September 30, 2019
By Elizabeth Matamoros • Washington Free Beacon
Medicare for All is not free and will require anyone earning more than $29,000 a year to pay more in taxes, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said on The Late Show Thursday.
“Is health care free? No, it is not,” Sanders told host Stephen Colbert. “So what we do is exempt the first $29,000 of a person’s income. You make less than $29,000 you pay nothing in taxes. Above that, in a progressive way with the wealthiest people in this country paying the largest percentage, people do pay more in taxes.”
Sanders’s 2020 campaign website details the Vermont senator’s Medicare for All plan, but contains no mention of a tax increase on the middle class. Colbert confronted the Vermont senator about whether his proposal would lead to tax increases. Sanders acknowledged that taxes would have to rise if the government took control of one of the nation’s largest industries.
Sanders said people will no longer pay premiums, co-payments, or out-of-pocket expenses, offsetting the higher taxes once the government takes control of the health care sector. Sanders also said there will only be a private health care market for non-basic health care services, such as cosmetic surgery.
Colbert previously asked the same question of rival 2020 candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.). Warren and Sanders are among the leading Democratic presidential candidates who have adopted Medicare for All as a key component of their 2020 campaign platforms. Warren declined to directly answer when Colbert asked about middle class taxes, focusing only on broad health care spending.
“So, here’s how we’re going to do this,” Warren said. “Costs are going to go up for the wealthiest Americans, for big corporations … and hard-working middle-class families are going to see their costs go down.”
“But will their taxes go up,” Colbert asked a second time. Warren did not clarify.
Presidential candidate and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg (D.) criticizedWarren for being “evasive” about how she would pay for Medicare for All.
“Senator Warren is known for being straightforward and was extremely evasive when asked that question,” Buttigieg told CNN after her appearance. “And we’ve seen that repeatedly. I think that if you are proud of your plan and it’s the right plan, you should defend it in straightforward terms.”
September 26, 2019
By Tristan Justice • The Feralist
A new study shows Democrats running to embrace socialism in the Trump era as radical progressives dominate the 2020 Democratic primary field.
The study, conducted by the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, shows a dramatic shift towards socialism among Democrats since 2016, with 64 percent of Democrats holding a favorable view of it today compared to 56 percent three years ago. Today, only 45 percent of Democrats hold favorable views of capitalism while 58 percent shared the same view in 2016, according to Cato.
Half of Democrats blamed President Donald Trump for making them “like capitalism less.”
While Democrats increasingly flock to socialism, the study shows that a vast majority of Americans still favor critical elements of a capitalist society and report being skeptical of government programs to alleviate poverty.
The study found that 84 percent of Americans believe it’s not wrong for people to make as much money as they can honestly, and 69 percent of respondents agreed that billionaires “earned their wealth by creating values for others.” The authors also found that 60 percent of Americans rejected the idea that welfare programs were created to bring people out of poverty.
The report comes in the middle of the Democratic presidential primary where left-wing candidates supporting proposals such as “Medicare for All,” a “Green New Deal,” reparations for slavery, and other massive expansions of the U.S. welfare state are conquering the field, proposals which experts say are mathematically impossible to fund even with near-impossible tax increases on the rich.
The Democratic primary’s front-runner, former vice president Joe Biden, has worked to frame himself as the moderate in the race, which, compared to the rest of the candidates in the race appears accurate. As The Federalist’s Emily Jashinsky has pointed out however, Biden is by no means a moderate, the whole field’s platforms are just farther left. The former vice president’s platform itself has gone even further leftward of Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.
On health care, climate change, and criminal justice reform, Biden has adopted the prescriptions of the left with the drastic expansion of the federal government cloaked in moderation by the cover provided by openly socialist candidates competing in the race.
September 11, 2019
Alex Gorsky, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Johnson and Johnson announces the Business Roundtable "Statement on the Purpose of the Corporation," August 20, 2019. Photo: Kevin Allen, Business Roundtable.
By DOUGLAS J. DEN UYL • Law & Liberty
Lenin reportedly said, “When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will vie to sell us the rope we will use to hang them.” This reference to greed as the essence of the motivation of capitalist actors might seem to stand in sharp contrast to the latest pronouncement of the Business Roundtable. According to them, the obligations of management are no longer primarily to the shareholders and the maximization of profits, but rather to what are called “stakeholders.” The Roundtable, composed of CEOs of nearly 200 major corporations, stated that they “share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders”—each of whom “is essential”—while pledging “to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities, and our country.”
Stakeholders are various groups in the public, including shareholders, that may be impacted by the actions of a business. These groups include employees, suppliers, advisors, and customers, but could conceivably include any social grouping one might imagine as being affected in any way by a business. Unlike the limited group of shareholders that once claimed priority—even exclusivity—over those who manage a corporation because of their investment in it, the members of the Business Roundtable now see their obligation to be essentially to the public at large. Investors are no more compelling to the attentions of management than any other stakeholder.
The greedy capitalists of the old shareholder model of corporate responsibility had one thing in common with their shareholders, namely, both were largely motivated in the same way. Management was incentivized to maximize profits, and investors invested so that those managers would do so. Under the new stakeholder dispensation, presumably management is to be concerned with the public good. Greed and self-interest are replaced by concern for public well being. Of course there might still be a way to interpret the actions of management under this new dispensation as self-interested. They can now avoid having to answer solely to the group most likely to monitor their activities—their investors—in favor of a concern for their stakeholder pool in general. This might be another way of saying they don’t have to answer to anybody while pretending to care about everybody.
But let us not descend into such cynical speculations. Let us suppose that corporate executives are genuinely moved by public spiritedness towards all their stakeholders. We need to be clear, however, about one thing before moving on: the shareholder model did not say to either ignore or treat badly one’s “stakeholders.” It simply said that one’s actions in this regard should always keep in mind the primary obligation to the shareholder in the form of return on investment. Good practices towards “stakeholders,” were often sensible and good business. But once that “bottom line” measure is removed as the primary standard and motivation, it’s not at all clear what is to replace it, since “stakeholders” are an amorphous body with amorphous, and potentially conflicting claims and desires. Although the so called “separation between ownership and control” (shareholders and management), does pose some issues—not the least of which is opening the door to the very claims of the Business Roundtable—it still retains the traditional structure of obligation. Return on investment is a clear and measurable standard when compared to what it means to “provide value” to one’s stakeholders.
Assuming the best of intentions also does not touch the problem of fiduciary responsibility. Under the shareholder model, executives had a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders. In effect, the shareholders “hired” them. Under the stakeholder model, by contrast, it is not only not clear to whom exactly managers owe their responsibility, but more importantly who will be deciding those lines of responsibility? It’s a good bet that it will not be the managers themselves. Most likely it will be the state through various sorts of public “committees.” The reverse side of this issue of responsibility is equally troubling: who exactly has the liability when things go wrong and what is to keep a corporation from being liable for just about everything? In the first case, since managers now work for the public at large perhaps “the public” is liable when things go wrong. But if managers think that by this move they can foist responsibility off of the corporation on to the general public they might need to think again. When the lines of responsibility are fuzzy, it is more likely that liability payments by the corporation will increase, not decrease. Accompanying this probability of having to pay out more is the growing opportunity for more liability claims to be made in the first place. After all, now that the corporation is a thoroughly public entity with ambiguous lines of responsibility, virtually any claim can be foisted upon them.
