Bernie Sanders and other supporters of “soft socialism” tell us that they think we should be more like Scandinavia. Putting the fact that Sanders and his wife took their honeymoon in the heart of America’s Cold War enemy aside, the left’s love affair with countries like Sweden needs to end.
But what’s the problem with this “softer” version of socialism? To finance “free” benefits, a country will have a combination of three options: high taxes, high deficits and debt, or the printing of money which could lead to inflation problems. The European social state that was propped up by American capitalism after World War II is going broke anyway. Government run health care also leads to long waits, lists, and rationing, and no amount of spending can fix bureaucratic incompetence.
As time goes on, Europe’s social welfare system will continue to fall apart. The continent is experiencing birth rates below the needed replacement rate. As a result, countries have increased immigration, and the low rate of assimilation has only increased Europe’s cultural problems.
The money situation gets worse for the defenders of the European welfare state. The Europeans have had the luxury of being able to export their defense to the United States after World War II. The left’s beloved Sweden spends about $5.5 billion of defense, and has a standing military of less than 20,000 active duty personnel. If Europe had to defend itself by fielding significant numbers of infantry or armored divisions or carrier strike groups, Europe would have less resources for their generous social programs. Even non-NATO countries, like Sweden and Finland, are realizing they have to take defense more seriously in the face of Russia’s recent actions.
America has to consider the financial impact of implementing those same policies here. Some calculations of Bernie Sanders’ ambition to bring European socialism to America put the price tag at $18 trillion over 10 years. Even if that number is not completely accurate, one would be delusional to say that Sanders’ agenda would be inexpensive.
Unfortunately for Sanders, there are not enough rich people to tax or defense spending to cut that would pay for all the social programs. Taxing all millions and billionaires at 100% would only raise about $600 billion, and de-funding the entire Defense Department would also save another $600 billion. Since taxing people at 100% would kill the economy, and eliminating the military is something that will only happen in an alternate universe, either the country’s already massive debt will grow a quicker rate and or taxes will have to be increased on the people that Bernie Sanders claims to represent.
Europe may no longer have the death camps, the national socialists, or the gulags and political cleansing of the international socialists that called themselves communists. However, social democracy in Europe has still transformed Europe into a dying society, literally and figuratively. We cannot replicate their policies here, or else America may suffer the same fate.