Not All Democrats Are Socialists

For the record, I consider myself an Independent.  I have voted for candidates from all three major and minor parties in local and national elections.   I ALWAYS vote for the PERSON, not the party, that I think is going to do the best job for the people he or she represents in that position.   It is not a secret that I do not agree with the politics of the Trump administration, even though I may have voted Republican in other instances.  If you don’t care to read any further because if this, that is your choice.  This is going to be a political post.

 

There have been claims that the Democrats want to move this country into Socialism.   I will start with an article from the N.Y. Times to illustrate my point.  This article centers around President Trump’s assertions.  The authors are Reid J. Epstein and Linda Qui.   Epstein covers campaigns and elections from Washington. Before joining the New York Times in 2019, he worked at The Wall Street Journal, Politico, Newsday and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.   Qiu is a fact-check reporter, based in Washington. She came to The Times in 2017 from the fact-checking service PolitiFact.  She has previously written for PunditFact, National Geographic, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.   Since the article was written before the Presidential nominees were determined, I changed a few verb tenses to assist sentence flow.

 

Fact-Checking Trump’s Claims That Democrats Are Radical Socialists.   [ Reid J. Epstein and Linda Qui     July 20, 2019  [ NY Times ]

The president wants to portray his opponents as steering the country in a dangerous direction.  But what does it mean to be a socialist — and to what degree do Democrats fit the definition?

 

President Trump has made branding Democrats as out-of-the-mainstream, economy-wrecking socialists one of the centerpieces of his re-election strategy.  He has sought to do so partly by making four junior Democratic members of Congress — all women of color who are on the left side of the party’s ideological spectrum — the faces of the party, and conflating their views with the Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination.

 

It is a message he has continued to repeat with varying degrees of intensity and accuracy. And while a few of his fellow Republicans have expressed unease about how he has framed his scathing criticism of one of those four Democrats — Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who was born in Somalia and immigrated to the United States as a refugee — as a call for her to “go back” to her native country, Republicans have embraced the president’s broader efforts to cast Democrats as socialists.

 

How much truth is there to Mr. Trump’s characterization of the Democratic Party? Here is a fact check :

 

What Mr. Trump said :  “A vote for any Democrat in 2020 is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream.”

 

First things first : All Democrats are not socialists.  Most Democrats are not socialists.  Of the 24 candidates that were originally running for president, only Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont identified himself as a democratic socialist. (Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan ran on a democratic socialist platform.)

 

The rest of the presidential field had rejected the socialism label. While in many cases their policy positions are well to the left of where the party was just a few years ago, that development has other prominent Democrats concerned.  Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado and former Representative John Delaney of Maryland have argued that the Democratic Party cannot be defined by a candidate who embraces socialism.   Even Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who was the most ideologically aligned with Mr. Sanders among the 2020 contenders, says she is not a socialist.  When she was asked about the difference between her and Mr. Sanders, her stock answer was that she is “a capitalist to my bones.”

 

It is true that every Democratic presidential candidate vying to replace Mr. Trump had called for increasing the federal commitment to health care, education and the environment, among other proposals.  Those plans would generally require substantially more government spending, higher taxes, an increased public-sector role in private markets and a reversal of the deregulatory push championed by Mr. Trump.  While the Democratic agenda is consistent with policies the party has pursued for decades, some proposals from the more left-leaning candidates would be more far-reaching than the party’s platform in the past several election cycles.  The proposal supported by some of the 2020 candidates to eliminate private health insurance would have been a clear turn to the left, and called for policies like a wealth tax  were unapologetically redistributionist at a time of growing inequality.   But Mr. Trump has hardly produced an Ayn Rand meritocracy during his presidency.   In May, the Agriculture Department said it would give $16 billion in aid to farmers hurt by Mr. Trump’s trade war with China.   Farmers in the Midwest — particularly in Iowa, home of the nation’s first presidential nominating contest — have said the funds do not come close to matching income they have lost because of falling commodity prices that followed China’s retaliatory tariffs.

 

And Mr. Trump’s fellow Republicans have long advocated various government giveaways to corporations, which Mr. Sanders and others have deemed “corporate socialism.”

