Unfortunately for Sanders, the policy lessons of Denmark look a lot more like Bill Clinton’s 1992 “new Democrat” candidacy than the “Democratic Socialism” Sanders advocates today. To be sure, both Clinton ’92 and Sanders ’16 sought to improve America’s safety net. Unlike Sanders, however, Bill Clinton recognized the policy work required to afford such social goods.
The first part of this hard work is fiscal discipline. For decades, according to World Bank figures, Denmark has maintained a sound budget. Aside from the Clinton Administration’s record from 1992 through 2000, the United States has been much weaker in this area. During those years of fiscal probity, balanced-budget advocacy group The Concord Coalition published an annual scorecard of the “Deficit Hawks” in Congress. Then-Congressman Bernie Sanders did not make the list. On the contrary, in both the House and Senate, Sanders has supported spending such as agribusiness subsidies, while opposing fiscal reforms such as earmark bans and balanced budget amendments. On the campaign trail, when challenged over his ideas for substantial new spending, Sanders claims the spending will be offset by economic growth and long-term cost reductions. That type of “dynamic accounting” was popular with Reagan and George W. Bush, and has consistently led to higher deficits.