5 ways Bernie Sanders-style socialism would hurt the US economy

During his presidential announcement speech earlier this month, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., attacked the “military industrial complex” and the “prison industrial complex” but he failed to mention that his entire campaign is predicated on further empowering the bureaucratic industrial complex.

There is little doubt that socialism will dominate the 2020 presidential campaign. Spurred on by the perceived political failures of Obama-era liberalism, many in the Democratic party now see full-blown socialism as viable and advantageous.

No candidate has done more to propel socialism than Sanders. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is poised to fully endorse him and the latest polls show Sanders neck and neck with former Vice President Joe Biden, who said he still hasn't made a decision about a 2020 presidential bid, for the top spot in the Democratic primary.

Sanders claims that, as president, he would be able to use government to solve every problem in society. His goal is to “create an economy and government which works for all Americans, and not just the one percent.” But in reality, his policies would hurt the economy and take away choice from consumers. Here are five examples.

Socialism would fail to end poverty

Sanders rightfully shines a light on the level of poverty in the United States but fails to mention the poverty rate has barely budged since President Lyndon Johnson declared war on it more than a half century ago. This policy stagnation occurred despite Johnson’s flurry of federally-focused social programs. Sanders would apparently like to recklessly double down on this public policy failure.

Socialism would bankrupt Medicare at taxpayers' expense

Sanders proposes that Medicare, a program that is on a perilous fiscal footing, should be expanded while demonizing advocates who want to save it from insolvency as wanting to slash benefits and bankrupt seniors. The Congressional Budget Office predicts Medicare will become insolvent by 2026. Nearly one in 10 Medicare payments was found to be improper by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2018, costing taxpayers $31.6 billion. Imagine the exponential increase in waste if Medicare is expanded to those younger than 65.

Socialism doesn’t get American businesses

On jobs and the economy, Sanders bemoaned the minimum wages of large companies like Walmart even as those same companies voluntarily raised employee wages due to basic economic incentives in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, not federal dictates from Washington. Sanders attacked this law even though eight out of 10 Americans received a tax cut.

Socialism would strip every American of health care choice

Sanders-style single-payer health insurance already exists in America today at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). But the massive VA bureaucracy was unable to prevent, detect or adequately resolve its wait-times scandal -- and veterans died waiting for care. Sanders should be familiar with this because he chaired the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee from 2013-15, during the height of the scandal.  Access to timely health care is also a chronic problem for single-payer systems in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Socialism would explode the bureaucratic state

The same bureaucratic vulnerabilities that existed at the VA exist throughout every federal program because the monopolistic incentives in sprawling bureaucracies are simply not well-suited to deliver fast, efficient and affordable services. The Government Accountability Office has already identified hundreds of billions of dollars in duplication, overlap and fragmentation in the federal bureaucracy, which would surely skyrocket under a Bernie Sanders administration.


Sanders and the other socialist sympathizers running for president need to be clear-eyed about the limits of the federal bureaucracy that they are all too eager to put in charge of virtually every aspect of American life. There is a reason why capitalism has lifted more than one billion people out of poverty around the world in the last quarter century. The incentives inherent to capitalism lead to practical, affordable and timely services and products available to everyone.

If elected, Sanders would be the first American president to reject these uniquely American economic norms.

Curtis Kalin is the communications director and spokesman for Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a private, non-partisan, non-profit organization representing more than one million members and supporters nationwide.