Ambiguity, however, is not the central problem here. The problem is one of identity. However well-intentioned we might want to imagine corporate executives to be, they still presumably manage a private and partial dimension of society. What kept corporations private and partial was their limited scope of services and limited obligation to their investors. To now make their realm of obligation to stakeholders as wide as “the nation” is to effectively make them equivalent to the state itself. The logic of this is such that it is now even unclear what exactly is the nature of the product the corporation is to provide? Since maximizing profits is no longer the central measure, perhaps what is “good” for people should define our product choices or perhaps need should determine the price paid for a product. And when one firm wants to merge with or acquire another, removing the bottom line simply means that other “social” criteria will be used instead of looking strictly to financial benefit.
Elizabeth Warren calls this economic patriotism, but another name for all this might be socialism, since the call here is for corporations to become thoroughly socialized. This goes well beyond “crony capitalism,” where corporations buddy up with the state for benefits that arguably might also return financial gains to the shareholders. This is corporations saying, “L’etat c’est moi.”
It might be objected that the stakeholders are different from one corporation to another, thereby allowing corporations to retain their private character. But apart from the impossibility of sorting out where exactly the lines are being drawn between businesses when “community” and “nation” are the standard, such a claim simply highlights the identity issue by trying to be at once both private and public. The pull here, however, can only be towards ever more socialization, since any disaffected stakeholder group can always appeal to the corporation’s general obligation to society at large. However badly the state may often be at general impartiality, such impartiality towards all is nonetheless the government’s function. The capitalist, by contrast, is a private “person” pursuing private ends. To conflate or merge the two can only result in the obliteration of the private portion and thus of the essence of capitalism.
The capitalists are thus not competing to sell the rope to the state; they are simply handing it over. They may think they’ll have a role to play as business persons in this new world order. Lenin was wiser.
August 7, 2019
The consistent failures of single-payer health care worldwide are well-documented
By Scott W. Atlas • The Washington Times
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) directly harmed America’s health care, far more than just breaking promises about keeping your doctor and your insurance. Its extensive regulations made private insurance unaffordable, as premiums for individuals doubled and for families increased by 140 percent in four years, even though deductibles also increased substantially.
It funneled massive taxpayer dollars to add millions to substandard Medicaid insurance, widely known to have worse outcomes than private insurance and far less acceptance by doctors, even by doctors with contractual agreements to accept it. It dramatically reduced choice of hospitals and specialists for patients with private insurance, so that almost 75 percent of private ACA plans became highly restrictive. And it generated a record pace of consolidation across the sector, including anti-consumer mergers of doctor practices and hospitals that are associated with higher prices of care. The ACA was significantly damaging to patients and cost taxpayers enormously.
The antidote most Democratic presidential candidates now propose to the regulatory nightmare of Obamacare is the ultimate hyper-regulation of health care — socialized medicine, clothed in more pleasing terms like “public option” and “Medicare for all.” And their simplistic messaging is enticing; who wouldn’t want “guaranteed, free health care?”
The answer to “who wouldn’t want it?” is found in existing single-payer systems all over the world, in countries with decades of experience, which offer those same “guarantees.” People with the financial means increasingly choose to circumvent single-payer systems for private health care. Even though they already pay £125 billion per year, equivalent to $160 billion, for their single-payer health care, half of all Brits who earn more than £50,000 buy or plan to buy private health insurance, according to Statista 2017.
In Sweden, about 650,000 who can afford it buy private insurance despite already paying $20,000 per family per year through taxes for their nationalized system, according to Insurance in Sweden 2015. And more than 250,000 Brits spend out-of-pocket cash for private care. According to the European insurance and reinsurance federation (CEA), private insurance in the EU bought by those who can afford it grew by more than 50 percent over a decade to 2010, specifically to fill the “ever growing gaps in coverage” in public health systems. Only the poor and the middle class are stuck with nationalized, single-payer health care, because only they cannot afford to circumvent that system.
Americans should wonder why those with financial means would need to spend even more money than their already high taxes for something that is “guaranteed and free.” Unbeknownst to Americans and hidden by single-payer advocates, consistent failures of single-payer health care are well documented, proven to be inferior to the U.S. system in important objective measures of access to care and quality. As a direct consequence of explicit restrictions on specialists, surgeries, drugs and technology, single-payer systems have factually worse outcomes than the U.S. system from almost all serious diseases, including
August 1, 2019
A Washington Post article erroneously claimed Abraham Lincoln and Karl Marx were ‘friendly and influenced each other,’ and that Lincoln had strong sympathies for socialism.
By Elad Vaida • The Federalist
The Washington Post has seen better days. The newspaper that once brought us Watergate published an article last week titled “You know who was into Karl Marx? No, not AOC. Abraham Lincoln,” claiming that Lincoln and Marx were “friendly and influenced each other,” and that Lincoln had strong sympathies for socialism. The article distorts history, and relies on questionable evidence and flimsy anecdotes.
Gillian Brockell, who wrote the article, states that Lincoln was “surrounded by socialists and looked to them for counsel,” citing his close connections with the leadership of the New York Tribune as proof. Brockell mentions Lincoln’s close friendship with Horace Greely, founder of the Tribune, a man who “welcomed the disapproval of those who championed free markets over the interests of the working class, a class he recognized as including both the oppressed slaves of the south and the degraded industrial laborers of the north.”
Lincoln was also close to Charles A. Dana, managing editor for the Tribune and a close friend of Marx. During the Civil War, Dana worked as Lincoln’s “eyes and ears in the War Department,” and the president would wait “eagerly” for his dispatches. Under Dana and Greely’s watch, the Tribune published almost 500 articles by Marx, and since Lincoln was an “avid reader” of the Tribune, Brockell assures us that “it’s nearly guaranteed that… Lincoln was reading Marx.”
Good for Greely, and good for Dana, but what does this have to do with Lincoln being “into Karl Marx”? If being friends with socialists makes you a socialist, that means almost every single conservative on college campuses today would be “into Marx.” Neither does Lincoln’s “avid readership” of the Tribune make him a socialist. It’s not “nearly guaranteed” that he read Marx’s articles, and even if he had, there’s no guarantee he was sympathetic to or agreed with them.
Brockell also cites a perfunctory correspondence between Lincoln and Marx to prove Lincoln’s supposed sympathy for socialism. In January 1865, Marx wrote to Lincoln on behalf of the International Workingmen’s Association, a “group for socialists, communists, anarchists and trade unions,” to “congratulate the American people upon [his] reelection.”
A few weeks later, U.S. Ambassador to Britain Charles Francis Adams wrote back to Marx, saying that Lincoln accepted his message “with a sincere and anxious desire that he may be able to prove himself not unworthy of the confidence which has been recently extended to him…by so many of the friends of humanity and progress throughout the world.”
That’s it? A short congratulatory letter from Marx and a routine diplomatic response from an American ambassador are now proof that Lincoln and Marx were “friendly and influenced each other”?
Brockell graciously concedes that Lincoln was “not a socialist, nor communist, nor Marxist”—which is kind of her to do after spending half the article making the case that the Great Emancipator was cozy with socialists, sympathetic to their cause, and best buds with Karl Marx and Co. It would be even more gracious if she mentioned Lincoln’s view that “it is best for all to leave each man free to acquire property as fast as he can. Some will get wealthy. I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good.” You can almost see Marx cringe.
Lincoln put his words into action when he became president. He signed the Homestead Act in 1862, which offered settlers large parcels of land in America’s western territories and streamlined the process for getting land titles, a major economic boost to millions of Americans who wanted to own land. Moreover, in his support for American industry, infrastructure improvements, and higher tariffs, Lincoln seems downright Trumpian.
