Bernie "Double Standard" Sanders

Bernie "Double Standard" Sanders

According to a tweet from Bernie Sanders:

"The video game industry made $43 billion in revenue last year. The workers responsible for that profit deserve to collectively bargain as part of a union."

Hold on.  We can talk about the union thing, but first a point of concern.  Bernie wants to run the economy and doesn't know that revenue and profit are different things?  As Reason explains: "revenue is the money a company brings in before deducting its expenses, like, for example, workers' wages.  So, in reality, video game industry workers did get a cut of those billions."  Oops.

But let's not nitpick the guy, even if he is currently asking you to make him the leader of the free world.  His flub doesn't necessarily derail his whole argument.  Our pal Bernie is just saying that workers deserve a portion of business profits.  One big problem is that he doesn't really seem to believe that.

Given how much Bernie talks about profits, presumably he knows that profits can be negative.  In that case they are called "losses."  Where positive profits mean you receive money, losses mean you pay money – at least if you want the business to stay alive.

Bernie says workers are entitled to a share of profits.  Presumably workers are entitled to the same share of profits whether they are positive or negative.  After all, it wouldn't be fair for workers to demand a benefit of ownership without accepting some risk.  They still won't face as much risk as owners, so maybe it's not fair either way.  But fairness aside, upside potential without downside potential wouldn't make logical sense – that would be a better deal than the owners have.  No, if workers are entitled to a share of profits, that means receiving money in good times, and paying money in bad times, just like owners.

A profit-entitled worker who doesn't pay his share of the losses in bad times will be responsible for the business going bankrupt.  He will be responsible for the unemployment of any fellow workers who did pay their share.  He will also be responsible for bearing their discontentment and anger.  That's why the union which negotiated the profit entitlement wouldn't allow him to make his own decision.

The union would force the workers to cooperate with its decision, regardless of their opinions or their bank account balances.  If the union said, "We're bailing out your employer, and your share is X dollars," they would each be obligated to pay X dollars.  In that way their union could plunge them into financial hardship, even bankruptcy, if they didn't each have enough money to pay their share.  All this means workers would be worse off with a profit entitlement if the business earned losses.  And owners would be better off.

A profit entitlement is a boon to owners of business earning losses.  These owners would enjoy the reversal of the dynamic – workers giving them money, instead of the other way around.  They would feel entitled to it, too.  They would expect the workers' support after years of receiving less of the profits.  That's why they would do everything in their power to convince the union to bail them out.  Ordinarily that would be a recipe for corruption.  Thankfully unions are known to be universally pure and good and trustworthy and honest and... you get the point.

Obviously this is the ugly side of workers being entitled to profit.  And economically speaking, it's doesn't get much uglier than "workers would be worse off in an economic downturn."  Good thing it's not coming as a surprise.  Because Bernie already told you.  He must have.  Right?

Bernie often talks about how workers should receive a share of profits.  Strangely, he never seems to talk about how workers would therefore be obligated to pay a share of losses.  Maybe he thinks he can get the good without the bad.  But even if he could, it would be both illogical and unfair.  Maybe that means equality isn't the goal for Bernie "Double Standard" Sanders.