Bernie Sanders is the most prominent conspiracy theorist in America.
He runs around the country alleging that the economy is “rigged” — a term borrowed from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — by what he calls “the billionaire class.”
Sanders doesn’t mean this metaphorically. It’s not a poetic exaggeration. He’s dead serious. As he put it in his speech at Liberty University a couple of months ago, our economy is “designed by the wealthiest people in this country to benefit the wealthiest people in this country at the expense of everybody else.”
Designed. Per Sanders, the wealthy have built and maintained a self-serving system of income inequality at the cost of the 99 percent. As he has put it: “This is a rigged economy — heads they win, tails you lose.”
The Sanders view has all the hallmarks of a good conspiracy theory. It finds a common thread in disparate phenomena and attributes them to the workings of a shadowy, nefarious force. It is simplistic, paranoid and seductive. And it is, outside the hothouse confines of its own assumptions, wholly implausible.
It is not that there isn’t self-dealing in our system, or unfair advantages for the powerful. The government backstop for the banking system is an enormous implicit subsidy, and programs like the Export-Import Bank serve up welfare for corporations. An entire industry exists to protect and advance the interests of the well-connected in Washington.