Yet the biggest difference between Marx and Lincoln is not their economic views, but their views of democracy. Marx saw democratic institutions as the tools the bourgeoisie used to oppress the working class. He favored instituting a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” and once warned that the only way to shorten the “murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society” was “revolutionary terror.”
Lincoln, meanwhile, had an unshakable faith in American democracy. He acknowledged the evil of slavery but knew the best way to destroy it was by working through the constitutional system instituted by the Founding Fathers, not by taking a sledgehammer to our founding ideals. Lincoln favored limiting the expansion of slavery and supported “compensated emancipation,” a system that would pay slaveholders to release their slaves. Only when the southern states seceded did he finally resort to military force to keep the country united.
Most importantly, Lincoln still allowed for democratic elections to take place in 1864, despite the temptation to forego elections during the worst crisis the country had ever experienced. Lincoln’s reelection chances looked very poor in 1864 due to the bloody cost of the Civil War, which had continued for three years with no end in sight. Despite his doubts of victory, he made his cabinet sign a letter to “offer their unwavering loyalty and commitment to the preservation of the Union, regardless of the election’s outcome.”
The most shocking thing in the Post article is its effort to convince us that we don’t need to be worried about socialism. All this fear mongering about socialism, you see, is merely a “new arrow in [Trump’s] quiver of attacks,” a form of neo-McCarthyism. It’s ironic that Brockell warns us that socialism isn’t a rising threat even as she tries to rehabilitate Marx and portray Lincoln as a socialist sympathizer.
Perhaps the Post would have done better to publish a story on Grace Bedell. Grace was an 11-year-old girl who wrote Lincoln, urging him to “let [his] whiskers grow” because he would “look a great deal better” with facial hair. Within a month, Lincoln grew a beard, making an obscure little girl more influential over our 16th president than Karl Marx ever was.
July 18, 2019
Column: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turns the 116th Congress into Thunderdome
By Matthew Continetti • The Free Beacon
Not so long ago—as recently as the cover of the March 2019 Rolling Stone, in fact—they seemed like the best of friends. I’m referring to Nancy Pelosi and the members of “The Squad”: Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and (not pictured) Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. They shared some good times.
It was the dawn of a new era. House Democrats had returned to power after eight years. And these Democrats were remarkably diverse in age, ethnicity, race, and gender. Ideology, too: Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib belong to the Democratic Socialists of America. “Our nation is at an historic moment,” Pelosi said in January. “Two months ago, the American people spoke, and demanded a new dawn.”
Well, the sun has set. And fast. Whatever Pelosi’s plans might have been, they’ve been lost in a fog of anti-Semitism and left-wing radicalism. If Ilhan Omar isn’t causing Pelosi trouble, Ocasio-Cortez is. And vice versa. One day the speaker has to respond to the charge that Jewish money controls American foreign policy. The next she has to downplay flatulent cows. It’s enough to make one pity her. Almost.
Pelosi’s bind began on election night. As Republicans learned from 2011-2015, holding one chamber of Congress isn’t worth that much. The president and the upper chamber block legislation. Frustrated by inaction, the majority turns inward. Divisions grow. The more extreme members target leadership. The speaker spends more time negotiating with her own party than with the president and Senate majority leader.
Recently it seemed as though the major divide would be over impeachment. Pelosi’s terrified by the prospect. The idea isn’t popular, especially with voters in battleground districts. And Mueller’s report didn’t give her much to work with. She would have been in a better position had the special counsel actually said that he thought President Trump obstructed justice. But he copped out, leaving people confused and Pelosi forlorn. She’s let Nadler, Schiff, and Cummings fire their subpoena cannons at will. But this war of attrition favors the president. And deepens the frustration of Democrats who wish Trump had been impeached on inauguration day.
The crisis at the border revealed another division. Shouldn’t have been much of a surprise: Immigration is the defining issue of our time, its tendrils entangling themselves in the politics of democracies around the world.
Democrats, and many Republicans, object to the conditions facing detained asylum-seekers. What separates the Democrats is what to do about it. The majority, including representatives from Trump districts, takes the classic approach: throw money at the problem. The Squad has a different idea. It voted against border funds to “make a point.” And strike a pose.
Ocasio-Cortez’s outlandish rhetoric isn’t helping. She’s described the detention centers as “concentration camps.” Already in favor of abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, this week she said she’s open to shutting down the entire Department of Homeland Security. Why stop there? I’m guessing she doesn’t like the Department of Defense, either. Karl Rove, who in 2002 won a midterm election over DHS, said Ocasio-Cortez’s comments were “moronic, stupid, naïve, and dumb.” That was an understatement.
She’s something, Ocasio-Cortez. At 29 years old, she perfectly embodies her generation’s uniquely irritating combo of self-righteousness and cluelessness. Passionate and charming at first blush, her appeal quickly wears off. In a March Quinnipiac poll her favorability was underwater by 13 points.
What Ocasio-Cortez understands is that, in the culture of social media celebrity, the worst possible thing to do is back down. So, when Pelosi stated the obvious to Maureen Dowd—that for all the attention The Squad receives from the media it is, in the end, four votes—Ocasio-Cortez insinuated the speaker is a racist. And they say liberals oppose nuclear war.
If Pelosi’s racist, then America is in serious trouble. The absurdity of the claim was best expressed by Congressman Lacy Clay, who is black. “You’re getting push back so you resort to using the race card?” he asked. “Unbelievable.” But the very absurdity highlights the position in which the Democratic leadership finds itself. An aging elite must contend with a vocal, far-left cadre of social justice warriors even as the majority depends on legislators who don’t frighten moderates. The differences between the contestants in this liberal Thunderdome are generational, ideological, methodological, and demographic. How Pelosi escapes is a mystery.
Maybe she can’t. Maybe The Squad really is the future of the Democratic Party. After all, Jeremy Corbyn moved from the fringe to the leadership of the Labour Party in the U.K. And the trend of the Democrats has been leftward for a while. If that’s the case, then Pelosi faces a grim future.
And maybe the Democrats do, too. Even if you assume that Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter and Instagram following counts for something in the real world, she’s not about to help Democrats win Senate races in red states. President Trump and the Republican Party want nothing more than to define the choice in 2020 as between socialism and Americanism, socialism and prosperity, socialism and security. And for whatever reason, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is eager to help him.
July 9, 2019
By Tristan Justice • the Federalist
U.S. senators and 2020 presidential rivals Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) both announced new plans over the weekend for government to redistribute private wealth differently according to recipients’ race.
Both announced these plans at a cultural and music festival hosted by Essence Magazine, a monthly magazine for African-American women. The festival attracted several high-profile speakers, including former first lady Michelle Obama and six 2020 White House hopefuls: Harris, Warren, U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX.), and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Harris and Warren took the opportunity to showcase new proposals aimed at government picking economic winners and losers according to race and sex.
Harris’ plan targets homeownership, pledging a $100 billion grant to support black families and individuals to secure homes in communities where financial institutions have historically denied loans to people of color, a practice known as red-lining. The money, Harris says, would be used to cover down payments and closing costs for as many as four million families or individuals.
“A typical black family has just $10 of wealth for every $100 held by a white family,” Harris told the audience. “So we must right that wrong and, after generations of discrimination, give black families a real shot at homeownership – historically one of the most powerful drivers of wealth in our country.”
The program Harris proposed would be administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and provide home buyers of certain racial backgrounds up to $25,000 each from taxpayers. Families making more than $100,000 annually or $125,000 per year in high-cost areas would be ineligible for these taxpayer subsidies. The cap is lower for individuals, at $50,000 and $75,000 for those living in what bureaucrats would define as high-cost places.
