OPINION | Bolshevik Bernie hates US billionaires but loves the ‘billionaire paradise’ of Sweden

Editorials & Columns
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

IN a Tweet last September, Sen. Bernie Sanders made the statement that “billionaires should not exist.”

In the New York Times article linked in the Tweet Sen. Sanders was quoted as saying “I don’t think that billionaires should exist.” And his solution to eliminating that supposed scourge infecting the American economy? A proposal to impose new taxes on the wealthiest Americans, including a steep tax on billionaires to greatly diminish their fortunes and eliminate as many of them as possible. And turn them instead into what? Multi-millionaires I presume!

At the same time that Socialist Sanders wants to eliminate billionaires in the U.S., he simultaneously wants America to adopt the supposed socialist model of economically successful Nordic countries like Sweden and Norway. But there’s a big problem with Bernie using countries like Sweden as examples of the socialist utopias that America should emulate — Sweden ain’t socialist. And both “socialist” Sweden and Norway have many more billionaires per capita than the U.S. — Norway has 56% more (2.8 vs. 1.8 per million) and Sweden has 81% more (3.25 vs. 1.8 per million).

The inconsistency of Bolshevik Bernie’s hatred of billionaires in the U.S. but love of the supposed socialist billionaire paradises of Sweden and Norway was pointed out by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria last week in his Washington Post op-ed (“Bernie Sanders’s Scandinavian Fantasy”) and in the video segment that appeared on CNN. From Zakaria’s op-ed:

“Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., says that his proposals ‘are not radical,’ pointing again and again to countries in Northern Europe such as Denmark, Sweden and Norway as examples of the kind of economic system he wants to bring to the United States. The image he conjures up is of a warm and fuzzy social democracy in which market economics are kept on a tight leash through regulation, the rich are heavily taxed and the social safety net is generous. That is, however, an inaccurate and highly misleading description of those Northern European countries today.

“Take billionaires. Sanders has been clear on the topic: ‘Billionaires should not exist.’ But Sweden and Norway both have more billionaires per capita than the United States — Sweden almost twice as many…. Not only that, these billionaires are able to pass on their wealth to their children tax-free. Inheritance taxes in Sweden and Norway are zero, and in Denmark 15 percent. The United States, by contrast, has the fourth-highest estate taxes in the industrialized world at 40 percent.”

And Zakaria concludes with this stark reality that completely escapes the American left and democratic socialist who use Nordic countries as examples of the “socialist utopias” that America should emulate:

“A 2008 OECD report found that the top 10 percent in the United States pay 45% of all income taxes, while the top 10% in Denmark pay 26% and in Sweden 27%. Among wealthy countries, the average is 32%. The basic point is worth underlining because the American left seems largely unaware of it, and it has only become more true over the past decade: The United States has a significantly more progressive tax code than Europe, and its top 10% pays a vastly greater share of the country’s taxes than their European counterparts.

“In other words, bringing the economic system of Denmark, Sweden and Norway to the United States would mean embracing more flexible labor markets, light regulations and a deeper commitment to free trade. It would mean a more generous set of social benefits — to be paid for by taxes on the middle class and poor. If Sanders embraced all that, it would be radical indeed.”

Read more articles