Bernie Sanders’ recent New York Daily News interview exposed the self-styled socialist’s lack of substantive policy solutions. Sanders has never been much of a policy wonk, but the close-up interview revealed the U.S. senator from Vermont’s flaws more acutely than ever before.
In stump speeches, TV soundbites and two-minute debate segments where moderators don’t push very hard, Sanders’ “millionaires and billionaires” rhetoric has gone largely unchallenged. But right out of the gate, the Daily News editorial board asked Sanders to name which companies are, in his words, “destroying the fabric of America.”
Sanders, as usual, first attacked the big banks. But then he pivoted to General Electric, faulting the company for sending jobs overseas and avoiding taxes. As many experts have noted, those criticisms are a bit overblown. (For example, Sanders likes to claim that GE pays “nothing in taxes” in a given year, which is false.)
But a Daily News editor followed up with the obvious question: “Do you weigh in the balance at all, the fact that a company that’s moving jobs overseas, that the competitive climate may be such that they feel that they must, to compete in the United States?”
It’s a key point that pokes a gaping hole in the Sanders philosophy. Should GE take a hit in its bottom line by not pursuing opportunities to move jobs overseas? Should GE volunteer to pay more in federal taxes by not taking advantage of provisions of the tax code that would enhance the company’s financial position? And if so, won’t the consequences of accepting lower profits mean that GE hires fewer American workers, pays them less and perhaps charges more for its products?
Just like every other company, GE is simply trying to maximize its value to shareholders in order to produce more and create more jobs. The Daily News editor asks, rightly: “How would you stop that?”
Companies move jobs overseas and take advantage of so-called tax loopholes because the U.S. government continues to create a web of regulations and laws hostile to business. The way to get the jobs and tax revenue back is to lower the corporate tax rate, eliminate the complexity of corporate tax policy and create a more competitive labor market. But those are usually Republican policies.
Sanders, confusingly, wants to jack up corporate tax rates and penalties — and somehow this is supposed to convince companies to bring jobs back to the United States. Short of passing a law that forces companies to have a certain percentage of employees in the United States, there’s really no way to prevent companies outsourcing jobs except to build an economy with a more attractive business climate — a goal Sanders seems utterly opposed to in every one of his speeches.
Sanders answered the Daily News with a much different proposal than the one that would actually work, one that sounds strikingly similar to that of Donald Trump.
“I will stop it by renegotiating all of the trade agreements that we have,” he said.
As to why he thinks he can so easily “renegotiate” these deals to make them more favorable to the U.S. without objection from our trading partners, Sanders didn’t elaborate.
The Daily News also asked Sanders to elaborate on one of his favorite applause lines — how he would “break up the big banks.” What would a bank like JPMorgan or Citibank look like after Sanders got through with them? “What would that institution be? Would there be a consumer bank? Where would the investing go?”
“I’m not running JPMorgan Chase or Citibank,” Sanders replied.
“No,” his questioner responded. “But you’d be breaking it up.”
As the interview went on, Sanders indicated he — or, rather, “some people who know a lot about this” — would simply demand that the banks be broken up. But it would be up to the banks to make the “decision as to what they want to do and how they want to reconfigure themselves.”
This isn’t the stuff of revolution. This is folly.
Sanders also railed against Wall Street executives, claiming that someone should have gone to prison in the wake of the financial meltdown in 2008. But when pressed by the Daily News about which laws he thinks were broken, he couldn’t name one.
The Daily News interview reveals just how shallow and unformed Sanders’ ideas are. If we really want a presidential candidate to start a “political revolution,” we should at least look for one that knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t rely on lame socialist platitudes.