Harris’ proposal also calls for more government interference in alleged housing discrimination and new taxpayer funding for financial literacy. The California senator also proposed changes to how credit scores are calculated. Credit scores are based on people’s financial decision-making histories, and lenders use them to decide loan interest rates and eligibility.
Credit scores today are calculated based on individuals’ payment histories for debt such as credit cards, student loans, and mortgages. Harris wants to require credit-scoring agencies to take other payments into account including rent, phone bills, and utilities.
Harris also wants to change the way applicants’ debt is calculated when applying for a home, from the debt-to-income ratio being based on one year of income to a monthly basis. The change to a debt-to-income ratio based on monthly expenses would affect approximately 7.5 million black households and 5 million Latino households, according to Harris.
According to the Harris campaign, giving taxpayer money to black and Latino Americans to buy houses and forcing financial institutions to use politically calculated standards for lending would shrink the wealth gap between black and white households by 31 percent and bring up the median wealth of black households by approximately $32,000, and by $29,000 for Latino households.
Warren’s plan aims at creating new rules for contractors working for the federal government, which employs approximately one-quarter of the nation’s workers. Warren released her plan Friday and discussed it at the Essence Festival Saturday, calling on an executive order to require federal contractors to increase their employment of people who are not white and getting government involved in deciding what women and minorities should be paid.
“It’s up to the federal government to say what the terms of those contacts are,” Warren asserted to the festival crowd. “It’s not enough to talk the talk about equal pay for equal work. It’s not enough to talk the talk about the diversity of your work force. You’ve got to walk the walk, or you’re not getting those federal contracts.”
Under Warren’s plan, companies seeking federal contracts would be prohibited from asking potential hires about previous salaries or criminal history. Contractors would also be barred from using forced arbitration and non-compete clauses,
The proposals from the two top-tier presidential candidates come as both senators have picked up steam following well-received performances in the first round of presidential debates held in Miami last month. Their campaign momentum has come at much of a cost to Democratic front-runner former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), both of whom have seen their support drop in the polls but remain competitive in the race.
Harris saw her poll numbers jump the most out of any other candidate following the debate, practically doubling her support from pre-debate levels at 7 percent to above 14 percent, according to Real Clear Politics’ latest aggregate of polls. The California senator garnered positive attention when she attacked Biden on stage for the former Delaware senator’s opposition on forced busing and for his recent remarks touting friendships with segregationist senators as examples of civility.
Even so, Biden remains the front-runner by a solid lead. The latest polling on display from Real Clear Politics still shows Biden with an average ten-point lead ahead of every other candidate.
June 28, 2019
Until recently, they had eschewed the S-word, but now they embrace it
By KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON • National Review
The unfinished business of the Democratic party is socialism. Don’t take my word for it — consult Bernie Sanders.
Senator Sanders gave a madcap speech in which he ridiculed past conservative critics, beginning with Herbert Hoover and Ronald Reagan, for characterizing the expansive welfare-state ambitions of the New Deal and the Great Society as movements toward socialism. And then he . . . characterized the expansive welfare-state ambitions of the New Deal and the Great Society as movements toward socialism.
“This is the unfinished business of the Democratic party and the vision we must accomplish,” he said. “These are my values, and that is why I call myself a democratic socialist.”
President Hoover, the prescient man, is owed an apology.
As my colleagues and I recently documented over the course of two special issues of National Review, socialism — not exactly progressivism, certainly not liberalism — is ascendant among Democrats, including Democratic elected officials, and on the American left more generally. Senator Sanders is a declared and avowed socialist, one who is attempting to posthumously recruit the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. to his cause. (King took a hard economic turn toward the left in his later years and spoke of socialism on a few occasions, but to deputize him on behalf of the gentleman from the whitest state in the Union is a bit much, and more than a bit unseemly.)
Senator Sanders is not alone in this. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the callow young Democrat from New York, is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), as is Representative Rashida Tlaib, the Jew-baiting strange-o from Michigan, along with about 40 other candidates who were elected as Democrats in 2018. “We are building a pipeline from local positions all the way to national politics,” the Socialists said in a statement after the 2018 elections. Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper was hooted and jeered at when he affirmed on the stage of the California Democratic convention that “socialism is not the answer.”
And yet . . .
Ronald Reagan, an FDR man, spent his entire career insisting that he was a New Deal Democrat estranged from his party: “I didn’t leave the Democratic party — the party left me!” Many conservatives see in the tax-cutting, Cold War–fighting John Kennedy a kindred spirit. Much of the Republican criticism directed at the hilariously misnamed Affordable Care Act asserted that it would undermine Medicare, the jewel of Lyndon Johnson’s so-called Great Society program — and some of those Republicans even meant it.
Richard Nixon insisted that by the 1970s we were all Keynesians. Are we all socialists now?
There are two important factors at play here: The first is ignorance of the past, and the second is ignorance of the present.
Socialism is an idea with a history. (And a body count of some 100 million human beings in the 20th century, but leave that aside for the moment.) The most ordinary and traditional kind of government spending is on public goods, which are defined in economics as non-rivalrous and non-excludable in consumption. Think of a missile-defense system: Missile defense is a non-excludable good in that a system that protects the civic-minded taxpaying citizens at No. 7 Main Street also protects the freeloading deadbeats at No. 9 Main Street, whereas a guy selling apples can exclude those who do not pay; it is non-rivalrous in that Smith’s enjoyment of protection from Nork nukes does not diminish Jones’s possible enjoyment of the same, whereas every apple Smith eats leaves one less apple available for Jones.
In theory, spending on such public goods as defense and law enforcement is most of what liberal governments are supposed to do, with some political disagreement over what counts as a public good. (Roads? There are both public and toll models.) In reality, most of what modern liberal governments spend their money on is social welfare, the public provision of non-public goods such as food and education, both of which can be (and historically have been) provided on an ordinary market basis. These are not public goods rigorously defined, but they are publicly provided in practically all modern democracies on the theory that a society as a whole is better off if there is guaranteed universal access to a minimum of them.
The public provision of non-public goods is sometimes described as socialism, but it is distinct in that socialism requires an additional factor: central planning, often but not necessarily in concert with state ownership of the means of production. Food stamps are social welfare, but government-run farms and groceries are socialism; housing-support vouchers are welfare, but government-owned housing projects are socialism. American conservatives spend a fair amount of effort trying to convert or partially convert such genuinely socialistic projects as the monopoly K–12 education system (in which the means of production are state-owned and the workers are state employees) into more conventional social-welfare programs by replacing or augmenting direct-provision models with vouchers or other market-enabling alternatives. There is a significant difference between government funding of services and government provision of services, which is why, for examples, most Republicans have made their peace with Medicare but resist a British-style socialist-monopoly model of health care.
But, then, most European countries resist that model, too, which is why there is no NHS-style national single-payer system in France, Germany, Sweden, etc., and no state-provided health care at all in happy, well-governed Switzerland. And this is where the ignorance of socialism as an idea with a history meets the ignorance of actual political and economic practice in the European states, particularly the Scandinavian ones, that America’s self-proclaimed democratic socialists claim to admire. Senator Sanders et al. point to countries such as Sweden and Denmark and conclude that the lesson to be learned from them is that the United States should do . . . exactly what Senator Sanders et al. always have desired and always will desire to do: enact punitive redistributive taxes notionally targeting the wealthy and corporations (as though middle-class workers, particularly in the public sector, were not major corporate shareholders through their retirement funds) while building new entrenched and centralized bureaucracies to be staffed by comfortable, highly compensated Democratic constituents.
