A pair of Bernies, one running for president, the other a wealthy corporate executive and philanthropist, are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, as well as the cultural divide. One has made life better for many. The other wants to suck the life out of as many as he can.
Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, now 90, recently said that Sen. Bernie Sanders, campaigning for president as a Democrat with a Socialist’s pedigree, is the “enemy of every entrepreneur.” Sanders, who represents Vermont, has made a public career out of vilifying corporations, free markets, and the wealthy.
Meet the creator. Fear the destroyer.
Marcus, with Arthur Blank and Ken Langone, started a company in 1978 that today has more than 2,200 stores across all 50 states and in Canada. When those men were putting long, grinding hours into their startup in the late 1970s, Sanders was “working” for the American People’s Historical Society. There he made a 30-minute documentary about Eugene Debs, the perpetual Socialist Party presidential candidate whom he called “the great American trade unionist, socialist and revolutionary.”
Home Depot currently employs more than 400,000. Since its inception, it has created millions of jobs. Home Depot also provided health care insurance for, again, millions of families whose husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers have worked for the company, now 27th on the Fortune 500 list, where it has been found every year for the last 25.
In addition to the jobs provided by Home Depot, vendors that depend on the company for much of their sales, many of them small businesses that have increased in value, have also created jobs as they have grown along with the chain.
Meanwhile, Sanders, who has never started a business, wants to guarantee a job to everyone through government fiat, and has overheated dreams about forcing the country into a Medicare for All system, an impossible-to-pay-for arrangement which no other nation in the world has, not even the Scandinavian countries he says are his models.
Marcus has also helped make Americans who never worked for Home Depot better off — and we’re talking about more than the millions of consumers who have eagerly patronized the chain, and contractors who buy material there. A share of Home Depot stock bought in March 1989 is now worth 200 times the purchase price. The company has created immense wealth for the millions who own and have owned stock directly and through institutions. In fact, Home Depot created as many as “20,000 millionaires overnight” when the company went public
Meanwhile, a share of Sanders, if there was such, bought in 1989 would certainly have brought a loss. Rather than create wealth, it’s Sanders’ aim to forcibly spread it around.
The pair is also far apart in philanthropical terms. While Bernie the Destroyer is fully committed to giving away other people’s money, Bernie the Creator, who understands the capitalism that Sanders hates “makes charitable-giving possible in the first place,” donates wealth that he produced. He recently said that he has given away more than $2 billion of his own money to roughly 300 different organizations. Sanders’ charitable contributions equal only 3.3% of his income, which is somewhat benevolent among the group of stingy Democratic presidential candidates, but less than half as generous as the American families earning between $25,000 and $50,000 a year.
Had a Sanders regime been in power when Marcus and his colleagues were starting Home Depot, the company simply would have never existed. Though he has tried to back away from some of his more hard-core socialist positions, because he knows they won’t play well to an audience larger than the hysterical fringe that’s followed him since his early days, Sanders at one time openly admitted he believed in “the public ownership of the major means of production and their conversion into worker-controlled enterprises.” Knowing this, Marcus and the others would have logically reasoned there was no sense in starting a business that the government was going to eventually seize.
In this tale of two Bernies, one has tried to foster the best of times while the other would usher in the worst of times if he gets the raw political power he craves. It’s wisdom vs. foolishness, light vs. dark, hope vs. despair.
— Written by J. Frank Bullitt