Bernie Sanders and ‘Doomerism’ – WSJ

Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist, Vt.) wears a mask created by inventive capitalists in Washington Tuesday.



“We must not give in to Doomerism” tweets Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist, Vt.). It seems like a refreshing new message from a man who has been claiming for more than half a century that America is in crisis and needs revolutionary change. But the meaning of the new Sanders statement is counterintuitive. He’s actually trying to comfort supporters who fear his political agenda is truly doomed. While comforting those affected, he makes a revealing point about the US economy.

That the Vermont socialist is now taking a stand against doomsday tales is particularly noteworthy given that Mr. Sanders has published Washington’s darkest economic reports since the Biden era began. To justify the massive expansion of government he and Joe Biden hoped to secure through the Senate, Mr. Sanders adamantly maintained that the economy was in shambles by the end of 2020. This column noted at the time:

… Mr. Sanders said, “The working class of this country today faces more economic desperation than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

Unemployment rose to around 25% in the 1930s. It is below 7% today and was 6.7% in November. The US unemployment rate has reached this level or higher every decade since the 1930s, including throughout the first Obama and Biden terms.

Now look at this week and the senator’s efforts to appease the saddened Sandernistas. Certainly some of them seem to take the failure of much of his agenda rather seriously. In a video accompanying his tweet, Mr Sanders reads out some notes from supporters and then responds to their suffering. It begins with the following message:

I found it hard to avoid Doomerism. How do I avoid losing all hope?

Another fan asks the senator:

Does it ever get better? Should I keep a will to live?

Mr Sanders, looking a little shocked by the latter comment, understandably remarks that he “makes me nervous” and then affirms yes, his followers should keep the will to live. The senator then rightly notes that America has seen difficult times before and offers some useful perspectives:

You know, in the 1930’s, during the Depression, 25% of the people in this country were unemployed.

It’s probably as close as Mr. Sanders will ever acknowledge that his late-2020 claims about the recovering economy were way off target — and so is the Biden-Sanders program to step on the accelerator on federal spending.


Unfortunately, too few academic economists seem willing to engage in the public debate and explain why the last thing the growing economy needed was the $1.9 trillion “bailout plan” that Mr. Sanders voted for and signed by President Biden in March 2021. Since then, Americans have lived with the consequences of inflation.

Former Obama economic adviser-turned-Harvard professor Jason Furman was an early warning among Democratic economists of looming inflation, but now says he regrets not making his arguments more vigorously. Mr. Furman makes his interesting comments in an interview with Noam Dworman of Comedy Cellar in New York City. Viewers wondering why the famous economist chooses such a forum for his observations learn that he grew up around the corner from the legendary club. Mr Furman says:

I think most academic economists doing research in economics that I spoke to actually agreed that they are too big, agreed that they would cause inflation, but most of them just do research. Might be afraid to rock the boat. Maybe they don’t have a way to spread their ideas. So I think it was less of a minority opinion than you might think, but there certainly weren’t many people expressing that last year.

What would we do without experts? In response to Mr. Dworman’s observation that many recognized experts in all fields have followed political agendas and therefore lost credibility with the public, Mr. Furman says:

Yes I think we made it harder to have opinions and publish them. You know, like last year’s school closures. One economist I know, Emily Oster – she has researched and written about it – that schools should not be closed. And the feedback she got was vicious and horrible and just incessant. She left Twitter. She continued to communicate in other formats. Now it’s 100% confirmed. It was a disaster, just a disaster for kids. And you know, people didn’t speak up.


James Freeman is co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China, and the American Revival.”


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