Bernie Sanders is more radical than European socialists like Jeremy Corbyn

Bernie Sanders is more radical than European socialists like Jeremy Corbyn
Bernie Sanders (Image: YouTube screen grab)

Bernie Sanders calls himself a “democratic socialist.” And he endorsed Jeremy Corbyn, the socialist who led England’s Labour Party to its worst election defeat in 85 years.

Corbyn is often described as a radical. Indeed, Corbyn admitted his proposals were “radical.”

But Sanders is much more radical than Corbyn, as the English-born economist Ryan Bourne notes. Sanders has proposed much more deficit spending and much higher taxes than Corbyn and England’s Labour Party did.

Despite calling himself a “democratic” socialist, Sanders backed a communist party in the 1980 and 1984 U.S. presidential elections, rather than the democratic socialist candidates who were also in the race. Sanders also has supported Communist governments overseas. He loved communism so much he even honeymooned in the Soviet Union.

The Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl estimates that Sanders’ proposals would add $97.5 trillion to federal government spending over a decade, increasing annual government spending to around 70% of the economy, and more than doubling the size of the government. As Bourne notes, that exceeds Corbyn’s planned 44% and even France’s current 57% (France has the highest percentage among OECD countries). Sanders wants to spend nearly four times as much of America’s economy on climate change and infrastructure as Corbyn proposed.

Corbyn planned to increase England’s budget deficit by only about 2% of its economy (GDP) per year. But as Bourne notes, “Bernie’s tax plans get nowhere near fully funding his agenda.” Riedl estimates that Sanders’ spending plans would increase America’s annual budget deficit to around 30% of GDP, from its current 5% of GDP.

Sanders would also raise taxes much more than Corbyn. Corbyn’s top marginal income tax rate would have been 52%. Sanders’ top federal income tax rate alone would be 52%, bringing a top combined top rate of around 80% once state and payroll taxes are considered. Sanders wants a new wealth tax too, another option Corbyn did not propose. And while Corbyn’s Labour Party wanted to raise the corporate income tax rate to 26%, Bernie would raise it to 35%.

Sanders and Corbyn both proposed national rent control, big minimum wage hikes, worker ownership stakes, and workers on company boards. But while Corbyn proposed 10% worker ownership stakes in big firms, Sanders would require 20%; while Corbyn proposed that 33% of company boards be made up of worker representatives, Sanders would require 45%.

Sanders’s healthcare plan is also more radical, including restrictions and elements absent from European healthcare systems. Sanders tweeted that “our ‘crazy idea’ of universal healthcare is already a reality in” 27 countries in Europe and Asia. But all of those 27 countries differ in one of more of four key ways from the healthcare plan Sanders proposes — such as whether they ban all private insurance (except for elective services), whether there are “copays or deductibles,” and whether the public plan covers “dental, vision.” When my European brother-in-law broke his jaw, devastating his teeth, national health insurance would not pay the cost of the needed dental surgeries and dental work. Our family had to take up a collection to pay for them. Taxpayer money is finite, so European countries tend to cover dental and vision poorly, or not at all.

Sanders claims these countries all have single-payer healthcare. But as Dr. Jeffrey Singer notes, “Swiss, Dutch, German systems involve competing private insurance companies.”

Sanders claims his “Democratic Socialism” would make America more like Scandinavia. But as Scandinavian leaders pointed out in response to Sanders, their countries aren’t socialist, and are nothing like Sanders’ vision for America. As Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen noted, “Denmark is a market economy,” and is “far from” being socialist (although it does have higher taxes and more health coverage than the U.S.). Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt also rebutted Sanders’ claims, pointing out that Sweden is not socialist. Bildt says this is fortunate, because socialism caused “spectacular failures” in the countries that tried it.

As an economist notes, Sanders “brags that his universal health-care plan eliminates patient cost-sharing. But Scandinavia has it. Sanders wants to raise a lot revenue though heavy taxes on business and investment. Scandinavia doesn’t. Sanders has a big problem with billionaires. Scandinavia doesn’t.”

Scandinavia has higher taxes on individuals, and a more generous welfare state, than the U.S.  But it also has fewer government regulations. For example, fewer people there need a government license to earn a living than in the U.S., especially in healthcare, education, and legal services. In the U.S., 30% of all people now need a license just to be allowed to do their job. That includes very ordinary jobs that raise no special risks requiring licensing. In some states, even florists or interior decorators have to go through a costly, time-consuming licensing process before being able to work.

As Ryan Bourne notes, Sanders is even to the left of England’s left-wing Labour Party on healthcare, in that “only Sanders would explicitly ban private health insurance.” Corbyn’s “Labour did consider that proposal but held off in the end.”

Economist Veronique de Rugy says that Sanders’ “plans rest on massive government interventions into people’s lives, intense redistribution, and a level of coercion that Americans have never before endured.”

Other economists argue that the cost of Sanders’ proposals is so high that it would ultimately be borne mostly by the middle class, in the form of lower incomes and shrinking savings. For example, they say that workers would ultimately bear 63% of the economic burden of Sanders’ wealth tax:

according to a recent study by former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Gordon Gray…the effects of a wealth tax would extend throughout the economy, reducing the supply of capital and decreasing investment, which would negatively impact worker pay. Sanders’ wealth tax would cost workers about $1.6 trillion over a decade, they estimate. Over time, as the impact of the tax grew, workers would end up implicitly shouldering about 63 percent of the burden. The wealthy would indeed have less wealth, but workers would come out behind as well. Sanders, the champion of the working class, would effectively be taxing the working class he claims he wants to support.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at


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