Home News Op-Ed: Bernie’s wrong: We are better off today than we were 45 years ago

Op-Ed: Bernie’s wrong: We are better off today than we were 45 years ago

by Mike Santorini

In an op-ed for Creators Syndicate, David Harsanyi, a senior editor for The Federalist, pushed back against Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) criticism of capitalism and claims that little has changed for the American people in the last 45 years.

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Sanders’ remarks: “People … after 45 years of work are not making a nickel more than they did 45 years ago,” Sanders said during the Democratic primary debates in Las Vegas, Nevada, “lamenting how a once-prosperous society had been hollowed out by capitalism,” Harsanyi notes.

“It’s a shame that not a single debate moderator ever challenges this farcical assertion,” he writes.

“…the United States will never be a utopia, but for the vast majority of its citizens, most things are going in the right direction,” Harsanyi writes, pointing to a recent Gallop poll that found 90% are satisfied with their personal life.

Back then: “For those who weren’t alive then, the 1970s were largely a crime-ridden decade of stagnant economics, city bankruptcies, crushing energy prices, sky-high interest rates, institutional rot, garbage and retirement-destroying inflation. Though it was a far better place than the Communist hot spots Sanders praised during those years, it certainly was not ideal.”

“Wage stagnation” is a myth, Harsanyi argues. It “fails to take into account the health care benefits, pensions, vacations, family leave and other perks now embedded in job packages — somewhere around 30% of an employee’s overall benefits. Once those benefits are added, Americans probably have seen about a 45% wage increase since 1964. More important, the amount of time we work to buy things we need is less. What we buy does more, and it’s of higher quality.”

“Does anyone believe that a dollar spent on medical care in 1975 equals a dollar spent today?”

What changed: “… a big part of the post-’70s economic boom we’re still experiencing today — the one that certain progressive and some statist right-wingers like to disparage — was propelled by policies that freed Americans from overbearing technocratic oversight, intrusive regulations and stifling taxes that undermined growth.”

“Partly because of a worldwide retreat from collectivism, extreme poverty has dramatically decreased. Massive new markets have opened to us.

The middle class is growing — especially the upper-middle class. In the past 50 years, spending on food and clothing as a share of family income has fallen from 42% to 17%. Your house is probably more expensive than the average house was in 1975, but it’s also more comfortable and safer.

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Education: “The year Sanders graduated from college, less than 6% of his fellow Americans — the majority of them wealthy, very few of them minorities or women — were enrolled in higher education. In 1975, only around 11% were enrolled in college. According to the Federal Reserve study, millennials are the most educated generation, with 65% of them possessing at least an associate’s degree.”

The number of deaths on the job have dropped: “In 1970, around 14,000 workers were killed on the job in the United States. That’s somewhere around 10,000 more deaths yearly than the number of those who perished in the entire Iraq War. Although the workforce had more than doubled since then, the number of occupational deaths in the United States has dropped to around 5,100.”

Medical breakthroughs: “There’s a decent chance that Sanders’ heart attack would have killed a 78-year-old man in 1975. If not, it would have required dangerous surgery … We’ve been able to mitigate the damage of so many diseases and ailments over the past 45 years — allowing millions to lead longer, more active and less painful lives — that it would take a book to lay out the miraculous number of advances properly.”

“Most of these developments, not incidentally, were brought to us by profit-driven companies.”

Crime and violence: “In 1975, Sanders’ hometown of New York City saw 1,645 murders and rampant criminality. In 2017, there were 286 homicides in NYC. Vehicular fatalities per 100 million in 1975 were at 3.35; now they’re near a historic low of 1.13.”

Technology: “Also, you have a supercomputer in your pocket that offers you instant access to all of human knowledge.”

Conclusion: “Yes, some Americans still suffer, and some of our goods and services are more expensive than they once were (usually due to market intervention). But we are, by nearly every quantifiable measure, collectively better off today than ever before. And what sufferings millennials do experience today often are a result of their making different choices than their parents did. Bernie should understand this better than most.”

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Read the full piece here.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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