This is a difficult post for me to write for many reasons, I hope readers appreciate the amount of rumination that went into this.

The Democrats may be scrambling to hide the results of the Iowa caucus, but the leaked information is that Bernie won with 22% of the vote.

I know there will be a lot of opinions about this, many of them dismissive.  But I wanted to give my insight as to why this happened and what I believe the Republican party needs to do about it.

First of all, I want to make this point crystal clear.  Anyone who has followed my writings for a while knows that I am ardently anti-Socialist.  Socialism is an economic system based on envy, and it always leads to destruction.  I am not a Socialist, will never be a Socialist, and will never defend Socialism.

Frequent readers of my post should also be aware that I like to focus on the pendulum effect of politics, especially when it comes to political extremism.  When one side pushes something, the other side often pushes back harder, creating a back-and-forth that goes out of control.  I’ve written several posts about how the rise of the Woke Scold Left parallels the rise of the Alt-Right, both driven by identity grievance politics just on the opposite ends of the spectrum.

I will fully acknowledge that there are the extreme ideological Socialists/Marxists/Leninists in the Sanders campaign.

These people are evil, I condemn everything that they say.  I am not defending them.

I do know other people who are Sanders supporters who are not like that, and recently I have come to understand them quite well.

An article from The Guardian I read this morning hit very close to home for me.

‘The only ones not paying for Boeing’s mistakes is Boeing’: laid-off supply workers voice their anger
Thousands of US workers have suffered job cuts and loss of hours – while Boeing’s former boss walks away with $62m

“We’ll get through it,” Boeing’s new chief executive, Dave Calhoun, told investors this week after the aerospace giant announced its biggest losses in 20 years. The thousands of workers reliant on the company are not so sure.

With production of its bestselling plane, the 737 Max jet, on hold after two deadly airline crashes, thousands of workers in Boeing’s US supply chain are have suffered layoffs and loss of hours. The cost to Boeing of the grounding is now estimated at close to $19bn.

“I’m worried about my bills and how I am going to pay them,” said Jordan Simoens, a sheet metal mechanic at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, who was one of 2,800 employees recently laid off. “I’m going through the struggle of finding a job, which is hard enough here in Wichita without 2,800 others also looking.” He previously worked as an auto mechanic and is considering moving to find a new job in that field.

Julian Moffitt, 32, was laid off along with a few dozen others as a quality assurance technician in Huntsville, Alabama, working for a contractor of General Electric (GE), which built the Max’s engines through a joint venture with France’s Safran and is suffering significant losses after the production shutdown.

This is where stuff really starts to hit close to home for me.

To add insult to injury, the former CEO of Boeing, Dennis Muilenburg, was ousted for his role in the 737 Max failure with a $60 million golden parachute.

This is why this hits so close to home for me.

I was downsized several weeks ago and it’s been rough.  My performance reviews were always excellent, they just killed off my entire department.

I can’t really talk about what happened, but let’s just say in involved the executives of the holding company that bought us pocketing a lot of the money they borrowed for investment as a bonus.

The big picture here is that bad behavior at the uppermost levels of management is rewarded and the price for that is paid by the working people at non-corporate decision-making levels.

It made the news yesterday that the Goodyear plant in Gadsden, Alabama is having another round of layoffs.  Part of the reason for that is the investment in a new Goodyear plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

You can sarcastically say “but that’s the way it’s always been” and I’m telling you, that’s exactly why Bernie won Iowa and is surging in the polls in other states.

What directly happened to me is something often called “vulture capitalism,” but part of the definition is a company must be distressed when it is required.  What happens when the company isn’t distressed to start with?  The medical equivalent would be diagnosing a patient with a cold as being terminal and harvesting his organs to sell on the black market.

A while back, Tucker Carlson did a segment on this type of practice, and what he said is true.

If the most glaring experience of your life is this ugly side of capitalism, then Bernie is your man.

I spent years living in Rust Belt Midwest.  The Bernie fans I know are all people my age or younger who grew up in run-down towns that died when they factory or plant that was a major employer of the town got sent to outsourced to South East Asia.  They are not ideological socialists, like Bernie or AOC.  They are people angry that the system allowed a handful of wealthy bankers to make a profit by turning them from a happy little town into an economic dead spot with high rates of government dependency.

