"In the name of socialism, we saw in the last century horrible atrocities, millions of people killed, some truly horrible regimes calling themselves socialist," observed Wall Street Journal assistant editorial page editor James Freeman. "We think of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Soviet Union."
Nomiki Konst, host of "The Nomiki Show" and a Sanders supporter, argued that the 78-year-old senator's vision for America does not resemble the failed systems that lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union but something different.
"Russia was a communist country; communism and socialism are very different," said Konst, "Communists and social democrats are different. Bernie Sanders is ... what in Europe is labeled as a social democrat, which is really acknowledging that capitalism exists and needing to reform it.
"We are a very libertarian-natured country. ... We believe that the free market will solve everything," she continued. "But at the end of the day, how is that working out?"
Konst pointed to income inequality, rising real estate costs and a worsening middle-class debt crisis as evidence that American capitalism is not working for most citizens.
"That's not what a functioning democracy looks like when you look at places like France, Denmark, the happiest place on the planet," she concluded. "Those are social-democratic countries."
Former CEO Andy Puzder, who lead CKE Restaurants, which owns Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., for more than 16 years, argued that Sanders is, in fact, advocating for Soviet-style central planning of the economy.
"The difference between a socialist country and a capitalist country is that in a [capitalist] country the consumers guide the economy," said Puzder. "They decide which businesses succeed, which ones fail. In a case in a socialist country, it's the government that makes that decision."
"The Soviet Union was, in fact, a socialist country met. In fact, it was called the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics," he said in disagreement with Konst. "We can take them at their word. It was a dictatorship, but it was a socialist economy."
"Bernie [is] out there giving these very broad definitions of what he's going to do," warned Puzder. "He's going to increase taxes to ridiculous rates, which will discourage economic growth, which will kill job creation, which will kill the competition for employees that's driving wages."
Specifically addressing the Green New Deal, Puzder said that Sanders, "wants to take over the construction industry, wants to take over the energy industry."
"These are all segments of the economy that would be run by the government under a Bernie Sanders plan," Puzder argued. "The direction of the economy would not be determined by consumers, by the public, which is what you have in a capitalist economy."
In conclusion, Puzder observed that even some of the European countries that Sanders cites as models for his reforms object to his characterization of them.
In 2015, during a Democratic primary debate with Hillary Clinton, Sanders said, "I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people."
"I would like to make one thing clear," said Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen in a speech at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy."
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