This is the third in a series of essays by David Horowitz on the progressive mind. The first essay is Understanding the Progressive Mind, the second is Progressivism as Criminal Enterprise.
Bernie Sanders is the founder of the Progressive Caucus and most popular figure in the Democrat Party. He is also the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and therefore a key player in determining how Washington decides to spend taxpayers’ dollars. Bernie is also a lifetime fan of Communist regimes and apologist for their totalitarian practices – and atrocities. He supported Iran’s Islamo-fascist regime in 1979 when it made hostages of 52 American diplomats and embassy workers, held them for 444 days, and chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” – repeating the threats through time.
As an American politician for more than five decades, Bernie’s chief passion has been hatred of billionaires and of wealth in general, and of the economic system that makes wealth possible. He pursues this passion without a scintilla of self-awareness, ignoring the fact that he, himself, is worth $3 million. This personal wealth allows him to own three houses, while the average person is lucky to own one. While presenting himself as a champion of the working classes, and opponent of million- dollar incomes, he has no apparent intention of redistributing his own wealth to less fortunate individuals who may need it more than he does.
Without the slightest sense of irony, Bernie boasts that his first priority as a politician is to make socialist theft the law of the land, using the power of the state to force the most successful people to fork over their earnings and allow him as budget chairman to spend them. As his 2020 presidential campaign spokesman embellished this social injustice: “The record shows that from the very beginning, Bernie anticipated and worked to combat the rise of a billionaire ruling class and the exploding power of Wall Street and multinational corporations.” Specifically, Bernie hoped to accomplish this transfer by passing a law that would make it illegal for anyone to accumulate more wealth than he or she could spend in a lifetime, and that any income above $1 million per year would be taxed at a rate of 100%. “Nobody should earn more than a million dollars,” the multi-millionaire Bernie explained.
In keeping with his determination to lead a campaign against wealth, whether earned or not, Bernie’s Twitter feed is monotonously filled with jeremiads about how bad, unfair and obscene it is for CEOs of large corporations to make more money than their workers. The following is a typical snark: “CEOs at large corporations are paid 350x more than what their average worker makes. Is that the kind of economic reality we should accept? I don’t think so.”
At this point, one might ask: What educational or job experience can Bernie claim that would even suggest that he had the credentials to draw such a society-changing conclusion affecting the lives of three hundred million Americans? The answer is none.
In 1964 Bernie graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago. While at UC, Sanders joined the Young Peoples Socialist League, an ideological perspective he took with him when he went to work as an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. This radical component of the civil rights movement was led by Stokely Carmichael, a rabid anti-Semite notorious for his claim that “the only good Zionist is a dead Zionist.” Carmichael was also a black racist who invented the slogan “Black Power” to challenge Martin Luther King’s leadership of what was then an inter-racial movement dedicated to non-violence and inter-racial peace. Carmichael then expelled all the whites in his organization.
Nominally, Bernie is a Jew. But all Bernie’s Jewish connections, including the time he spent on a kibbutz in Israel were organizations run by anti-Israel, anti-American and pro-Arab Marxists, just as his stateside political bases were anti-American, pro-Castro and pro-Soviet. Typical was his membership in the Jewish “Zionist” group, Hashomer Hatzair, whose founder Ya’akov Hazan described the USSR as a second homeland, and in 1953 put on sack cloth and ashes because of what he described as “the terrible tragedy that has befallen the nations of the Soviet Union, the world proletariat and all of progressive mankind, upon the death of the great leader and extolled commander, Josef Vissarionovich Stalin.”
Before turning to a full-time political career, Bernie participated in a Quaker project at a California psychiatric hospital, and worked briefly as an organizer for the leftwing United Packinghouse Workers Union. He then moved to Vermont – a radical Mecca – where he worked variously as a carpenter, filmmaker, writer, and researcher.