 

 

What Mr. Trump said :  “There’s a rumor the Democrats are going to change the name of the party from the ‘Democrat Party’ to the ‘Socialist Party.’”

 

Putting aside the fact that it is called the Democratic Party and stipulating that it is impossible to disprove a rumor that Mr. Trump may or may not have heard, no, the Democrats are not changing their name to the Socialist Party.  And there are few similarities between what Democrats are proposing and the types of outcomes Mr. Trump tries to link them to, especially when he invokes Venezuela and its economic and humanitarian crisis as a warning that socialism is a harbinger of catastrophe.

 

There are, of course, very different strains of socialism. To an immigrant from Cuba or Venezuela who fled countries with centrally planned economies and neighborhood spies who inform on dissenters to the government, socialism means a very different thing than to Mr. Sanders, who envisions a northern European-style social safety net that drastically increases public spending on health care, education and environmental protection.   On economic issues, Democrats in the United States are far to the right of the governing parties in most other western democracies.

Canada and Britain, for instance, have single-payer universal health care systems that are politically sacrosanct, even among their mainstream conservative parties.   Northern European governments — Denmark, Norway and Sweden — subsidize far more of their citizens’ lives and tax income at far higher rates than have been proposed by Mr. Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist.  The Nordic countries — with their high tax rates and generous social benefits — are often cited as examples by Mr. Sanders and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez as models to emulate. Tax revenue made up more than 40 percent of the gross domestic product in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, for example, in 2017, compared with 27.1 percent for the United States. That revenue finances child care, basic and advanced education, health care and care for the countries’ older residents.

 

 

What Mr. Trump said :  “You have some of these socialist wackos, they want to double and triple your taxes, and that won’t come close to paying for it.”

 

The slew of programs many Democratic candidates have supported — universal health care, affordable child care, and higher education and a higher minimum wage — are more accurately labeled proposals of social democrats rather than socialists, said Peter Dreier, a professor at Occidental College and scholar of the left.

 

But “nobody has a plan to take government ownership of the means of production,” he said, referring to the dictionary definition of socialism. “Nobody’s talking about the government taking over Microsoft or Walmart or Wells Fargo or Disney.    Some of the Democratic plans — especially when it comes to health care — would entail substantial changes in the way the economy operates now.   Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, for example, would hope to eliminate private health insurance entirely, putting all Americans in a government-run system.   Other proposals would have been very expensive.    Mr. Sanders wanted  to eliminate the student debt of nearly 45 million graduates and eliminate tuition and fees at public four-year institutions and community colleges.    He estimated the cost at $2.2 trillion, to be paid for with a tax on financial transactions.

 

The big unknown when it comes to cost is health care. The Congressional Budget Office was asked last year to look at the costs of “Medicare for all” programs like the one advocated by Mr. Sanders.  “Government spending on health care would increase substantially,” the report said, but it declined to provide any specific estimates because of the wide range of options about how such a plan would work.  Studies of plans like the one promoted by Mr. Sanders have concluded that patients would spend far less on health care than they do now, and the government would spend far more, presumably requiring higher taxes. For some people, any tax increase might be more than offset by reductions in their spending on premiums, co-payments and other health care costs.  But others could end up paying more in new taxes than they save.   Mr. Sanders and other Democrats make the point that Americans already pay far more for health care than people in other countries but often get inferior care.

 

 

What Mr. Trump said :  “Don’t underestimate the power of socialism to get a vote.”

 

There is some evidence that more Americans are open to socialism.   A Gallup poll released in May 2019 found that 43 percent of Americans believe socialism is a “good thing” for the country, as opposed to 51 percent who said it was a “bad thing.”   In 1942, the split was 25 percent saying it was a good thing compared to 40 percent saying bad thing — a spread that was twice as large as it is now.   Trying to frame policy proposals that expand the social safety net as socialism is a time-honored tradition in Republican politics, one intended more to motivate Republican voters to turn out than to change minds among Democrats.  Ronald Reagan began his political career calling Medicare “socialized medicine” that would doom the country.    The Republican campaign to block the Affordable Care Act, before and since it was enacted, has consisted largely of suggesting it represents the creep of socialism into the country’s health care system.   But Mr. Trump won election in 2016 after promising to maintain the Medicare system and replace the Affordable Care Act with a health care law that would cover all Americans.