This response to the example of Sweden — which is in many ways a well-governed and prosperous nation — makes sense only if you do not know very much about Sweden. Senator Sanders, for example, desires to radically increase the tax on inheritances for moralistic reasons. Sweden’s inheritance tax is 0.00 percent. Senator Sanders wants to centralize the provision of health care in a federally funded and federally administered cluster of bureaucracies; health care in Sweden is radically decentralized, funded and administered mostly at the local level. Left-leaning Democrats such as Senator Kamala Harris of California have criticized Republicans for not doing enough to cut middle-class taxes (Senator Harris, who does not seem to know how tax refunds work, blasted the 2017 bill as “a middle-class-tax hike”), but what in fact distinguishes the Scandinavian model (and most Western European countries) from the United States is not how they tax the rich but how they tax the middle class — which is to say: They do it. While about half of U.S. households pay no federal income tax, and middle-class households pay relatively little, middle-class earners in Denmark pay about 50 percent in taxes. Taxes in the United States are disproportionately paid by those with high incomes — disproportionately even when you take the income difference into consideration: The top 1 percent takes home less than 20 percent of total income and pays almost 40 percent of federal income taxes. Taxes in the Scandinavian countries fall heavily on the middle classes, which also are the main beneficiaries of the programs those taxes fund.
Senator Sanders is an ideologically blinkered man, and he is not an intellectually curious one. His views have been set since he was honeymooning in the Soviet Union as a young man, and his speeches and writing testify that he simply lacks the intellectual capacity for growth and change. Sweden has changed radically since the 1970s, but Bernie Sanders has stood still in time, an irritable red ant suspended in amber.
But the so-called intellectuals of the Democrats’ new socialist vanguard have no such excuse. Some of them are simply dim and poorly educated (poorly but expensively, in the case of Representative Ocasio-Cortez), but many of them are intellectually dishonest. A particularly dishonest young socialist writer with something of a following recently published an income-disparity ranking of countries that was supposed to show how the Scandinavians had cracked the inequality problem. And Northern Europe was well represented on the list, which also included France, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Estonia, among other nations, in the top ten. Which is to say, the top ten countries represented radically different modes of government, radically different health-care systems, different labor markets, and different tax systems (Switzerland, for example, does not tax capital gains, something our progressive Europhiles rarely mention), to say nothing of radically different cultures. (And many scholars of governance agree that culture is a key ingredient in the Scandinavian secret sauce.) But even among the Nordic countries, there are very large differences: Iceland, for example, has one of the world’s highest work-force-participation rates; Finland’s is down about where ours is, and ours is higher than the overall EU rate. There isn’t a single, unified policy story to be derived from all that diversity.
But that is beside the point, for the Democrats. What Senator Sanders stands for is the continuation of a very old and very dumb kind of politics: adolescent anti-Americanism. It does not matter that Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland have fundamentally different political and economic models: These countries are only rhetorical cat’s-paws deployed in the fundamental progressive project: establishing that the United States and its institutions are hopelessly corrupt, and that they may therefore be cleared away to make room for something new. In this regard, the energetically nationalistic Franklin D. Roosevelt is a poor model for them — their actual lineage traces to Woodrow Wilson, whose racism and warmongering make him an unattractive totem but whose frank rejection of the Constitution and the founding principles of the nation presages their own. In this way, the socialist renaissance may be understood as distinct from the broader progressive project but also subsumed within it. The overall economic model is essentially the Democrats’ health-care model writ large: Destroy and discredit what’s there, and then . . . improvise.
Senator Sanders, in his speech, gives some thought to the Constitution — and finds it wanting. What good is the Bill of Rights, he asks, when one must struggle so hard for mere material existence? “Are you truly free if you are forced to work 60 or 80 hours a week?” The median American work week is, as of this writing, less than 35 hours a week, significantly lower than it was in 1980. What in fact distinguishes low-income households is not on average that they have too many hours of work to do but that they have too few: Only 40 percent of the working-age poor (those below the federal poverty line) in 2014 worked at all. Among those who do work, many are involuntarily relegated to part-time or seasonal work. High-income households average more work hours, not fewer, than low-income households. The unemployment rate for those without a bachelor’s degree is twice that of those with one. The problem the poor face is not long hours at the salt mine but unemployment.
But what are a few inconvenient facts when there’s a utopia to be built?
And that is the proper context in which to understand what it is that Senator Sanders et al. stand for. They may, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, roll out 55 five-point policy proposals per hour, offering them with varying degrees of seriousness, but theirs is fundamentally a negative platform. What they hate and wish to liquidate is the system of markets, trade, law, regulation, and taxes that we call, for lack of a better term, “capitalism,” and their reasons are as much tribal (they resent the social status conferred by wealth as least as much as the political power attending it), moral, and aesthetic as they are economic. But their policy proposals are almost always the same: “Pillage the rich and create a lot of new public-sector jobs for me and my friends.” And that much has remained constant whether they call themselves liberals, progressives, or socialists.
Socialists used to care a great deal about history — “historical materialism,” they called their big metaphysical idea. Something for Senator Sanders to contemplate in his waterfront dacha.
June 19, 2019
By Editorial • Investor's Business Daily
Socialist Goodies: Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has yet another bright idea to fuel her White House ambitions: A sweeping plan to provide free, high-quality childcare for everyone earning less than $50,000, and subsidized childcare for the rest of us. No one would ever spend more than 7% of income for childcare. What could possibly be wrong with such a wonderful idea?
Plenty, as it turns out. It’s another in a long line of nanny-state programs put forward by the left that sound sweet at first, then sour when you realize what they really mean.
That’s definitely the case for Warren’s plan. First off, let’s begin with a fact: There is no such thing as “free.” Someone always pays. The question is “who?” and “how much?”
To pay for this “free” service, Warren would impose an “ultra-millionaire tax” on those with a net worth of more than $50 million to pay for the estimated cost of $700 billion over a decade.
But the estimate of “just” $700 billion for her program’s cost is highly deceptive. Because Warren’s cost estimates include the supposed economic benefits of childcare for families, but not the cost of less investment by those who are taxed. Costs would likely soar way above the initial estimate, leading to higher taxes for all. Not “free” at all.
As Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner observes, “(Warren’s) proposal to extend affordable childcare to everybody relies on dishonest accounting to create the impresion that it is more fiscally sound” than it really is.
Par for the course for socialist policies, of course. It boils down to this: Promise everything, but deliver as little as possible. Watch the costs, always underestimated, grow out of control. Then blame the political opposition — or capitalism, or the “free market” — for your program’s failure.
It happens over and over again, and we all fall for it. As the shampoo commercials say, “lather, rinse and repeat.”
It happened in Britain. There, childcare subsidies for government-run centers pushed costs below the market rate. So private businesses that provided childcare couldn’t compete.
The same, no doubt, will happen here.
“In short, instead of reducing the costs of providing care through much-needed supply-side reform, this new demand-side scheme will further drive up the market price of childcare, with taxpayers on the hook now for increased use of formal care,” wrote Cato Institute’s Ryan Bourne, who holds the R. Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.
What emerges from all this looks a lot like a government takeover of childcare, similar to what happened with healthcare and education. The cost soars, but the quality declines. And, in this case, the private companies that continued in business would become little more than appendages of a new federal childcare bureaucracy, with all the idiotic and costly rules that entails.