This survey of Bernie’s early absorption in an ideological war that was anti-capitalist, anti-American, and anti-business should make obvious why his mature views are so ignorant of the basic workings of the economic system that has made him a multi-millionaire. And oblivious of the fact that this same economic system has created the greatest prosperity and freedom for all who live under it in the history of mankind.
Let’s put the question bluntly then: Would paying the CEO of a corporation close to what one of his average workers makes benefit anyone connected to the corporation and dependent on its earnings? Only if anyone can run a corporation successfully, which is obviously not the case. Steve Jobs founded Apple and ran it for years as a thriving company until he was forced out during a power struggle with its board. John Sculley was an accomplished corporate executive who had run Pepsi-Cola. But the minute Sculley was running Apple without Jobs, its earnings and stock price began to tank until it teetered on the edge of bankruptcy.
In practice this meant that all its average workers were in imminent danger of having their wages reduced or being unemployed. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who owned stock in Apple had already lost significant portions of their savings. Bernie’s socialist delusions, if put into practice would have punished not only the CEO but all the average workers dependent on his judgment and skills to make the company that provided their income successful.
While he was exiled from Apple, the talented Jobs founded two new hugely successful corporations: the animated film-maker Pixar, and the computer company neXT. In 1996, Apple bought neXT for $427million bringing Jobs back to the company whose board quickly made him Interim Chief Executive. Immediately, Apple’s stock began to rise and, under Jobs’ restored leadership, Apple soon became the largest corporation in the world.
Business genius commands a high price because everyone whose prosperity depends on the company’s success benefits when the company is successful. So the economic reality of which Bernie is so ignorant is this: business genius, like all genius, is not fungible; people are not equal and in a just world their rewards will be commensurate with their contributions to others even if makes them 350x richer than the average worker they employ.
Elon Musk is worth $273 billion, which makes him the richest person in the world. His achievements show that he is also probably the smartest. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1994 at the age of 23, having majored in business and physics. The following year he and his brother cofounded a company, funded by angel investors, called Zip2. At the time Musk could not afford an apartment and instead rented an office, slept on its couch, showered at the YMCA, and worked round the clock seven days a week programming.
In 1995, Musk sold Zip2 for $307 million. Musk’s share was $22 million. He was 24 years old. Four years later, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and e-mail payment company. The following year, X.com merged with the online bank Confinity, which became PayPal. In 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock, of which Musk, the largest shareholder, received $175.8 million.
The preceding year, Musk became involved with the nonprofit Mars Society. He was inspired by plans to place a growth-chamber for plants on Mars and discussed funding the project himself. In October 2001, Musk traveled to Moscow to buy refurbished Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) that could send the greenhouse payloads into space. The Russians were uncooperative and the mission failed, but the following year Musk invested $100 million to found SpaceX, as a company that could build affordable rockets. Twenty-one years later after several successful flights in space, it is safe to say that without Musk’s SpaceX investments the United States would not have a space program.
In 2004, Musk invested $6.5 million in Tesla, Inc., a fledgling motor car company, and became its largest stockholder joining its board as chairman. In 2008, Tesla built an electric sports car, the Roadster. With sales of about 2,500 vehicles, it was the first serial production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells. A mass market sedan, the Model 3 was released in 2017. Three years later, it had become the world’s best-selling electric car, with more than 500,000 units delivered. It has been estimated that Musk advanced the production and use of electric vehicles by 20 years. In October 2021 Tesla reached a market capitalization of $1 trillion, the sixth company to do so in U.S. history.
These are only some of this remarkable man’s achievements. It would not do to omit the fact that during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moscow’s cyber attacks took out the Ukranian Internet isolating the Ukranian defenders from each other. Elon Musk immediately restored the Ukrainian Internet providing a vital tool for Ukraine’s defenses.
