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Op-ed Placement

Socialism’s Strange Appeal

Originally Published in The Washington Times on 2/21/16.

When I was a smart aleck college student I had a sign on my dorm door that read: “Reality is for those who can’t handle drugs.”

Maybe the 2016 version should go like this: “Bernie Sanders and socialism are for those who can’t handle reality.”

Socialism’s comeback is mystifying to most clear-thinking people. Do people who support Sen. Sanders and socialism walk around with shutters over their eyes so they don’t have to observe the reality of what is happening in the world around them? The remarkable thing about the rise of Bernie Sanders is that his popularity runs in the counter-direction to how socialism is actually working.

Liberals used to point to places like France, Italy, Greece and even Cuba as worker paradises that offer citizens lots of free things — child care, health care, higher education, food, housing, a guaranteed income with high minimum wages. Today they are basket cases and in many of these nations the government bonds are junk status.

Greece, of course, is modern socialism on steroids. The nation is in de facto bankruptcy because Athens can’t cover the runaway costs of all the free things the government offers — government pensions, paychecks, medical exams, or welfare benefits. Fifty percent of young people don’t have a job and over half of Greeks retire before age 60. The wagon is full and no one is left to pull it.

Greece isn’t alone. Argentina, Italy, Spain, Portugal and France — as well as the United States — experimented with quasi-socialist governments in the last decade. Almost all of these countries are in recession or have anemic growth. The comeback of socialism and the obsession with redistributing income and wealth through confiscatory tax rates — helps explain why so many of the wealth producers and employers are on strike.