 

 

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In my research, I discovered that the meaning of socialism has evolved over the years and does not mean the same as it did 

in the Karl Marx era.   Socialism means something different to a Republican than it does to a Democrat.    This next excerpt is from  MINNPOST, a nonprofit, nonpartisan online publication.  The article was written by Eric Black.  He is a former reporter for the Star Tribune. Eric’s latest award is from the Society of Professional Journalists, which in May 2017 announced he’d won the national Sigma Delta Chi Award for online column writing.

 

What programs constitute socialism? Dems’ and Republicans’ answers differ

By Eric Black | 07/29/2019

 

 Republican Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer was asked to give a definition of  “socialism”:

“It’s Venezuela. I mean, it is a complete government takeover. Literally, it’s theft. Socialism is theft. You name your issue. It’s restriction of free speech.”

 

My point is not whether socialism is good or bad, but that the term is almost meaningless and Republicans are trying to smear it all over Democrats because it fires up the base.  My belief : The S-word has no precise, commonly accepted meaning.   The government levies taxes (then borrows to spend more than it taxes) and spends it on things.  The magic line where that process crosses the line between freedom and tyranny (or socialism) is in the Republican or Democratic eye of the beholder.

 

Americans were asked in the Washington Post,  a YouGov poll,  whether various categories of government spending constituted “socialism.”   The difference in replies across party lines were instructive.

 

For starters, the portion of Republicans who expressed a “very unfavorable” view of the S-word was huge (60 percent) compared to 28 for Democrats. Surprising to me, but not that surprising. And, likewise, by 64-12 percent, Republican respondents said Democrats are socialists, while, by 51-20, Democrats said they aren’t.

 

But how much does any of this mean until you know how the S-word is defined across party lines? The amusing thing to me was the difference between what looked like socialism to respondents across party lines. My conclusion, based on the poll results: Republicans think things that use tax dollars to help people like them are NOT socialism. Programs that use tax dollars to help the poor or the non-white ARE socialism.

 

For example, is Medicare socialism? 44 percent of Democrats said yes, but only 29 percent of Republicans agreed.

 

Would free health care for all be socialism? Republicans said yes by 77 percent; but only 55 percent of Democrats agreed.

 

Is Social Security “socialism?” 42 percent of Democrats said yes, but only 27 percent of Republicans agreed.

 

Is the government owned-and-operated U.S. military a kind of “socialism?” Democrats by 25-10 percent, were more likely to say so. Same for interstate highways (by 32-18). Are federal tax credits to business a form of socialism for the rich? Dems were likely to agree with that, by 22 percent, compared to 14 percent of Republicans.  

 

How about extending free K-12 public education to include college? No surprise: By 69 to 48 percent, Republicans were more likely to view that as a step into S-word hell.

 

My argument, as in the previous piece, is that these measurements show that the S-word is fairly meaningless except for political purposes, and Trump and Emmer hope to ride that meaninglessness to a big win in 2020. It works, but mostly with their base. It’s easier to argue with hot words, maybe even smear words, than with facts and logic.

 

 

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Republicans have themselves to thank for socialism

Emmanuel Ocbazghi Aug 28, 2019    [   BusinessInsider.com  ]

an Opinion Article

 

 

  • Socialism is on the rise in America, specifically Democratic socialism.
  • 43% of Americans now say that some form of socialism is good for the country, compared to just 25% in 1942.
  • While Republicans hate this, it turns out they have themselves to blame.
  • It’s their own policies and actions that have positioned democratic socialism as a legitimate option for Americans.

 

Manny Fidel: The back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats on socialism is enough to give you whiplash.  But one thing is true: socialism is on the rise. 43% of Americans now say that some form of socialism is good for the country, compared to just 25% in 1942.   Comrades are popping up like Starbucks all over America.   As much as Republicans hate this, it turns out they have themselves to thank.

It is their own policies and actions that have positioned democratic socialism as a legitimate option for Americans.   Congratulations; you’ve played yourself.   Here’s the trend.   Republicans dismantle moderate liberal policies.   They attack those policies as socialism and institute their own far-right ideas.   That causes Democrats to respond with an even more left-leaning proposal.   And because of that back-and-forth, more Americans are now considering giving some form of socialism a chance.

