Michael Knowles: Bernie Sanders finally learns the cost of socialism – And now he's paying the price

It is a testament to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s political impotence that he managed to perdure nearly four decades in office before experiencing the costly consequences of his own inchoate ideology. But Bernie’s blissful ignorance faded in May when the campaign staffers who peddle his proposal for a $15 minimum wage asked the socialist millionaire to put his money where his mouth is.

“Given our campaign’s commitment to fighting for a living wage of at least $15.00 an hour, we believe it is only fair that the campaign would carry through this commitment to its own field team,” wrote the staffers to campaign manager Faiz Shakir. The Sanders campaign leadership disagreed and dismissed the staffers’ demands for three months, until last week when one disgruntled field worker leaked documents and details to the Washington Post in a last-ditch effort to shame the Sanders camp into paying staffers their fair share.

Democracy might die in darkness, but the Sanders campaign thrives in it, and the Senator himself rebuked his staff for taking their complaints to the press. “It does bother me that people are going outside of the process and going to the media,” he complained. "That is really not acceptable. It is really not what labor negotiations are about, and it's improper.” Staffers might ask Sanders to practice what he preaches in private, but how dare they expose his hypocrisy to reporters?

BERNIE SANDERS DEFENDS CAMPAIGN STAFF SALARIES AFTER ACCUSATIONS OF 'POVERTY WAGES'

The contract negotiations stalled because Sanders identified the central problem his policies pose: some jobs simply aren’t worth $15 per hour. Field organizers constitute the lowest-ranking staffers on any presidential campaign.

The job typically attracts activists in their late teens and early 20s, eager not for mere meager wages but for the networking, prestige, and practical experience associated with political campaigns. Many of a campaign’s most valuable members choose to forego pay altogether and join as volunteers, placing them officially just one rung below field organizers on the campaign hierarchy. They volunteer because association with a campaign can provide value in itself.

The writer H.L. Mencken described democracy as “the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” Cowed by exposure in the media, Sanders finally relented and agreed to give his staffers what they want.

The contract negotiations stalled because Sanders identified the central problem his policies pose: some jobs simply aren’t worth $15 per hour. Field organizers constitute the lowest-ranking staffers on any presidential campaign.

But nothing comes without a price, and as Sanders announced the new minimum wage for field organizers, he simultaneously cut to the total number of hours per week they can work. Not only will the organizers not earn more money, but they’ll also lose valuable face time with the candidate and his more senior staffers.

Workers in Seattle have learned the same hard lesson over the past few years as new minimum wage laws led to a surge in automation and cuts to low-wage employees’ hours. So much for Bernie’s workers’ paradise.

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The Sanders campaign staffers have learned the hard way that arbitrary minimum wage hikes, like so many of Bernie’s fanciful plans, are often illusory. As the economist, Thomas Sowell observed, “The real minimum wage is always zero.” No worker is entitled to a job, and “making it illegal to pay less than a given amount does not make a worker’s productivity worth that amount.”

Still, not all is lost for Bernie’s hapless staffers. Though they offer little value in the productive economy, even bootless ideologues can aspire to riches. If they imitate their leader, the Sanders staffers might just make a mint over a 40-year career peddling economic fantasies to suckers.

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