They are the kids or siblings of factory workers who were put out of work by outsourcing or vulture capitalism.

I still believe in all the positive talking points about capitalism, I really do.

Capitalism is the economic system of freedom.  It has raised more people out of poverty than any other system of economics.  It encourages innovation and creativity, and raises the quality of life for millions of people.

I am not challenging that at all.  I do not want to go to a centrally planned socialist economy.  I want the US to have, by and large, more economic freedom.

I also am not consumed by anger at wealth inequality.  I don’t care if someone gets super-rich.  I care how they got super-rich.  You can call me a naive spoiled millennial, but I have a problem with someone becoming super-rich by leaving thousands of unemployed and destitute people in their wake with no fault of their own.

I do not believe the fix for our problems is to tax the rich and use that money to give the rest of society “free stuff.”  The rich will figure out how to avoid paying their taxes.

Furthermore, free stuff doesn’t make people better.  It will alleviate temporary stress.  If you need food now, EBT helps.  But in the long run, it saps people of their dignity and self-respect.  Go to any community with high rates of government dependency or reliance on government assistance and you will see people who are miserable, areas filled with crime and shiftlessness.

Taxing the holding company board to pay for my tuition and Medicare is not what I want.

I’m also not against, creative destruction.  I’m not for banning the automobile to protect the farriers or banning the refrigerator to keep the ice haulers employed.  But I don’t believe firing a bunch of Americans to have the same job done by conscripted slave workers in China in a factory that has no worker safety or environmental standards constitutes creative destruction.

What needs to happen is for the Republican party to come out and say:

Capitalism is a great economic system, 90% of the time.  Capitalism has made this country great.  The innovation that has come from private investment has created the world you know and love today.  Everything from your wardrobe, to your smartphone, to your favorite show on Amazon Prime is a product of the upside of Capitalism.  But sometimes, unscrupulous and unethical people will use their money and their power to profit off the suffering of others.  We are going to stop that and hold those people accountable.  This country has a history of curbing the bad excess of Capitalism.  Republican Presidents were the first to implement anti-trust laws that broke up monopolies and made the market work better for more people.  If you want to become a billionaire by creating a book series that the world loves, or comic book characters that spawned more than two dozen movies, or, an app that everyone wants, or a cure for some terrible disease, you should have every right to that.  Add to the greatness of the world and enjoy the rewards.  But if you want to become a billionaire by putting Americans out of work and destroying American communities, then we will end that.”

If they do, I guarantee that the Republican party will immediately absorb a lot of Bernie supporters, and I think, a substantial percentage of moderate Democrats.

These people are hurting people who just want a fair shot a job with some protection against being outsourced or replaced by H1B visa workers.  they are not ideological Socialists, they are angry at an unfair system.  Right now, Bernie’s rhetoric speaks closest to their desires.

If the Republican party offers a better message, that corrects the unfairness without the pitfalls of Socialism, they will win bigly.

If not, then the Republicans will lose once Trump is gone, and to someone much worse than Bernie.

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By J. Kb

24 thoughts on “Why Bernie Sanders won and the lesson the Republican party needs to learn from it.”
  1. Not going to agree here. Sorry.

    You have some valid points. There was a time that the success of the CEO was reliant on the success of the workers. Things like vulture capitalism have changed that. Then again, there have always been robber barons. There always will be.

    However, it would be more effective for the liberals to acknowledge the downsides of socialism, rather than the Republicans talking about the upsides of capitalism. The people supporting Bernie are not going to listen anyway.

    1. And I’m telling you “let the robber barons rob and the vulture capitalists rip the meat off the bones, and that means you end up without a job in a house that’s worth nothing, oh well” is a shitty message that does not resonate. It will only create more socialists.

  2. J. Kb, sorry to hear about the forced change in employment.

    A number of years ago I was let go from my job. I asked to see the boss, one of the wealthiest people in the state. His security people didn’t want me to see him as I was a scary dude and might do bad things. In the end, I got my meeting with him.

    I want in and said “Thank you for the job. I did my best for you and I understand that you don’t need my efforts any more. Regardless, thank you for the job.”

    I said that to him as he was investing in the company. My salary came almost directly out of his pocket. The fact that the company didn’t make money and went under was more a question of market focus and lack of understanding of the technology than anything else.

