- - Thursday, February 4, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The legions of young voters who are flocking to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ socialist banner is depressing.

It is the latest manifestation of the dumbing down of the next generation of voters who really believe in the Vermont senator’s dopey remedies for a persistently weak economy that barely grew in the last three months of 2015 by a 0.7 percent.

“The U.S. economy slowed to a crawl,” The Washington Post declared at the end of last month, “exposing new weaknesses in the nation’s long and sluggish recovery.”

Mr. Sanders’ ideological solution: get rid of the billionaires, all 536 of them, by taxing their wealth away and giving it to those in greater need. Next, go after the millionaires, and add a “slight” tax increase on the middle class, while we’re at it, he says.

Then break up all the big banks, strap Wall Street down with punishing tax rates, tighten rules on transactions and investments, and make sure no one in the United States builds too big a business or makes too much money.

The senator from the New England state that gave us Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and created thousands of jobs, to boot, with the help of some capitalist lenders, must have missed Economics 101 in his youth, if they taught it back then.

But today’s students, who are lustily cheering his class-warfare demagoguery, have been taught by economics professors who are dyed-in-the-wool socialists.

I remember the first day of my college economics class when the professor walked into the lecture hall, opened socialist economist John Kenneth Galbraith’s book, “The Affluent Society,” and proceeded to read from it. His pitch:

“This exuberance in private consumption” has gone too far and needs to be redirected into more public spending by the government for social needs.

Or as Bernie Sanders puts it: “You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country.”

That’s what Bernie’s peddling and that’s what his young followers are buying, hook, line and sinker.

But what he’s selling does not the produce the jobs and income that parents need to take care of their families.

That requires giving entrepreneurs and risk-taking investors the economic freedom to create new products and the businesses of the future.

In the 1970s, Bill Bowerman used his wife’s waffle iron in an attempt to create a lighter sneaker sole for runners and other athletes. His idea helped catapult a then-tiny sneaker company into Nike, Inc.

It became a multi-billion dollar global empire that is one of the mighty Dow 30 stocks, creating thousands of jobs. But if did not happen on a hope and a prayer. It took lots of investment from people who had money, but also labor union pension funds, and millions of ordinary middle-class Americans who invested their money in a portfolio of good stocks for their retirement.

If the kids packing Bernie’s campaign rallies still think that socialism is the answer to our country’s economic lethargy, they should take a look at Europe’s overtaxed economy where unemployment was running at more than 10.5 percent. In fact, unemployment has been a dreary fact of life over there for many decades.

More recently, it has averaged 9.78 percent from 1995 to 2015, reaching an all-time high of 12.10 percent in April of 2013.

The result over the past half century or more is there has been a steady wave of immigration out of Europe by younger workers seeking economic opportunity in the United States.

That is, until Barack Obama, formally a leftist community organizer in Chicago’s inner city who eloquently spouted utter economic nonsense that got him to the White House.

He came into office in the depths of a severe recession, thinking that he was the new FDR and he was ushering in another New Deal — throwing more than $1 trillion at the problem with little or no more impact than Roosevelt had in the Great Depression.

One of FDR’s foolish economic remedies, believe it or not, was to hike taxes, the medical 18th century equivalent of bleeding a patient who was hemorrhaging badly.

Mr. Obama tried to raise taxes, too, and did manage to get some higher rates on investment capital that lengthened the recession, killed jobs, and kept the economic growth rate frozen around 2 percent.

He hadn’t a clue what spurs employment and growth. And he demonstrated that midway in his presidency when he declared that job losses were the result of ATMs and airport kiosks that spew out your boarding pass with the swipe of a credit card.

No doubt he also blames mediocre job creation on the computerized, self-check out system that are popping up throughout the nation’s supermarkets.

Customers think they’re great because they don’t have to wait in long, unnecessary lines.

Meantime, we are facing a fast declining economy that appears to be weakening further.

U.S. factory activity shrank last month for the fourth month in a row, exports are falling, and the White House wants the voters to think that this is all China’s fault. It’s not.

While we’re not even growing at 1 percent, China has slowed down to about 4 percent growth and maybe a little more than that. We need to repair our economy and soon.

But it doesn’t exactly promote investment confidence in our nation’s business sector to know that the Democratic presidential contenders are promising big tax increases if they make it to the Oval Office.

Still, it’s disturbing to see that the Republican candidates are so bitterly wrapped up in their own internecine battles, that none of them are focusing much on the economy.

They’d better start addressing our country’s bread and butter issues before it’s too late.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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