Following are excerpts from a David Brooks column in the NYTs 2-13-16.
If you think Bernie Sanders is outright dangerous as I do or if you are an ardent supporter, you must read the full Brooks column. In fact, if you support Sanders, you have no right to even discuss him until you read this column.
Some of this you have heard before from me, but hey, who am I. Here is another view you should take seriously. You simply cannot compare the lifestyle of the average American with the average European. Americans at all levels have more stuff, bigger stuff, bigger cars, more cars, etc. – made possible by the capitalist system.
I have eaten in the homes of Europeans in more than a dozen countries from Russia to Sicily to Malta, Ukraine, France, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Wales, Spain and more. The homes are comfortable, small and devoid of many of the niceties most Americans consider essential. It’s just a different lifestyle. It’s not a matter of good or bad, right or wrong, but different, very different, especially for the middle-class.
In the end, that is what Sanders is really talking about; a very different, less American lifestyle for all Americans at all income levels.
And he is talking about more control over your life by the very politicians he wants a revolution to throw out.
Sanders would centralize power in Washington. If you radically increase the amount of money going to the Washington establishment, as Sanders would, you’re giving that establishment greater resources to control American life.
Second, Sanders would weaken the ability of members of the middle class to make choices about their own lives. He would raise taxes on the rich, but there is only so much money you can squeeze out of such a small group of people. European welfare states generally rely on a highly regressive value-added/sales tax — usually around 20 to 25 percent.
Middle classes across Europe bear a much higher tax load than the American middle class. As Austan Goolsbee, a former economic adviser to President Obama, has noted, you really can’t have a Swedish-style welfare state without a broad high tax burden. That means less spending power for most Americans, and fewer resources to choose one’s own lifestyle.
Third, Sanders would change the incentive structure for the country’s most successful people. He proposes raising the top tax rate to 52 percent. As Josh Barro noted in The Times, when you add in state, local and other taxes, top earners would be paying a combined tax rate over 73 percent. In high-tax locales like New York City and California, it would be even more.
It’s possible that entrepreneurs, company founders and others would pay these rates without changing their behavior, but I wouldn’t count on it. When you make risk-taking less rewarding, you get fewer risk-takers, which is exactly what you see across the Atlantic.
Fourth, Sanders would Europeanize American public universities. It sounds great to make college free. In fact, it’s a hugely expensive program that would mostly benefit the already affluent.
It would create, as in Germany, a legion of eternal students who have little incentive to leave school because the costs are so low. It would give Washington officials greater control over state universities, determining what sort of faculty they could hire and what sort of programs they could run. It would threaten hundreds of private colleges, which could no longer compete against the completely subsidized state system. It would reduce the pressures universities now feel to reform themselves because it would cushion them with federal largess. Slowly, American universities would look more like their European counterparts. They’d be less good.
The changes in the health care system would be along the same lines. Sanders would create a centralized and streamlined system. His approach would also, as in Europe, reduce the rate of medical progress, increase the rationing of care, increase the wait times for patients, induce many doctors to retire and centralize decision-making. – David Brooks