Bernie Sanders: Well Actually, Breadlines Aren’t Quite So Bad

Bernie Sanders: Well Actually, Breadlines Aren’t Quite So Bad

This morning, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced that he intends to run for president in 2020:

Of course, this resulted in conservatives “pouncing” on an unsavory video from the mid-1980s in which Sanders articulates his support for breadlines, in what could reasonably be called the best “well actually” of all time. When asked about breadlines in Nicaragua and Sanders’ support for Sandinistas, the senator quipped: “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food: the rich get the food and the poor starve to death.”

He acts as if this is some sort of trump card that invalidates criticism of breadlines, but people waiting miserably in line for hours to receive basic (and scant) provisions due to horrific food shortages, is pretty far from most sane people’s concept of a productive economy. Imagine the opportunity cost: people standing in lines for hours, as a part of a daily or weekly ritual to get bread and soap and milk, means these people will not be able to work or pursue any enjoyable or fulfilling activities during this time.

Lost innovation and productivity is certainly an argument against breadlines, but for those swayed by the idea of unshackling people from capitalism so they can have more free time and pleasure, don’t assume that standing in breadlines is a happiness upgrade by any stretch of the imagination.

Even more so, his basic premise is flawed. Does he mean capitalist countries are those in which the rich get the food and the poor starve to death (perhaps a hyperbolic statement on income inequality)? Because that’s mostly false. In 1820, 94 percent of the global population lived in extreme poverty. By 1990, this figure had dropped to around 30 percent, and by 2015, it hovered around 9.6 percent.

Now, clearly it’s a bad thing to have any number of people living in extreme poverty, but the drastic increase in quality of life and access to basic provisions should not be diminished, and should be attributed to the Industrial Revolution, globalization, and the rise of capitalism.

If he’s talking specifically about communist and socialist countries and indicting the greed of the ruling classes, calling attention to how they’ve implemented his beloved ideology, he’s absolutely right, and it’s strange he believes that corruption is a bug, not a feature, of socialism. When this same pattern plays out time and time again in countries all over the world, we should begin to wonder whether there’s an enormous issue with the incentives of socialism.

After all, Sanders has a history of being oddly fawning toward Fidel Castro, and he did kinda sorta honeymoon in the Soviet Union. Buckle in for a lot more revisionist talking points that make socialism sound peachy, and a lot more Bernie acolytes attempting to make the case for why you, too, should hope for breadlines.

Liz Wolfe is managing editor at The Federalist, based in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter.
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