Elon Musk’s career shows how utterly worthless progressive ideas about the economy are, about human motivations, about economic inequality, and about the dread profit motive. Obviously, Musk’s plan to grow plants on Mars, or to create electric cars, which led to the creation of SpaceX, were not motivated by greed or monetary gain. If you are a billionaire, and $100 million is but a 10th of your portfolio account, personal money is virtually meaningless. The other 900 million will produce $50 million a year if invested modestly. Musk has said physical things mean nothing to him, and it is easy to see why this could be so.
The irony is that Musk had motivations similar to those of leftist missions wanting to change the world and make it a better place. But unlike leftists who think that destroying the system that made a Musk possible would pave the way to a glorious future, Musk took advantage of the amazing economic system – capitalism – that empowers individuals like himself and makes grandiose schemes like taming outer space feasible.
The left’s sinister foolishness is summed up in its demands to replace the market system with “production for people not profit.” This slogan merely demonstrates the mind-numbing stupidity of leftist views. Criminal money-making schemes aside, how is it possible to make profits if you don’t serve people? Profit is a measure of efficiency; it is produced by increasing revenues and lowering costs. Profit is an incentive to meet people’s needs and satisfy their desires. Why is Amazon the greatest beneficiary of the pandemic? Because its leaders found the most efficient and satisfying way to allow people to shop from their own homes during a pandemic. Are there dishonest merchants who will try to pass off inferior goods on customers to create unjustifiable profits? Yes. But that is a failing of human nature – of ethics not profits. In a competitive system, if you try to manufacture profits by cheating customers, eventually you will fail.
These observations lead directly to a consideration of the greatest and most destructive blind spot of the fact-challenged progressive outlook: the refusal to recognize the fundamental inequality of human beings and their capabilities. This refusal is manifest in their inability to appreciate the unique genius of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, and instead to respond to them with a destructive hatred born of envy and resentment, which are the key passions of the progressive mind. It also leads directly to an inability to appreciate the insurmountable obstacles to their utopian schemes.
To belabor the point: there are 60,000 songs a day submitted to the Internet music publisher Spotify by aspiring entertainment stars. There are millions, then, of such individuals. But there are only a couple of thousand people who are talented enough to fill Madison Square Garden or a sports stadium and earn millions of dollars in a single night. Superstars like Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton who can fill such venues are personally worth $500 million each. Did they earn that money? Are their rewards worth their earnings? Millions of customers to whom their music has brought solace and pleasure say they are. Even if they make 350x what the average worker in their organizations make.
Steph Curry is the greatest shooter in the history of basketball. He makes $40 million a year from his salary as a Golden State Warrior. There are players on the Warriors’ roster who don’t make one million dollars. There are members of the Warriors’ organization who earn 100 times less than Steph Curry, maybe 350x less. Curry is well-rewarded because he is a “franchise player.” His talent is so great and the show he puts on such a fan draw that his team fills the arena every night over the course of an 80+ game season and earns the Warrior organization billions of dollars. Every dollar that Bernie Sanders wants to take from Steph Curry in the name of social justice, is a dollar stolen from a man who earned it, and from all the workers and shareholders in his organization who benefit from it. Socialism is theft.
Bernie Sanders’ progressive myopia put me in mind of a joke I was told as a child. A small individual confronts a very large one with this challenge: “If I were as big as you, I would be heavyweight champion of the world.” “Oh yeah,” comes the reply, “Well, why aren’t you lightweight champion?”
Bernie Sanders’ hate-filled outrage at the inequality of reward between a CEO and the “average worker” in his company stems from an obtuse denial of the inequality of intelligence, skills, and judgment distributed among human beings – a diversity that is characteristic of all humanity. It is the inequality of capabilities that translates into an inequality of rewards. The cry for an impossible dream of “social justice” – a world of equals –is a crime against humanity and its diversity. Its fruits are envy, resentment and hate. It is social injustice personified, an attempt to steal the unequal rewards and powers that accrue to individuals who have earned them, and who possess the talents – if they don’t abuse them – to make life for all of us better.