Politics & Policy

Get Ready for Bernie Sanders’ Appeal to Raw Envy

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Get Ready for Bernie Sanders’ Appeal to Raw Envy

Have you seen Bernie Sanders’ stump speech? Every time, he says something like this:

Every month, the U.S. government comes out with figures. Last figures has unemployment in America as 5.3 percent. Wrong. That official statistic does not include those people who have given up looking for work and the millions of people who work part time. And all of that together, real unemployment over ten percent!

Some of us have been making this point for a very long time! Remember my video from 2010 using my then-toddler son’s little figures? Why is it when I do it, I’m some delusional pessimistic right-wing nut-job who’s talking down the economy, but when Sanders does it, he’s looking beneath the surface to showcase the hard truths of the modern economy?

 Sanders continues:

Do you know what youth unemployment is in this country? In terms of kids who have no jobs, or are working part-time when they want to work full-time. EPI told us if they were white, youth unemployment is 33 percent! Hispanic youth unemployment is at 36 percent! And if they were African-American, 51 percent (boos, jeers) We are turning our backs on an entire generation of young people who want to stand on their own two feet!

Here’s a fun question: How do you declare “we are turning our backs on an entire generation of young people” without blaming the president who’s been in power for the past seven years, and the policies he enacted? Gee, if only liberal Democrats had some sort of influence over policy since January 20, 2009!

As our brilliant new contributor Stephen Miller observed:

Last week, Obama administration officials took victory laps on social media and cable news over a new low in unemployment of 5.1 percent (a lower rate, they claim, than at any point during Reagan’s presidency). Meanwhile, Sanders, as a routine part of his campaign stump speech was lamenting that the real unemployment level is 10.3 percent, and that youth unemployment, including African-American youth unemployment, is hovering around 50 percent. How can both be true? It’s simply which rates the administration chooses to report, and more important, which rates the media choose to cover — or in Sanders’s case, not to cover. 


It seems newsworthy that in the run-up to a pivotal election, a presidential candidate is not only actively campaigning against the record of a sitting president of the same party, but gathering auspiciously large crowds by doing so. Of course, if the media were to report on the fiery John Reed–inspired rhetoric Sanders is blasting out to his zombie hordes at sold-out arenas, the carefully crafted Hollywood script of Barack Obama’s successful presidency would come tumbling down.

We laugh at Bernie Sanders, for some good reasons. But be ready, because he’s going to make a raw, direct appeal to envy. Brace yourselves. Here’s Sanders in South Carolina this weekend, pointing out to a crowd of not-rich people how spectacularly unfair it is that some people have enormous wealth, and how something must be done about it:

In America today the top one tenth of one percent — I’m not talking about the one percent, I’m talking about one tenth of — one percent have almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Anybody here think that’s moral or right?

For what it’s worth, Sanders has his numbers wrong. The study he cites concludes the top one-tenth of one percent has about 11 percent of U.S. wealth, and the bottom 90 percent has about 25 percent of U.S. wealth. But take any sample of human beings, and any measurement, and an individual at the top is going to have many times what an individual at the bottom has – wealth, knowledge, education, athletic ability, good health. That only goes away if you mandate equality across the board. Harrison Bergeron, anyone?

The problem for the ones at the bottom is not that the ones at the top have too much; it’s that they have too little opportunity to build upon what they have.

Sanders continues:

Today in America you have one family, the Walton family, owns Wal-mart, one family in America owns more wealth than the bottom forty percent of the American people. Anybody think that’s fair?

What did the Walton family do that was so unfair? Besides have Grandpa Sam Walton build an enormously successful chain of stores? Is it unfair that some people have wealthy ancestors

In the last 30 years in America there has been a massive redistribution of wealth. The problem is it’s gone in the wrong direction. Trillions of dollars go from the pockets of working families, trillions of dollars, into the bank accounts of the top one tenth of one percent and brothers and sisters, you and I together are gonna change the flow of that revenue!

To hear Bernie Sanders tell it, when you sleep at night, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates sneak into your bedroom and swipe the cash from your wallet and purse. Talk about a reassuring narrative – you’re not poor, or not as wealthy as you would like, because of any decision you’ve made or anything you’ve done! No, no, it’s those rotten billionaires who have been taking money from your pockets!

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