Parents would deliver their precious children to be guided by, as Warren’s plan would have it, “curriculum standards” and “standards similar to those that now apply to Head Start.” In other words, the federal government would be teaching your kids and instilling their values and morals. Parents lose control as the state raises their children.
Sound good to you?
As the Heritage Foundation recently noted, “The Department of Health and Human Services released the scientifically rigorous Head Start Impact Study in 2012, which tracked 5,000 3- and 4-year-old children through the end of third grade. The results? Head Start had little to no impact on the parenting practices or the cognitive, social-emotional, and health outcomes of participants. Notably, on a few measures, access to Head Start had harmful effects on participating children.”
Other studies of pre-school and childcare programs are equally inconclusive as to benefits. Yet the costs are enormous.
Moreover, in surveys, most parents would prefer caring for their children at home — not putting them into the hands of strangers. But Warren’s plan is specifically intended to institutionalize children in federally run institutions nearly from the time they’re born until the time they leave school.
The point is, “free” isn’t really free, and you get what you pay for. Leftists like Warren love to promise free things paid for by others, but then walk away when the quality turns out to be poor or just plain awful. This is the essence of socialist thinking, and also the way it gets voters to keep falling for socialists’ impossible promises of heaven on earth.
If you want care for your children, the last place you should look for help is the federal government. Think of letting Amtrak or the Postal Service care for your kids, and you get the idea.
Even if you still believe federal government should involve itself in your private arrangements, a better plan would be to give vouchers to families based on need.
“Universal” preschool or childcare will not solve any problems, but it likely will cause many others, while further tearing apart American families and institutionalizing their children from an early age. A bad outcome for families, and a worse outcome for America.
May 29, 2019
The United States of America has flummoxed socialists since the nineteenth century. Marx himself couldn’t quite understand why the most advanced economy in the world stubbornly refused to transition to socialism. Marxist theory predicts the immiseration of the proletariat and subsequent revolution from below. This never happened in America. Labor confronted capital throughout the late nineteenth century, often violently, but American democracy and constitutionalism withstood the clash. Socialist movements remained minority persuasions. When Eugene V. Debs ran for president in 1912, he topped out at 6 percent of the vote. Populist third-party candidates, from George Wallace in 1968 (14 percent) to Ross Perot in 1992 (19 percent) have done much better.
Keep this in mind when you read about the rebirth of socialism. Yes, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are household names. Membership in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has spiked since 2016. Forty percent of Americans told Gallup last month that “some form of socialism” would be “a good thing for the country.” Media are filled with trend pieces describing the socialist revival. A recent issue of The Economist devoted the cover package to “Millennial socialism.” The current New Republic includes four articles about “the socialist moment.” In March, New York magazine asked, “When did everyone become a socialist?”
That question tells you more about the editors of New York than the country itself. As Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute has observed, views toward socialism are stable. In 2010, 36 percent of respondents to the Gallup poll had a positive view of socialism. In 2018 the number was 37 percent. In 2009, 23 percent told the Fox News poll, “Moving away from capitalism and more toward socialism would be a good thing.” In 2019 the number was 24 percent. Fifty-four percent said it would be a bad thing. Gallup found that less than half of America would vote for a socialist candidate.
Socialism is in vogue because no one is sure what it is. The classic definition of abolishing private property, a planned economy, and collective ownership of the means of production no longer applies. More people today believe that socialism means “equality” than “government control.” Six percent told Gallup that socialism is “talking to people” or “being social.” The same Gallup poll that found 40 percent of the public has a positive view of socialism, however you define it, also discovered large majorities in favor of the free market leading the way on innovation, the distribution of wealth, the economy overall, and wages, and smaller majorities for free-market approaches to higher education and health care. Americans are very bad socialists.
And socialists know it. That’s why their most prominent spokesmen frame their domestic agendas in the language of the welfare state and social democracy, even as they celebrate, excuse, or defend socialist authoritarians abroad. Sanders told NPR in March, “What I mean by democratic socialism is that I want a vibrant democracy.” Okay, then—who doesn’t? The following month he told Trevor Noah that socialism “means economic rights and human rights. I believe from the bottom of my heart that health care is a human right. … To be a democratic socialist means that we believe—I believe—that human rights include a decent job, affordable housing, health care, education, and, by the way, a clean environment.” But this is not so different from FDR’s conception of the “four freedoms.” So what differentiates Sanders from a New Deal Democrat?
The less prominent socialists are somewhat more specific. Article II of the constitution of the DSA, to which Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib belong, states: “We are socialists because we share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships.” That is closer to the traditional definition of socialism—a definition that implies a set of institutional arrangements that inevitably would limit freedom of choice.
“Our task is formidable. Democratic socialists must secure decisive majorities in legislatures while winning hegemony in the unions,” writes Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin magazine, in his Socialist Manifesto. “Then our organizations must be willing to flex their social power in the form of mass mobilizations and political strikes to counter the structural power of capital and ensure that our leaders choose confrontation over accommodation with elites.”
Good luck with that. Before they seize control of the unions—which represent a paltry 11 percent of U.S. workers—today’s socialists will have to overcome the same barriers that thwarted their predecessors. Nowhere has “American exceptionalism” been more evident than in the fact that the United States has been the only country without a major socialist, social democratic, or Communist party. The articles celebrating the rise in DSA membership to more than 40,000 fail to mention that there are tens of millions of Republicans and Democrats. Socialist politicians, activists, and theorists neglect the shaggy-dog history of their persuasion in the United States. The historical examples in Sunkara’s book are almost entirely drawn from Europe. It’s as if history began with Sanders’s candidacy in 2016.
In fact, socialists have recognized the difficulty they face in the United States for over a century. In 1906 the German sociologist Werner Sombart devoted a monograph to answering the question, Why Is There No Socialism in the United States? Sombart noted the comparatively high and rising standard of living of American workers. “On the reefs of roast beef and apple pie,” he said, “socialistic Utopias of every sort are sent to their doom.”
American workers had won political rights earlier than their European counterparts, making them less likely to conflate civil rights with economic benefits. America’s liberal culture emphasized social mobility. The staggering racial, ethnic, and religious diversity of America made class-consciousness almost impossible. As Max Beer, an Australian socialist of the early twentieth century, wrote,
Even when the time is ripe for a Socialist movement, it can only produce one when the working people form a certain cultural unity, that is, when they have a common language, a common history, a common mode of life. This is the case in Europe, but not in the United States. Its factories, mines, farms, and the organizations based on them are composite bodies, containing the most heterogeneous elements, and lacking stability and the sentiment of solidarity.
When it comes to preventing socialism, diversity really is our strength.
The two-party system marginalizes small, independent parties and accommodates rising tendencies and programs within preexisting electoral coalitions. Most important of all, the Constitution decentralizes and diffuses power, making it extremely difficult to expand drastically the power of the state in the name of social justice.
In 1967, Daniel Bell offered an additional explanation for the weakness of American socialism: “At one crucial turning point after another,” he wrote in Marxian Socialism in the United States, “when the socialist movement could have entered more directly into American life—as did so many individual socialists who played a formative role in liberal political development—it was prevented from doing so by its ideological dogmatism.”
All of these various obstacles remain in place. In January, Gallup found that 77 percent of Americans are happy “with the overall quality of life in the U.S.” Sixty-five percent are satisfied with the “opportunity for a person to get ahead by working hard.” Fifty-three percent like the “influence of organized religion.” We have the best employment situation in half a century. Real disposable income continues to rise. Last year the Congressional Budget Office reported that all Americans have enjoyed an increase of post-tax income since 1979. “It’s doubtful that most Americans would prefer to revert to the world as it was in 1979,” wrote Robert Samuelson, “a world without smartphones, the Internet, most cable television, or laparoscopic surgery,” and with the Soviet Union.
