billion in subsidies now — partly because of higher spending than anticipated per enrollee. Applying Bernie’s system to every American will make costs go through the roof.
Quality of care will also drop significantly. A single-payer system would establish lower payment rates to physicians. This means resources will be spread thin, and there will be less money available for medical school, malpractice insurance, and for investing in new medical technology.
The number of jobs will shrink as existing physicians either retire or choose other professions, and fewer college graduates choose to enter the medical field. This leaves patients with less access to care and longer wait times to get the care they need.
Sanders’ other policies would have similar effects.
Many important questions are being asked this election cycle, democratic socialism is not the right answer to any of them.
Thomas Savidge is an Advocate at Young Voices and a student in the Master of Public Policy program at George Mason University.