Democrat front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders has responded to his disastrous 60 Minutes interview by releasing a plan for how he would raise the estimated $60 to $94 trillion necessary (he doesn’t know exactly how much it all costs, and don’t ask him) to pay for his massive socialist social programs. These programs include abolishing private health insurance to replace it with a government-run universal Medicare, pushing the so-called “Green New Deal” to force the economy onto expensive and as yet unreliable energy sources, and even a $1.5 trillion government-funded child care program that he nevertheless dubs “free.” He claims he would pay for that by taxing “extreme wealth.” Sanders would also drastically weaken the military, abolish ICE, and effectively open our borders while expanding the welfare state to cover illegal immigrants.
The Sanders plan to pay for all this is less serious, as a plan, than your average dorm room philosopher’s pot-inspired sophistry to save the world, man. It’s also an all-out assault on the American economy and, in particular, on the energy-producing states including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wyoming, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio, Louisiana, New Mexico, Colorado, Alaska, and Texas. In that sense, it’s very serious.
Lawfare assault on U.S. energy
Sanders calls for gutting the energy industry through massive lawsuits, which is as childishly unrealistic as it would be expensive. The courts were not designed to create revenue streams for the federal government. Sanders’ plan abuses the court system on the way to destroying a legal industry. Lawsuits do not guarantee success, or that the plaintiff ever sees a dime even if they win. Lawsuits can also take years or decades to resolve. The tobacco lawsuit is probably the closest analog to what Sanders has in mind. That took about 25 years to resolve, and sent billions in revenue to state budgets. All told, Sanders’ plans require trillions. The radical greens say we only have 12 years left to save the planet (11.5 now, as they started saying this about half a year ago). Sanders’ plans require trillions of dollars, from day one of his presidency, far more than the current size of the entire American economy, and far faster than the courts move — and faster than his own dire predictions for the end of the world. Has he thought any of this through, or gamed any of it out?
Supposing Sanders’ lawfare assault on energy succeeds, the ripple effects will be disastrous. First, there would be appeals, which would take years to sort out, leaving energy companies uncertain about their future viability. Exploration for new fossil fuel sources and production from current ones will be greatly discouraged in the United States as energy companies defend themselves. Of course, that’s the point of Sanders’ plan. But demand for energy would not correspondingly drop. Energy production would shift back to overseas — Russia and the Middle East, mostly, weakening America economically at the direct expense of enriching and empowering unstable and adversarial regimes. This would also harm the environment, as overseas oil and gas producers tend to work less cleanly than their American counterparts. Reduced natural gas output from American producers means coal-fired power plants in emerging economies like China and India would continue burning coal. U.S. ally Japan, heavily dependent now on Middle Eastern oil, would only become more so. The energy industry’s leaders in the U.S. may find themselves in the direct line of fire, as Sanders also proposes jailing them despite the inconvenient fact of them having committed no crimes. Many of them would shift their assets overseas immediately, just to protect themselves from their own government.
Ex post facto prosecutions
To directly prosecute energy executives, whom he has demagogically dubbed “criminals,” Sanders would have to remove the ex post facto protections from the Constitution and have laws passed criminalizing energy leaders’ past — and quite legal — actions. So…Sanders would merely have to amend the Constitution to delete Art. 1, § 9 and Art. 1 § 10, which respectively prohibit Congress and the states from passing laws to criminalize past actions and then retroactively prosecuting people for violating laws that did not exist. If this sounds daffy, that’s because it is. It’s wildly unrealistic, yet dangerous even to propose. If Sanders pulls off these unlikely feats, say goodbye to fundamental American rule of law.
The process to amend the Constitution was designed to be slow and Sanders probably could not get it done. Sanders may then resort to executive orders to go after energy executives, or he could abuse power and use the IRS and other federal agencies to target them, without removing ex post facto protections but using the criminal court process as punishment. That, too, could take years to resolve, but the message sent would have a chilling effect across the whole American economy well beyond the energy industry. The federal government would in effect be treating executives who operate within the law the way it once treated mobsters, who built criminal empires outside the law.
The economic consequences just of suing the American energy industry would be swift and severe. Energy is the foundation of the modern economy. It powers everything — your home, your office, your means to get from one to the other, the phone in your hand, the computer on your desk, your entertainment streaming services, the servers and warehouses at Amazon — modern life.
Make America poorer…and keep it that way
Increasing energy prices leads to poverty. More Americans would drop from the middle class and find themselves dependent on the social programs Sanders would expand but cannot pay for. Sanders would ban fracking, hamstringing the same industry he expects to pay for his lavish spending. This move alone, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, could kill about 15 million American jobs. And it would dramatically increase energy prices. Do you want to pay $6 or $8 per gallon of gas, while the company you own or the one that employs you has less money to fund research and development, less money for bonuses and raises, because energy costs are eating up the budget? Do you want to pay twice or three times what you’re currently paying to keep your home comfortable for your family year-round? Do you want to pay more in property taxes because your public schools are having to spend more on energy costs, and at the same time receiving less from oil revenues if you live in an energy-producing state? That’s the beginning of what’s likely to happen if a President Sanders wields the power of the federal government against the American energy industry. We could expect to see companies and small businesses existing on the margins close down, thanks to unsustainable energy prices, throwing potentially millions of Americans out of work well beyond companies directly involved in energy production.
Beyond these high profile moves, Sanders would appoint like minds to positions across the federal government, as is the elected president’s right. In real terms this means empowering the regulatory state with “social democrats” like Sanders — who would in policy fact be communists like Sanders who share his dreams and goals. Imagine, for instance, Sanders appointing members of “the squad” to head federal agencies and enact regulatory policy. The regulatory state so empowered would move against American property rights, against American industry, against our churches and private organizations, in ways we have never seen before. The courts will be very busy.
Designed to destroy
And for what? At the end of the day, the entitlement crisis would grow far worse under Sanders as he attempts to build a cradle-to-grave government conveyor belt paid for by increasingly punishing taxation levels and lawsuits. Our national deficits are already nearly unsustainable; Sanders would push enough spending to bankrupt the country several times over while his plans to pay for it all will crush the economy. The environment would suffer as energy production shifts from relatively clean American sources to dirtier sources overseas and coal continues to power emerging economies instead of cleaner-burning natural gas. America would be far weaker on the world stage, increasing the likelihood of wars worldwide, and Sanders will have gutted the military to pay for his social spending. The America that Bernie Sanders wants would arrive, and it would look a whole lot like corrupt, starving, economically-ravaged Venezuela.