 

Traditional socialism pushes for collective ownership of all means of production, either through direct ownership by workers or the government.   Democratic socialism is the idea that the government should provide just the basic needs for its citizens, like healthcare, education, and more.   This is the type of socialism being promoted by politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

 

Obamacare is the perfect example.   It was passed in 2010, and literally minutes later, a group of Republicans filed a lawsuit against it, saying it was Because Obamacare mandated that people sign up for healthcare or pay a fee, Republicans started calling it a government takeover, likening it to socialism.  They immediately obstructed enrollment efforts by passing laws intended to limit and defund Obamacare outreach.   Fourteen red states eventually dropped out of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, leaving an estimated 3.6 million people uninsured.   In 2017, Republicans wanted to repeal Obamacare’s rule that people have to sign up for healthcare or pay a fee.   The Congressional Budget Office predicted that if they succeeded in doing this, many people would lose healthcare and the amount people pay per month would go up.  Republicans repealed the rule anyways, and, of course, that helps keep premiums high.  People started getting tired of the current system.   In 2018, 79% of Americans were dissatisfied with the total cost of healthcare.   They’re looking for relief, and the most ambitious and appealing alternative is “Medicare for All”.   It’s a proposal that says the government should be providing Medicare not just for those over 65 years old, but for everyone.  In fact, even moderate Democrats are pushing for what’s called the “public option,” a proposal for a government-run healthcare alternative that would compete with private insurers.   But even modest reforms like the public option are being blasted as “socialist” by Republicans.  Because Republicans have been calling everything socialism forever, Americans found themselves defining socialism as something different than the traditional form.   Since 1949, fewer people think socialism is about government control and more people think socialism is about equality, benefits, services, and Medicare for All.

 

Another example of Republicans contributing to socialism’s popularity: the Green New Deal.   In the years leading up to the Trump administration, progressive efforts for the environment were looking relatively good.   Activists were halting the construction of harmful pipelines across America, the world became more aware of climate change, and the Obama administration opted into the Paris accord, a legally binding agreement that aims to limit global warming.  However, when Trump became president, the country did a one-eighty on environmental policy.   Trump signed orders that advanced the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines that Native Americans said threatened water resources and sacred sites.  Republicans passed the resolution allowing for mining waste to be dumped in streams.  Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, of all people, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.   Pruitt repeatedly sued the EPA while he was Oklahoma’s attorney general, and when Pruitt resigned from the post, Trump replaced him with a former coal lobbyist.

 

In June 2017, Trump pulled out of the Paris accord I mentioned earlier.   I think you get the point.   This made it clear to progressives that Republican views on climate change were detrimental to the environment.  Then, in February 2019, AOC introduced the Green New Deal, a massively ambitious plan to curb bad emissions and create jobs in clean energy industries.   It’s a response to the Trump administration’s callous actions towards the environment, and it’s pretty popular.  Sixty-three percent of adults believe that the Green New Deal is a good idea, and 83% of Democrats agree.   So, once again, even though Republicans contributed to the situation that led to this proposal, you can guess how they feel about it.

 

These attacks aren’t new, either.   Let’s go back in time a bit.  During the Great Depression, FDR was working to pass the New Deal, a series of public programs created to provide financial aid to the country.   But wealthy businessmen, aka people who didn’t want the government to play a larger role in their lives, opposed the deal and formed a new party.   The American Liberty League was so against the New Deal that they compared it to policies from the Soviet Union.   In the following decades, this tactic went on to become a Republican favorite.

 

Before I go update my Tinder profile, I’ll give you one more reason why socialism is on the rise in America.  It’s simply because, politically speaking, Trump’s policies have brought us so far to the right, it only makes sense that new opposition to Trump would come from the far left.   This is how two democratic socialists were elected to Congress in 2018, and it might be what gave Bernie Sanders more steam heading into the election.  Today’s political issues are complicated and nuanced.   If the Republicans’ solutions to those issues only benefit those at the top, you can’t blame voters for looking for more radical alternatives.   Godless union of the Soviet.   I accidentally sounded like Bernie Sanders there.

 

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