The United States is far more heterogeneous than it was 40 years ago. The success of identity politics and “woke capitalism” underscores the difficulty of making the sort of class-based appeals Sanders learned at meetings of the Young People’s Socialist League. Americans put their familial, racial, ethnic, and religious attachments ahead of membership in an income or occupational group. Besides, some 70 percent of America considers itself middle class.
One of the reasons the socialist and socialist-curious candidates in the Democratic primary have been arguing against the Electoral College and for expanding the Supreme Court is they understand the challenge the Constitution poses to their dreams. The type of centralization and bureaucratic administration socialism requires is incompatible with a system of federalism, checks and balances, and enumerated powers. Fortunately, structural change is extremely difficult in our vast and squabbling country. It was meant to be.
The self-defeating tendencies toward radicalism and sectarianism are also visible. Expanding government to provide more resources to the poor is popular; eliminating private and employer-based insurance is not. Protecting the environment and reducing carbon emissions is popular; abolishing air travel and declaring war on cows is not. More money for teachers is popular; freezing support for charter schools, as Sanders called for this week, is not. DSA member Doug Henwood writes in the New Republic of a split emerging within the organization between “Bread and Roses” and the “Socialist Majority Caucus.” The narcissism of small differences has doomed such movements in the past.
Note also that Sanders has faded in recent weeks after Democratic voters encountered a viable non-socialist alternative in Joe Biden. Ocasio-Cortez’s favorability is underwater. Medicare for All polls well with voters in the abstract—when they assume it means simply more of the current Medicare program—but support falls as soon as they hear about the conformity and control it will entail.
The good news is America contains antibodies against socialism. As Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks wrote in 2000, “Features of the United States that Tocqueville, and many others since, have focused on include its relatively high levels of social egalitarianism, economic productivity, and social mobility (particularly into elite strata), alongside the strength of religion, the weakness of the central state, the earlier timing of electoral democracy, ethnic and racial diversity, and the absence of feudal remnants, especially fixed social classes.” The title of Lipset and Marks’s book is It Didn’t HappenHere. And as long as we uphold and defend the political and cultural elements that make America exceptional, it won’t.
April 6, 2019
By Kevin Cochrane • Washington Times
“Democratic Socialism,” preached by Sen. Bernie Sanders and others, seems like a pretty good dream. The problem is, it is just that — a dream.
Imagine a nation where higher education is free for everyone and nobody pays a dime for superior health care. Of course, the money has to come from somewhere, so you also have to imagine having blinding high income taxes and even a confiscatory wealth tax on people that own nice things — or at least things that are nicer than what others have.
Before looking at the financial details (something most supporters are loathe to do), let’s have a peek at the hypocrisy behind the plan. Who really wants free college and free health care? Obviously, if they were truly free we’d all want them, but, we know they aren’t free and somebody has to pay the bill. But, nobody likes paying bills, so who really wants this free largess?
When it comes to free higher education the answer is pretty easy even if you don’t have a college degree. A recent Bankrate poll found free higher education was supported by 77 percent of people under the age of 30. No big surprise there — college students want free college. But what about free universal health care? In this case I’d expect support from the opposite age demographic, but it turns out again that it’s the young and healthy that also want Continue reading →
March 15, 2019
By Michael Tanner • National Review
Outside the media and political circles that follow her every move, few probably noticed or cared when Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez pronounced capitalism “irredeemable.” But what are we to make of the refusal of former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper — supposedly the moderate in the Democratic field — to admit that he was a capitalist? Speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe last week, Hickenlooper turned aside several direct questions about whether he was a capitalist before allowing that “some aspects” of capitalism, like small business, “probably work.” And what about the fact that 77-year-old avowed socialist Bernie Sanders is in a statistical tie for the Democratic nomination?
Perhaps that’s because Democratic primary voters have a surprisingly favorable view of socialism. According to the latest Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, Democrats prefer capitalism to socialism by the slimmest 51–49 percent margin. That’s a long way from President Obama, who just four years ago pointed out that “the free market is the greatest generator of wealth in history — it has lifted millions out of poverty.”
Of course there is ample reason to be suspicious of the combination of cronyism and government intervention that has replaced free-market capitalism in recent years. But this new affection for socialism represents a profound misreading of economics, history, and the human condition.
For most of recorded history, humankind was horribly, desperately poor. Then, about 300 years ago, human wealth suddenly began to increase exponentially. The reason for this sudden and wonderful change was the advent of modern free-market capitalism. And while those at the top of the income ladder undoubtedly saw major gains, those who benefited the most from this increase in wealth were those at the bottom.
In her groundbreaking book Bourgeois Equality, Deirdre McCloskey points out that in the era before modern free-market capitalism, great civilizations, such as Periclean Greece or Song Dynasty China, sometimes saw a temporary doubling of national income per capita. Such gains were considered extraordinary. But compare that to the fact that since 1800, developed countries like Sweden or Japan have seen a 3,200 percent growth in per capita income. And with that growth came all sorts of associated benefits, including longer life expectancies, a better-educated citizenry, expanded civil and political rights, and reduced poverty. Studies measuring inequality over time against indexes of economic freedom (adjusted to exclude exogenous factors such as educational levels, climate, agricultural share of employment, and so forth) show a small but statistically significant reduction in inequality in countries with high economic-freedom scores.
What has been true worldwide has been true for the United States as well. Consider that by most measures nearly all Americans were poor at the start of the last century. Indeed, if we use a definition corresponding to today’s poverty measures, 60 to 80 percent of the U.S. population was poor at the start of the 20th century. Today, while some people undoubtedly continue to struggle, deep material poverty has been nearly eradicated.
It is free-market capitalism that is at the heart of this prosperity.
Nor is the debate about capitalism vs. socialism merely a question of economics. Strip away all the bells and whistles and there are only two ways to organize society: markets or command and control. Markets are fundamentally about choice and voluntary exchange. Command and control is about, well, command and control — that is, force. Advocates of socialism presume that this power will be exercised by wise philosopher-economist-kings who can magically determine precisely what wages should be, how much a product should sell for, and what consumers want (or should want). History shows that, instead, those powers are exercised by fallible human beings who not only get economic decisions wrong but cannot resist spreading their new power into non-economic areas of our lives.
Donald Trump, with his continuing calls for government intervention in the economy, is hardly the best person to make the case against Democrats and socialism. He is, in fact, emblematic of the cronyism that has come to taint capitalism in the minds of many. But his message may still find a receptive audience.
The same Harvard/Harris poll cited above showed voters overall preferring capitalism by a 65–35 percent margin. Voters outside the Democratic-primary base are far less enamored of socialism. Even many of those choosing socialism probably don’t really mean it, seeing “socialism” as simply shorthand for a more generous welfare state.
In particular, an anti-capitalist, pro-socialist message will be a very hard sell in the crucial suburbs that have begun swinging Democratic in the last few elections. Voters in those areas are repelled by Trump’s rhetoric and Republican social conservatism but remain capitalists.
There’s no doubt that Trump remains vulnerable, but so long as Democrats continue their lurch to the left, his reelection prospects will look up.
March 10, 2019
By Steven Greenhut • Reason
In the 1970s, my Dad flew from his home in Pennsylvania to a medical center in Houston to have a then-innovative bypass surgery that extended his life by more than three decades. At the same time, my wife’s family was sending bottles of aspirin to their relatives in the Polish socialist paradise. That dichotomy—Americans receiving cutting-edge medical care even as Eastern Europeans were lacking the rudimentary medicines—always stuck in my mind as I’ve written about political systems.
