Bernie Sanders Isn't the Socialist Candidate Conservatives Should Be Scared Of

PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 15: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign press conference at t
PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 15: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign press conference at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday March 15, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Bernie Sanders calls himself a Democratic Socialist. This is music to the ears of many Republicans who pretend that Sanders wants to turn the U.S. into the next Venezuela and claim that Sanders' supporters don't understand history or economics, because in their minds socialism is an unmitigated disaster. While this rhetoric plays well with conservatives in bite-sized Facebook posts, it exposes how little some understand Sanders' policies.

As conservative author and Senior Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, Tim Worstall wrote, "Venezuela's Not Suffering From Socialism But From Anti-Marketism." While Venezuela may be a socialist country, their biggest failures have occurred because of their attempts at setting prices for products. It should also be noted that Venezuela's programs that most would consider socialist did actually improve the lives of many poor people by lowering poverty, increasing access to health care and improving educational outcomes. That's not to say that Venezuela represents a successful socialist government, but comparing Bernie Sanders' policies to the Venezuelan's government form of socialism is completely disingenuous.

The reality is that Bernie Sanders' "Democratic Socialism" is almost nothing like the socialism currently at work in Venezuela. Sanders is looking at offering free college and universal health care which are programs offered in countries like Germany, France, Finland and Norway, not a government takeover of private industries and $0.02 per gallon gas.

While misrepresenting Sanders' policies as something akin to Communism is a dishonest analysis of why people shouldn't vote for him, the bigger problem here is the hypocrisy of many of the same people when it comes to socialism.

Few Americans would support turning all public roads private with toll booths at every corner or being forced to write a check to the fire department before they put out a fire at their house. Polls also show that Americans are very fond of some of the most socialist policies currently at work in the U.S. such as Social Security, Medicare and the Military.

It would also seem likely that the majority of Americans support socialist programs like public parks, state snow removal, border security, sewer systems, the Hoover dam, the VA, prisons, public libraries, police, the postal service, the court system, free lunch program, and public schools.

These may be some of the most popular socialist programs in the U.S., but these only represent a small portion of the socialism that many Americans utilize on a daily basis; so the question is, do these conservatives that are trying to paint Bernie Sanders as the second coming of Karl Marx really hate socialism, or is it just a tool to attack a politician on the other side of the aisle?

If they are truly concerned about the potential spread of socialism in the U.S., you should expect many of the same people to be attacking the Republican Presidential candidates as well. For example, Donald Trump has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy 4 times. This process asks the public court system to provide protections for Trump's corporations that allow him to void or restructure agreements he made prior to the bankruptcy filing. While this may be a good business decision, it can be detrimental to employees who may lose their jobs and pensions or see their wages cut. Without this social safety net to protect his assets, its likely Trump wouldn't be the billionaire he claims to be.

Trump has also been more than happy to take government handouts in the form of tax breaks for building hotels and other properties. It has been reported that just one of the tax abatements he negotiated cost taxpayers nearly $60 million in the first decade of a 40 year agreement. Trump is hardly the only person to take advantage of these race to the bottom wealth redistribution offers that Republican's claim create jobs despite studies to the contrary. Data show that states and cities shifted an estimated $70 billion last year from corporations and wealthy individuals to tax payers using these tax incentives.

Tax breaks that mainly benefit the rich tend to be one of Republican's favorite forms of socialism. The Pew Research Center reports that reduced tax rates on capital gains and dividends accounted for over $120 billion in lost revenue for the federal government in 2015. Thanks to this government sponsored give away, some of the richest people in America pay a tax rate nearly identical to the average middle class household. It is also one of the big reason why former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney only had an effective tax rate of 14 percent.

To spin the massive hand-out to the rich as good for all Americans, Republican's point out that anyone can participate in the stock market and get rich, yet the data show that the top 1 percent hold over 50 percent of all stock, bonds and mutual funds while the bottom 50 percent hold a whopping 0.05 percent.

The wealthy also take home an inordinately large amount of other tax deductions such as the home mortgage interest on second homes, yacht tax deductions and the estate tax.

Of course Republicans also support the cap on social security, which costs a system in desperate need of funds around $100 billion a year. According to the Cato institute another $100 billion a year is lost in corporate welfare that mainly gives money away to companies that are already profitable. This corporate welfare doesn't even include the hundreds of billions of dollars the U.S. government spends every year on defense contracts. Republicans also push to convert public sector jobs to private sector jobs despite the data that show that in 33 out of 35 occupations it costs the government more to hire private companies than using their own employees. This can be seen in a Department of Defense report showing that private contractors comprise 22 percent of the workforce yet account for 50 percent of the cost.

The reality is that these tax breaks, special deals and government programs that Republicans support cost well over a trillion dollars a year. So if you're the kind of person that thinks people who support Bernie Sanders are idiots because "someone has to pay for that free college", you need to recognize that someone also has to pay for the Republican backed socialist wealth redistribution that benefits rich individuals and corporations. The big difference is, the average Joe might actually benefit from Sanders' socialism.