    One of my co-workers was grossing to me one day about how he didn’t get paid enough because the boss was rich and could afford to pay more. I couldn’t understand it. It made no sense to me. Why did the size of the wallet make any difference in how much we, as employees, were worth.

    We are worth what we can provide to the company and not one cent more.

    Socialism is about making the statement that the labor of all people is equal. This is false at every level.

    There is no way my eldest son could sit down and do my job. He doesn’t have the knowledge, skills or personality to do it. My current supervisor keeps doing “stupid stuff” and then I fix it. It is my job to fix it. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and just expects it to magically fix itself.

    He doesn’t have a clue as to how much knowledge of systems went into designing and building the system he just uses. All he sees is when something doesn’t work the way he wants it to.

    One of my clients is currently have a snit fit. They need a feature. When I told them they needed that feature 3 months ago they demanded that it be removed. Now they are finding out that they must have the feature, so I have to un-remove it.

    Socialism is about wanting what others have without having to put the effort into earning it.

    I fight socialism, I hate it, I will do all I can to keep socialism from taking over my country.

    1. I’m not saying all downsizing is bad. I’m trying to parse the difference between the the realities of business and unethical business practices.

      The CEO of Boeing was complicit in the launching of an unsafe aircraft. He got a golden parachute while other people got laid off. Clearly, there seems to be a disconnect here where actual malfeasance is rewarded.

      My former executives literally said they were borrowing money as an investment in the company and pocketed it in the form of a bonus. When the banks came for the money the owners didn’t pay back their bonuses, they fired workers. I don’t understand how that is legal, let alone ethical.

      I have a problem with rewarding malfeasance and unethical practices.

      1. J.Kb, it is difficult to describe the difference between hard business choices and unethical business choices.

        One of my clients use to advertise that he provided a web space to his customers. The more “web space” the customer used, the more my client would charge. My client’s employees would often put files into the customer’s space and the client would then charge the client for both the “web space” and the “developers space’. In fact, double charging.

        When I called him on this practice, he didn’t have any ethical reason for doing the right thing. The only way I got him to stop charging for developer files was to actually write software to only report actual customer web space use.

        There are so many people out there that have a warped set of ethics. And because of that, they are able to do things like borrow money with the primary reason being “invest in the company” and then use the frangible nature of money to pay themselves bonuses for having gotten funds for investments.

        They are then shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that they suddenly don’t have enough money to finish the investment. It has to come from somewhere and that bonus money is already gone.

        As hard as it is to describe unethical behavior and worse, to differentiate it from difficult business decisions (we have to either lay off four guys in order to repair the primary pump OR we have to make 7 guys take pay cuts OR we have to make 8 guys work overtime because the pump doesn’t work well enough).

        Creating laws that differentiate is even harder.

  3. The problem with this sorta-populist/sorta-socialist system is that nobody on earth is smart enough to implement it. The market is always, always, always smarter than people.

    Yeah, I’ve been laid off. Three times. Yeah, it’s painful and it’s scary. Every time, my life got better once things settled out.

    I say we don’t have a free market economy now. We have a system in which a bunch of bankers issue money that’s worthless, backed by nothing but thin air, and manipulate every single aspect of the economy. If one “too big to fail” bank – or “vulture capitalist” – is stupid and gets over extended, instead of facing the consequences of their actions, the central bankers create another few billion bucks out of nothing and bail them out. It’s pure central control – that other word for socialism/communism. We have a revolving table of regulators going to work in the industries they just regulated, and people from those industries going to be the regulators. You think that’s a free economy? That’s what you get when government gets bigger.

    I could go on longer than your column (and probably should), but I argue we don’t have a free market and we need to go back to it. We need to go back to sound money that’s not based on Keynesian manipulations. That means cutting government regulations and cutting government.

    The answer is more freedom, not less.

    1. There’s another issue here, which is that the shareholders lose out when a manager pays himself the money that was supposed to be invested in the business. The employee losing his job is also, from the shareholder’s point of view, a valuable asset taken away from the business. So, in a truly free market, the shareholders should and would ensure those vulture capitalist types never got near their business. They would avoid like the plague buying into those asset-stripped, debt-saddled rump companies the vultures leave behind.

