President Donald Trump opened the floodgates when he asserted that the U.S. would never become socialist during his State of the Union address. Since the Feb. 5 address, the term “socialism” has permeated the news media landscape, accompanied by a generous helping of misrepresentation and downright fabrication. The arguments against socialist policy in the U.S. are therefore growing staler by the day and are in need of being comprehensively refuted.
Even saying that Trump popularized the discussion of socialist policy would be to give the president far too much credit. The president is merely making reactionary statements in light of the efforts of politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders (D) and Sen. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D), both of whom have introduced many of the socialist tenets under particular scrutiny in recent months.
The foremost among these tenets is the push for a set of policies that would expand medicare and eventually remove the need for private health insurers, generally titled Medicare for All. This suggestion has been met with significant criticism on the ideological left and right alike. Estimates place the cost of Medicare for All between $13.8 trillion and $32 trillion over 10 years — immense figures, even in the context of federal spending, and the detractors of Medicare for All are always quick to beg the question: “How are we supposed to pay for this?”
The answer is as simple as consolidating Americans’ money. Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicates that Americans will spend around $50 trillion on the combined private and public healthcare sectors over the next 10 years, far more than even the highest Medicare for All estimates.
Providing healthcare to every American is not so much a question of where the money will come from, but how it will be redistributed into a system that works for all Americans, and that’s where the legislative end of Medicare for All comes in. Nevertheless, you can expect to hear that $32 trillion figure a lot over the next election cycle. Just remember that statistics always need context.
Equally misrepresented is Ocasio-Cortez’s signature legislative drive for a 70 percent marginal wealth tax. Ocasio-Cortez’s detractors labelled this proposal as a radical one, and there seems to have been some effort to portray the proposal as a 70 percent tax on all the income that a wealthy person makes. Neither of these assertions are true.
What Ocasio-Cortez proposed was a 70 percent tax on all income an individual makes after $10 million, which has much different implications. For our purposes, the net worth of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, $137.1 billion, makes for a good example scenario.
Assuming the tax was implemented before the establishment of Amazon, a 70 percent tax on every dollar Bezos made above $10 million would leave the billionaire with $41.1 billion. Bezos would have significantly less money, but he would still be far wealthier than most Americans.
Additionally, there is a significant precedent for the efficacy of a tax like the one Ocasio-Cortez is proposing. The top marginal tax rate under former President Dwight Eisenhower was 91 percent, and the Eisenhower administration oversaw consistent economic growth throughout its duration.
Lastly, one cannot address the topic of socialist policy in America without addressing Venezuela, as the latter country’s state of economic strife is being framed by capitalists as a textbook failure of socialism without any substantive evidence to back up that claim.
It is difficult to argue in any comprehensive way that the state of Venezuela is causationally linked to its socialist government. Countries throughout South America elected socialist leaders for years with differing results, and much of Venezuela’s difficulties actually have much more to do with the country’s reliance on oil subsidies, and the eventual economic collapse thereof. Ultimately, there is no clear-cut link between socialist government and economic failure, at least not in Venezuela’s case.
It is important to note that these anti-socialist counter-arguments do not spring into existence spontaneously. Each of the socialist policies discussed above represents a bad omen for America’s wealthiest, so it makes sense that they will do what they can to prevent these policies from being realized in the form of concrete legislation.
It is therefore the responsibility of those commenting on these policies to understand that the counter-arguments stemming from America’s most wealthy simply do not bear the same weight as those from its working class. The stakes for someone living paycheck-to-paycheck are far different than someone who can afford a new house once a year, and our country’s policy needs to reflect that, so don’t let the disingenuous rebuttals fool you.