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Day of the Demagogues
As the results of New Hampshire’s primary were coming in Tuesday night, some commentators on Twitter were jubilant about the “disruption” the victories of an inane socialist demagogue and a foul-mouthed nationalist demagogue represented to the “establishment.” Yes, mobs are disruptive. Madame DeFarge enjoyed a good shakeup herself.
Senator Bernie Sanders believes that eight years of the most leftist president in American history have left the plutocrats in total control. Channeling the late Hugo Chavez, he promises to lift the minimum wage to $15 per hour, provide free college educations for all, and deliver universal health care (with only a small tax on the middle class). How will he pay for it? “With a tax on Wall Street speculation.”
Now, I’m no particular fan of Wall Street, but this is rubbish. Sanders bellows: “The greed, the recklessness, and the illegal behavior drove our economy to its knees. The American people bailed out Wall Street, now it’s Wall Street’s time to help the middle class.” Without defending bailouts (and if you want an excellent history of how the government encouraged risky behavior by bankers, see “Gambling with Other People’s Money” by Russ Roberts), let’s remember that in 2008 the banks were given loans, not bailouts, and the purpose was not to support billionaires but to head off what Congress had reason to fear was a total freeze up of the financial system. Maybe they were wrong, but Congress was genuinely terrified that without a quick infusion of government money, there could be a full scale liquidity crisis, i.e., when you and I went to our ATMs, we’d get an error message.