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A Young Woman From Russia Wanted 'Reassurance' About Bernie's Vision for 'Democratic Socialism'

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) came under fire for his praise of Fidel Castro, a communist mass murderer. According to Sanders, Castro deserves to be praised for his literacy rates and health care policies. Many people took issue with the statements, including Democrats. In fact, CNN dedicated an entire segment to break down Sanders' past comments about Cuba and the Castro regime. "The View's" Anna Navarro-Cardenas went off, saying Sanders' comments put Florida Democrats, like Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, in danger come November.


Sanders was asked, point-blank, how his so-called "Democratic Socialist" policies would differ from other nations who had socialist policies.

"As someone from Russia, a country that was greatly impacted by the negative effects of socialism, what assurances can you offer myself and other people impacted by socialism that 'Democratic Socialism' will not have the same result?" audience member Margaret Beste asked.

"What happened in the Soviet Union was not socialism. It was authoritarian communism!" Sanders replied to a cheering audience. "And communism, whether in Cuba, whether in the Soviet Union, whether in other countries, was marked by totalitarianism, was marked by throwing millions of people into the Gulag. Stalinism was about as bad as it got."

Sanders cited Finland as the perfect example of what "Democratic Socialism" he would want to implement.

"They have a very democratic society, with strong democratic socialist principles," Sanders explained. "Everybody in Finland has health care as a right. Their educational system is perhaps the best in the world and college there is free. They take environmental responsibility very, very seriously."

According to the Vermont senator, Finland has one of the lowest rates of poverty amongst children in the industrialized world and more people participate in elections than in the United States.


"When we talk about 'Democratic Socialism,' Margaret, I'm talking about Finland. I'm talking about Denmark. I'm talking about Sweden. I'm talking about countries all over the world who have used their government to try to improve life for working families, not just the people on top," Sanders said with a smile.

Martha MacCallum pressed Sanders about how to pay for the so-called "free" things he wants to provide Americans, like health care, college and child care, but he deflected. 

"Since the 1990s, if you look at examples in Sweden and Denmark, they have been lowering or cutting property taxes, lowering corporate taxes, allowing vouchers for schools, for public schools and private schools, which is one of the reasons why their education has improved," MacCallum explained. "The founder of IKEA, who left his own country and moved here, has now gone back because he says the tax environment for him is getting better. So they appear to be moving away, more toward market reform and not toward what you are describing you would like to see here."

There was no disagreement that Sweden provides health care for all its citizens, but there was disagreement about how the country pays for it.


As MacCallum pointed out, Sweden isn't simply taxing people to generate money to fund these programs. They're "finding other ways" to boost their economy to cover those costs.

"My point is what these countries have done and they don't get the credit for it. We have, in America, unbelievably, the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth. ... A third of our African American kids are in poverty. ... Their retirement benefits for their older people are better. Their wages that their workers make are better," Sanders explained.

Although Sanders admitted he wasn't familiar with Sweden's tax system, he said "they have gone a long way to eliminate poverty, to make sure that all of their people have the basic needs that they need in order to live good lives."

The Vermont senator pointed to "study after study" that shows that "countries like Denmark are the happiest countries on earth. And do you know why? Because if you don't have to worry about how you are going to pay for healthcare. If you don't have to worry about how you are going to afford to send your kids to college. If you don't have to worry about the cost of child care. If you are earning a decent wage, even if you are paying more in taxes than you may be paying in the United States, that takes a huge load of stress off your shoulders."


While all of this sounds fine and dandy, Sanders didn't tell us anything that isn't already part of his utopian vision. He didn't tell us how he plans to pay for these programs. He seems to think upping taxes will generate enough funds to pay for "free" health care, "free" college and "free" child care, yet the cost continues to change, but his proposed tax rate remains the same.

"Tax the rich!" seems like a great motto, except there's only so much wealth, Bernie.

Sanders seems to think Americans should automatically know that he's talking about the "good" kind of socialism where everyone is happy to redistribute the wealth, not communism, where violence breaks out.

Maybe we're automatically supposed to assume that the word "Democratic" means that our nation wouldn't turn into a totalitarian regime under a socialist leader? Call it what you want, but this is antithetical to everything America stands for.


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