To understand socialism, one needn’t fixate on its most-horrifying elements—gulags, executions and endless repression. Think about the simple stuff.
After Boris Yeltsin joined the Soviet Politburo in 1989, he visited Johnson Space Center and stopped in a typical Texas grocery store. “When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people,” he later wrote. At the time, Russians waited in line for whatever crumbs the bureaucrats would sell them.
Why are pundits and politicians talking about socialism again, 28 years after the fall of the Soviet Union? Donald Trump’s vow that the United States would never become a socialist country got people talking. Good for him, even if he should stop praising and excusing North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who runs a communist dystopia often described as the “the world’s biggest open prison camp.”
The real reason for the renewed discussion, however, comes from politicians on the other side of the spectrum. It’s apparently hip to be a socialist now, even among contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. A year before Yeltsin’s U.S. visit, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took a strange trip to the Soviet Union. A video of the shirtless then-Burlington, Vt., mayor singing with his Soviet hosts as part of a sister-city event has gone viral. That was ages ago. What bothers me is what he—and others on the Democratic Left—have said more recently.
In an article headlined, “Sanders could face more scrutiny for socialist leanings,” The Washington Post referred to the 2016 primary debate between Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Sanders was asked by the moderator in Miami—a city filled with people who fled Cuban communism—about seemingly positive things he had said about Fidel Castro and Nicaragua’s socialist strongman Daniel Ortega. “The key issue here was whether the United States should go around overthrowing small Latin American countries,” Sanders said. That was a transparent dodge. One can oppose American military intervention without having a soft spot for dictators.
These days, some progressives describe themselves as “democratic socialists,” which makes the idea sound kinder and gentler. They aren’t thinking about crumbling buildings in Cuba, starving children in Venezuela and genocide in Cambodia, but might be envisioning a facsimile of Portland, Ore.,—a place with cool, fair-trade, vegan restaurants and hip bars, but without all that private ownership stuff. Yet socialistic policies could turn the nicest cities into wastelands.
Apparently, the leaders in those bad socialist places didn’t do socialism right. As a former Barack Obama national security adviser told the Post, “I think the challenge for Bernie is just going to be differentiating his brand of social democratic policies from the corrupt turn—and authoritarian turn—socialism took in parts of Latin America.”
A turn? Authoritarianism is the inevitable outcome—a feature of socialistic systems, not a bug, because those systems empower government at the expense of individuals.
On its website, the Democratic Socialists of America say they “believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few.” They don’t offer many specifics, but perhaps your tenants will vote on the rent until you decide to leave the apartment business. These “new” socialists seem as utopian as the old ones. DSA notes that, “a long-term goal of socialism is to eliminate all but the most enjoyable kinds of labor.” Until work is fun, though, someone must divvy up unpleasant tasks on a more equitable basis. You’ve been warned.
Despite air-conditioned homes, full bellies and consumer gadgets courtesy of capitalism, some Americans yearn for a socialist paradise. We can cross one off the list. In 2013, Salon published a piece about the Venezuelan leader’s “full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism” titled, “Hugo Chavez’s Economic Miracle.”
Four years later (with a different strongman but same policies), the BBC described that miracle: “Despite being an oil-rich country, Venezuela is facing record levels of child malnutrition as it experiences severe shortages of food and an inflation rate of over 700 percent.”
Maybe Venezuelans didn’t do it right. Nor did the Russians, or anybody else. Or maybe socialism is a fundamentally flawed idea that always leads to misery by design. We shouldn’t need this discussion in 2019, given mounds of evidence and victims, but here we are again.
March 3, 2019
By Lewis K. Uhler and Peter J. Ferrara • Investor’s Business Daily
In the streets of Caracas, the failed socialist/communist dictator of Venezuela — Nicolás Maduro — is killing his own people to stay in power. Naturally, he is backed by Russia, China, Iran, Hezbollah and other collectivist dictatorships.
But Maduro is also receiving support from his fellow socialists in the U.S.: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), left-wing California Rep. Ro Khanna, and other Democrats.
The Free World and the U.S. are backing the legislatively appointed new president of Venezuela — Juan Guaidó, who is president of the national assembly, demonstrating how out of step the U.S. socialists are.
These new Democrat Socialists are also calling for ramping up grievously costly regulations to shut down the fossil fuel industry in the U.S. with their “Green New Deal.”
The first New Deal was at least targeting increased jobs in America. The so-called “Green New Deal” would instead kill millions of American jobs with higher cost energy, tripling current costs to American workers, families, and manufacturers, as have similar policies in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
Reconsidering Climate Change
Alleged global warming isn’t happening, and poses no threat of catastrophic results. The fears of former bartender and now Congresswomen Anastasia Ocasio Cortez that the world is ending in 12 years has no basis in fact (see the careful and thorough science to the contrary in “Climate Change Reconsidered II,” published by the Heartland Institute).
This confirms once again that Socialism/Communism is a world-wide threat to everything Americans hold dear, not some middle America, home-spun, garden variety, “ah shucks” philosophy.
Throughout the 20th century, socialism failed miserably everywhere it was tried, from the old, now dead, Soviet Union, to North Korea, East Germany, Cuba, and now Venezuela, which used to be the most prosperous country in Latin America. Today it suffers 90% poverty, and starving Venezuelans are rioting in the streets for food.
Meanwhile, the New Socialist Democrats are calling for 70% income tax rates, 77% death (estate) tax rates, increasing payroll taxes to the highest in American history, and a major domestic “wealth” tax, while the bottom half of all workers don’t pay federal income taxes, but get paid by the IRS.
Socialism, Destroyer Of Prosperity
That would cause renewed recession, short-circuiting Trump’s booming jobs recovery from Obama’s long-term stagnation, which has produced the lowest unemployment in decades and renewed pay increases. Not even to mention Socialism.
We are seeking to end the “deep state” of European Union (EU) style bureaucracy that England (Brexit) — as well as old socialist Sweden — have been trying to throw off. Even the EU’s OECD member nations have largely abandoned Wealth Taxes — and estate (death) taxes — because of the difficulty in valuing assets and net worth.
Every nation goes through political, intellectual changes — even “revolutions,” as has America. We are in the midst of one now with the Pelosi-Schumer/Trump combat over very serious issues of border control, economic growth, international relations and trade, and protecting our nation militarily.
Socialism: Just Say No In 2020
In the midst of this combat for the very soul of capitalist/Judeo-Christian values in America, the last thing we need is a domestic reassertion of failed 20th century, collectivist/atheistic, Socialist values that we fought against in two deadly World Wars, and which have brought even America to the brink of bankruptcy — financially and morally.
This is what America’s Socialist Democrats promise to bring to America. Patriotic Americans now have the responsibility — and duty — to stop them in the historic, turning point election of 2020.
Smaller, “right-sized” government with lower taxes and explosive growth of the private sector — greater wealth for all who are willing to work for it — is the American answer.
February 26, 2019
Election 2020: When Bernie Sanders announced on Tuesday that he was running for president, the only surprising thing was how much competition he’ll have on the far left. The current crop of 2020 candidates is so liberal, in fact, that it makes the Barack Obama of 2008 look positively right wing.
When Obama first ran, he tried to position himself as something of a fiscal moderate.
Obama complained about “the orgy of spending” under President George W. Bush. He pledged that all his spending plans were more than offset with spending cuts.
“What I’ve done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut,” he said. Continue reading →