      Unfortunately the “shareholders” are usually (here in the UK at least, and I’d imagine it’s the same over there) pension funds, not actual people. The fund managers are looking after a portfolio or several, and don’t have time to take an interest in how each business is run, just to track the quarterly results. And why does that system exist? Very largely, because it’s Government mandated through taxation; pension funds are taxed at a lower rate than straightforward investments.

      1. I agree with you. Unfortunately what I’ve experienced is that a lot of managers and executives see employees as a cost and not an investment. Especially in engineering where engineers are often treated as interchangeable cogs. If one developer’s salary gets too high, fire him and replace him with a cheaper one, ten years of experience be damned.

        So where you and I see firing skilled workers as the same as scrapping valuable equipment, i.e., throwing away an investment. Most managers see it as cost cutting.

        I watched on project die when all the experienced engineers were fired and replaced with new hires out of college. The project didn’t advance and was eventually killed. The cost savings of replacing senior engineers with new hires resulted in a huge waste of money. Who paid the price? Not Managment, the engineers who were fired when the project was canned.

  4. The blog owners comments about the consequences of not paying attention to corporate bad behavior, as usual, went right over the heads of some of the commentators here. The blog owner now understands what many Bernie supporters feel like. Hopefully the Republicans, (faint hope) pay attention. All the Libertarian arguments for “Capitalism “ ring hollow when you are out of work, and those that caused it walk away licking their fingers, or float away on a golden parachute. That’s how you get more Bernie boys.

  5. I don’t begrudge CEOs making bank, but when they screw up they should suffer like the rest of us would. Even application of the laws/rules/penalties. If the foreman wold be fired for messing up a few million in orders, then the CEO should be gone for screwing the billions that they did. Golden parachutes suck ass. However the CEOs are no different than Democratic politicians and flunkies. They always seem to fail upwards. They should be never allowed to helm a company that size again, and by not allowed I mean just not hired because their previous performance sucked. Not sure you could make a law for that I would be comfortable with.

    1. This “screw the workers, enrich the bosses” attitude comes from the culture of management consultancies like McKinsey. The Atlantic has a good article about the generational shift from middle management to “restructuring”, and how being at McKinsey is a millstone around Pete Buttigeig’s neck

  6. I can see the point. As others commented, it’s not so clear what to do about it. Injecting the government into this is quite unlikely to be a good thing.
    That said, the policies and rhetoric of Trump are rather different from the traditional lassez-faire Republican, to the extent such an animal exists now or ever did. For example, the bit about getting your jobs outsourced out of the country is something he’s been fulminating about from the start and made a big deal about in 2016. Every other day he talks about getting jobs to come back to the USA, and in particular lower paying jobs. I believe he understands this stuff, and the way of looking at the world that blue collar workers worried about their jobs have. It’s what helped him win. The tax cut, in spite of socialist propaganda, was in many ways specifically tailored to get jobs to come back here. And the changes Democrats are pushing for will wreck the economy in general, and in particular will force jobs to go back overseas.
    Getting that message to be very clear is obviously Job One.

  7. Sorry to hear about the job situation. I know you love what you do.

    If you find yourself looking out towards this part of the country, or at my particular employer, please feel free to email me. I’d be happy to provide what insight I can as to the local environment.

  8. What I don’t understand why these people you speak of actually think Bernie will bring their jobs back. In all likelyhood, he’d come down even harder on domestic industry, crying that, “it’s bad for the environment”.
    My biggest fear is that, if Sanders somehow won, he’d do his damnest to play to his extreme base, and end up hurting and dividing the country even more.

    1. Bernie will absolutely not bring back their jobs. He will in fact make everything worse. But, and this is important, he speaks to their pain. Bernie’s appeal is emotional to the people who suffered at the hands of execs who thought the best way to raise final quarter profits was to have a lay-off just before Christmas.

      Republicans do not speak to that pain or offer empathy to those people. Worse, the Republicans do nothing to help them. The fact is most people do have have it in them to be entrepreneurs and say “will, I got laid off, I’ll start my own company and pick mysel up by my bootstraps.”

      I believe that there need to be a little bit of protection for workers from this unethical predatory behavior. That will stabilize the market for a lot more people and be an overall benefit. To not do that will cause people to follow a leader who comes out against it, and that makes them end up as socialist Bernie Bros.

      I want to create fewer Bernie Bros because I don’t want socialism, and that requires the GOP to address the legitimate grievances of hurting workers and have a solution beyond “that’s the market and you lost.”

