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 →
February 20, 2019
By Sumantra Maitra • The Federalist
Cathy Young wrote last year that “commie chic” is cool again. In an essay, she cited a Gallup poll stating that “among Democrats, Democratic-leaning independents—and, perhaps most significant, among all American adults under 30—socialism is now viewed more positively than capitalism.”
Look around and you can see essays in papers of record praising the sex lives of East German women (failing to mention that they probably had to do it with a Soviet soldier in a back alley for a loaf of bread), and the idea that taxing billionaires would help make a society where there’s no inequality, and where everyone has not just a means but a “right” to a guaranteed satisfactory life and minimum income, health care, and education. Oh, and there are also free unicorns at the end of each red rainbow.
Almost determined prove her point, within a few months of that essay the darling of the Anglo-American left, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, took out the structural plan for the much-vaunted Green New Deal, which might be better described as a neo-Maoist Green Leap Forward, and it is comedy gold. Continue reading →
February 18, 2019
The far-left Democrats finally unveiled their plan for their “Green New Deal.” It’s a shocking document, essentially a call for enviro-socialism in America. It’s no doubt prompting many across the nation to wonder: Has this once-respectable political party of the working class gone collectively mad?
It sure seems that way. Reading the Green New Deal (GND) plan, put out Thursday by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, one is tempted to think it’s not real, just a joke from the satirical “The Onion.” The individual planks in the plan, individually and collectively, sound like the rantings of someone who should be institutionalized, not like a rational political plan to solve a real problem.
Let’s begin with what the plan promises: “a massive transformation of our society with clear goals and a timeline.” Continue reading →
February 16, 2019
By Paul Kengor • The American Spectator
Watermelons: green on the outside, red on the inside.
Leftist environmentalists hate that. And yet, they do little to eschew the label. Quite the contrary, they earn it in spades.
They have from the outset. Whether sheer coincidence or because the Devil has a sense of humor, Earth Day always marks Vladimir Lenin’s birthday. The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, just happened to be the centennial of Lenin’s birth.
Given that interesting confluence of dates, it seems more than ironic that so many former communists, when the Cold War ended, ran for the woods. It was the ideal ideological refuge. Rocks and frogs cannot tell the commie “environmentalist” to go jump in a lake. They can’t tell the central planners to take a hike back to their air-conditioned offices in Manhattan or coffee shops in Berkeley. Thus, for socialists, here’s the perfect constituency to wield government power and manage people and property. Continue reading →
February 14, 2019
By Jack Crowe • National Review
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that the Senate will vote on the Green New Deal resolution introduced last week by a coalition of progressive lawmakers vowing to eliminate all greenhouse-gas emissions within ten years, while simultaneously creating millions of jobs in a government-subsidized green-energy sector.
“I’ve noted with great interest the Green New Deal. And we’re going to be voting on that in the Senate. Give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal,” McConnell said with a sly smile during a Tuesday press conference.
The resolution, which was introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Senator Ed Markey (D., Mass.) on Friday, provides a sweeping list of climate-change- and social-justice-related measures including the refurbishing of every structure in the country with renewable-energy technology and the creation of millions of federally funded jobs in the green-energy sector. Continue reading →
February 12, 2019
We don’t often praise New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but we have to say, we appreciate his recent frankness on taxes.
On Monday, he told his state’s citizens that income tax revenues were coming in $2.3 billion below the expectations of just a month ago. “That’s as serious as a heart attack,” he said.
He’s right. The question is why?
A little budget talk is in order. New York plans to spend about $176 billion in the coming fiscal year, starting April 1. About $100 billion of that, according to Carl Campanile of the New York Post, will come from federal funds.
That means the actual deficit in state funding after just one month is 3%. Cuomo says it’s due to the new federal tax code, which limits state income tax deductions to $10,000, and recent volatility in the stock market. Continue reading →
February 10, 2019
There’s little doubt that the political flavor of the day is what the left calls “democratic socialism.” And one of this movement’s more recent ideas, from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is to impose a “wealth tax” on the wealthy. Sorry, senator, it’s an old idea — one that’s thoroughly discredited.
To begin with, the wealth tax is nothing new. It’s been tried by many nations, but most who’ve tried it have dropped it. As recently as 1990, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 12 of its member countries imposed a wealth tax on citizens. Today, it’s just four.
The irony is that those who ended their failed experiments with the wealth tax are those that America’s “democratic socialists” say they most admire. That includes Denmark and Sweden, nations often cited by people like Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as worthy of emulation by the American left. Continue reading →
February 6, 2019
Victor Davis Hanson • National Review
The old Democratic party championed the working classes, wanted secure borders to protect middle-class union wage earners, and focused generous federal entitlement help on the citizen poor. Civil rights were defined as equality of opportunity for all.
That party is long dead. An updated Hubert Humphrey or even Bill Clinton would not recognize any of the present “Democrats.”
Even the old wing of elite liberals is mostly long gone, with its talk of legal immigration only, opposition to censorship, pro-Israel foreign policy, let-it-hang-out Sixties indulgence, and free speech.
It was superseded by grim progressives who are not so much interested in a square, new, or fair deal for the middle classes, as an entirely different deal that redefines everything from the Bill of Rights and the very way we elect presidents and senators to an embrace of identity politics as its first principle. Continue reading →
February 5, 2019
By David Weinberger • The Federalist
For most people, moral visions trump economic realities, and that is why so-called “democratic socialism” has growing appeal. One’s sense of compassion outweighs the pain of higher taxation.
Consider, for example, this exchange between Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Rep. Tom Price:
Sanders: Congressman Price, America is the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right. Do you believe health care is a right of all Americans, whether they’re rich or they’re poor? Should people, because they are Americans, be able to go to their doctor when they need to, be able to go to into a hospital, because they are Americans? Continue reading →
February 4, 2019
Washington Free Beacon editor in chief Matthew Continetti said Wednesday that Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D., Calif.) denunciation of private health insurance could haunt her presidential campaign.
At a town hall event on CNN Monday (watch here), Harris said there are a host of problems associated with private health insurance, including delays and costs, and she said, “Let’s eliminate all of that.” After liberal commentator Richard Fowler downplayed the radicalism of Harris’s comment, Continetti answered affirmatively when co-host Bill Hemmer asked if the comment will “stick to her.”
“Yes, [it will stick to her], and it would stick to her if she became the Democratic nominee,” Continetti said. “I think Senator Harris had a pretty good rollout: She had that big rally in Oakland, she had the good fundraising number in her first day. This is a major slip-up for her, which will haunt her if she makes it to the general election.” Continue reading →
February 3, 2019
Kamala Harris has a big idea for your health-care plan: elimination.
The early contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are working feverishly to out-radical each other. Senator Elizabeth Warren has come out with a confiscatory wealth tax that in practice proved too oppressive for Sweden and Denmark, both of which abolished theirs years ago. Harris, not wanting to be outflanked on her left, has now called for the abolition of private health insurance, a proposal that would go well beyond even the practice in single-payer systems such as those of the United Kingdom and Canada.
CNN’s Jake Tapper asked her whether under her “Medicare for All” proposal people would be permitted to keep their insurance if they like it. Harris, unlike Barack Obama, offered no such concession. Instead, she offered this: “Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.”
Move on to what? Continue reading →