Home > Uncategorized > ‘Socialism’ and other bad words from the Name-Caller-in-Chief

‘Socialism’ and other bad words from the Name-Caller-in-Chief

from Dean Baker

We know the way Republicans win elections these days. They call their opponents offensive names.

This is probably a good political tactic. After all, when your party’s agenda is about redistributing as much money as possible to the very richest people in the country, you are not likely to win much support based on your policies. Therefore, we get name-calling.

The latest bad word in the Republicans’ schoolyard taunts is “socialism.” President Trump and his team have decided that they will run around calling Democrats “socialists.”

Their hope is to conjure up images of the stagnation and shortages in the Soviet Union. Or, for those who lack memories of the problems of Soviet bloc economies, they’ll use the economic chaos in Venezuela as a substitute.

Of course, the policies being put forward by the Democrats have nothing to do with the socialist bogeyman Trump is using to try to scare people. They are policies that have deep roots in U.S. history and are, in fact, overwhelmingly popular among voters in both parties.

For example, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new representative from Queens, New York, has proposed a marginal income tax rate of 70 percent on income in excess of $10 million. This is the same rate that was in effect under that well-known socialist Richard Nixon. Under Dwight Eisenhower, another prominent socialist, the top tax rate was 90 percent. 

It seems that Republicans don’t only dislike the idea of taxing the rich, they don’t even understand it. Former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker told a group of fifth graders that AOC wants to have the government take $7 of the $10 that their grandmother pays them for doing chores.

As Representative Ocasio-Cortez explained, this is not the way our tax system works. Her 70 percent tax rate would apply only to income above $10 million. This means that if these fifth graders earned $10,000,010, the government would take $7 out of the last $10. If they earn less than $10 million, they don’t have to worry about it.

Many Democrats are also proposing to expand the Medicare program to cover everyone. Perhaps Medicare now fits in the Republicans’ definition of “socialism,” but it is a hugely popular program with both Democrats and Republicans.

The idea of extending health care coverage has, until recently, been a major goal of both political parties. Richard Nixon had a plan for universal health care coverage that was much more far-reaching than the Affordable Care Act, which the Republicans have spent a decade hating on.

Getting to a universal Medicare-type program will be a big change and we will almost certainly not get there all at once. But, the idea of ensuring that every American has decent health care is not one that most people in the United States consider radical. Only Republican politicians seem to view it that way.

The same applies to Democratic plans to make college free, or at least more affordable. Again, this was once a widely shared goal of both political parties. The GI Bill of Rights, which allowed tens of millions of former troops from poor or middle-class backgrounds to attend college, had wide support across the political spectrum. Now we learn from Donald Trump and other Republican leaders that all of these people were socialists.

The idea of addressing global warming and other environmental hazards also is not exclusively a Democratic one. Richard Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the Endangered Species Act. Theodore Roosevelt famously fought to preserve public lands more than 100 years ago.

In short, there is a long bipartisan heritage for the ideas that Democratic leaders are now pushing. These proposals are intended to help the vast majority of the people in the country who have been left behind in the last four decades.

By contrast, the Republican agenda of tax cuts for the rich and the deregulation that allows them to plunder whatever they want is just not very popular. Therefore, we get name-calling.

See article on original site

  1. Ekke Weis
    February 25, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    Maximum Respect, Thanks & Praises to You…! Hasta Siempre, ek @ FACEBOOK Public Group >THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX ECONOMICS 101 SLAM > https://www.facebook.com/groups/1219255998222582/

  2. February 26, 2019 at 12:30 am

    Yes, thank you Dean. The Republican Right of the past 40 years has done enormous damage to history, especially the intellectual history of the political spectrum, blurring especially the distinctions between social democrats, socialists, communists, populists and in Germany Nationalism Socialism, one branch of fascism. In the America of the 1930’s, since we are talking about a Green New Deal, remember that Norman Thomas, the socialist candidate for president had some strong differences with FDR over those not reached, especially Southern tenant farmers and domestic workers. The dialogue around that, plus FDR’s tensions with John L. Lewis and the CIO’s tactics will help clarify some of the confusions: FDR was not a socialist, with his Second Bill of Rights of 1944 being an American template for social democratic policies.

  3. John Hermann
    February 26, 2019 at 1:21 am

    If Bernie and others on the political left are “socialist”, then so was republican president Dwight Eisenhower – who advocated much the same policies that Bernie is advocating today.

    • Helen Sakho
      February 27, 2019 at 12:24 am

      Very good contributions from all.
      The front cover of the latest issue of the Economist asks a pertinent question relating to whether penguins can fly. If they, as well as pigs (as the saying goes) can, then one must be hopeful that the hopes of all people (especially young generations) who are seeking social justice everywhere may come true.
      I wouldn’t advice keeping their hopes up too much, or they shall be disappointed. But it’s certainly worth a try.

  4. Rob Reno
    February 27, 2019 at 3:29 am

    Many Americans, especially those making up Trump’s base and the so-called conservatives within the republican party cannot distinguish between socialism, democratic socialism, communism, or rheumatism. If it has an -ism the think the sky is falling. Their dominant belief is Market Fundamentalism.

  5. Ken Zimmerman
    March 11, 2019 at 9:23 am

    Socialism is a range of economic and social arrangement that involve common or community ownership and sometimes control of the means of production and workers’ self-management. Ownership can be public, collective, or cooperative, or citizen ownership of equity. There are many varieties of socialism and no single definition encapsulating all of them. But all involve common or community ownership. Socialist arrangements can be non-market and with-markets. Non-market socialism uses factor markets and money with engineering and technical criteria based on calculation performed in-kind, thereby producing economic arrangements that function according to different rules from those of capitalism. Non-market socialism aims to circumvent the inefficiencies and crises traditionally associated with capital accumulation and the profit system. By contrast, market socialism arrangements retain the use of monetary prices, factor markets and in some cases the profit motive, with respect to the operation of commonly owned enterprises and the allocation of capital goods between them. Profits generated by these firms would be controlled directly by the workforce of each firm or accrue to society at large in the form of a social dividend. How to allocate resources within socialist arrangements is generally settled democratically. Even a cursory check of American history will find cooperatives (e.g., food, farm, electric, ranch, banking, housing, etc.) common. That look will also find public libraries, credit unions, public health clinics and hospitals, and of course public lands and resources. We also see hundreds of employee-owned and operated firms. Some of the largest firms in America are employee-owned, including WinCo Foods, Black & Veatch Engineering, Krueger International, Inc., and Penmac. And let’s not neglect the hundreds of municipally and county owned utilities, hospitals, railroads, etc. America is a deeply socialist nation existing on the same landmass as some of the cruelest and most brutal capitalists and firms. That’s why the conflicts over labor, wages, working conditions, and control are so acrimonious here.

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