        1. If not entirely, he has a clue about what is going on.

          The truth is I’d wish he did a better job of fighting it.

          But as my post said I fear what happens “once Trump is gone.” The rest of the party seems to think of Capitalism as a religion, not an economic system (borrowed from Tucker). they don’t get it and will lose a lot of support in the post Trump era.

          I believe in the market economy. I just think there are times when it is appropriate to regulate predatory behavior. There is way too much regulation at the middle class level and not enough at the C-Suite level.

          It should be easier for a working class woman to open a nail salon and become an entrepreneur and harder for a CEO to offshore an American factory. The problem is that women who own nail salons don’t buy $25,000 per seat plates at fundraisers and CEO’s do.

          What I hope and pray for is a Republican Bernie. Someone who can raise enough money to be a national player from $12 donations by showing empathy for the plight of the preyed upon working and middle class, but isn’t a Progressive Socialist. Show me the guy who says “I believe in the capitalist system. If you do well for your company, you deserve a bonus, but if you bankrupt your company, you don’t get to float away on a golden parachute while your workers lose their healthcare and 401k.”

  9. The wishes you write for the system you want aren’t sorta-populist/sorta-socialist, they are intensely, completely socialist. The wishes lie in the middle of the historical trend line which leads to Mao’s China. They are as much of a movement in the socialist direction as the present political climate allows. Compound growth of this leads to the starvation of millions.

    If you want to improve the system, you need different wishes which say government can’t borrow, issue currency, or own stocks.

  10. Get shareholders to start movements to adopt rules regarding golden parachutes and so on. if the CEO is fired because they tanked the stock price following some SJW bullshit policies then they get to chute, just a kick in the ass in the ass out. it can be done with shareholder revolutions. its just hard.

  11. Karl Marx predicted that economic forces would drive society to a point where all ownership would be concentrated in the hands of vast monopolies and latifundia, and that workers would be reduced from independence and ownership of their livelihoods to a type of serfdom where there is nothing real that their labor could buy.

    In the times and places that this happens, it’s a real problem. I’m not yet convinced that the natural unperturbed dynamics of market shake-out lead to this, but you can see it from here whenever we hit a spot of malaise.

    The problem is that Karl Marx’s “solution” to this problem is to ensure that no one gets to own anything, workers especially, even themselves. The only people who own any of the “means of production” (slaves included) are managers of vast government-sanctioned monopolies. The people the commies and socialists hate most bitterly are the independent small businessmen, the “petit-bourgeousie”.

    A future where there is a broad distribution of ownership is my desired future. The only place that could possibly happen is in a country with strong respect for and protection for small-scale property rights, non-predatory contracts, and free association. Capitalism isn’t a sufficient condition for this, but it is a necessary one.

  12. The aircraft industry has some very strict quality regulations that if you knowingly and intentionally pass something that leads to the death of people it is something like a $1mil fine and 20 years in prison, That should apply to anyone who knew what was going on in this case, CEO included. Too bad it would probably be millions of Boeing dollars that are used to defend him if it ever came to that.

    Regarding the bailouts of banks, I’ve recently come the conclusion that it is not the best outcome but it is better than letting them fail because ultimately, I think the individual yous and Is would have suffered significantly more once the government can’t refund deposits and the huge amounts of value simply no longer exist. Executives getting bonuses off of that and the employees and/or us getting screwed further from that is totally unacceptable.

    Also our money is backed by debt, which is not nothing, but is certainly not something in a tangible sense. There are advantages to this for sure but it a big pyramid scheme to me at the end of the day IMO.

    I think Sanders winning makes sense simply from the point of view that he was supposed to be the actual nomination in 2016 but was torpedoed in favor of Clinton. I do agree though that most of his appeal is to the little guy who has been squeezed one too many times, I think there are a lot of people with legitimate grievances like that that like him. I think the other half is people who just want hand outs or who want handouts because are tired of getting shit on and just want a break and sometime of their own on easy street and don’t care what it does to anyone else. Or they are people who don’t know how to take advantage of the system and bend it to their benefit.

    I think to your point, republicans can do some, and that is meeting in the middle with democrats to stop predatory practices. However, they’ll never get credit for anything positive or any compromising they do, so just disabuse yourself of any of those notions.

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