Sunday, December 4, 2022
Dec. 4, 2022

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Jayne: Fear of socialism distorting nation’s political discourse

By , Columbian Opinion Page Editor
Published:

A quick glance at headlines from FoxNews.com makes clear what is the most dire, dangerous, existential threat facing the United States.

Growing debate over Democratic socialism

The truth about socialism

Can Democrats win with socialism in November?

Is socialism on the rise in America?

The rise of socialism

Is Democrats’ love of socialism a losing campaign strategy?

The consequences of millennials embracing socialism

Each of those appeared on the site in the past month. And if Fox News is talking about it, clearly it is something we must fear.

On Thursday, when several White House officials held a press conference about Russian attempts to meddle in the midterm election and Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen said, “Our democracy itself is in the crosshairs,” the Fox website had that as the 24th headline down the page.

Glad we have our priorities straight. Russians meddling in the election? Meh. But SOCIALISM? Ew! Be afraid! Be very afraid!

Socialism, after all, is the very thing the United States has been righteously fighting for the past century, right? This noble battle has created a system of rugged individualism that has brought us the 14th best education system among developed countries (according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) and the worst health care among 11 countries assessed by The Commonwealth Fund.

In other words, the United States can do a heck of a lot better at some of the basic things that position a nation for a prosperous future. Those topics should be at the forefront of political discussions heading into the midterm election, but they tend to be obfuscated when the discussion is sidetracked with, “Socialism! Arrrrgggggg!”

Take a recent study of the Medicare for All plan trumpeted by Bernie Sanders during the 2016 campaign. The Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a think tank funded by the Koch brothers, determined that Medicare for All would cost $32 trillion over 10 years. That is a headline-worthy finding, but what got lost in the fine print was this: The study found that the current U.S. health care system would cost $49 trillion over that period. By 2031, the study found, expenditures under Sanders’ plan would be about $300 billion lower while providing care for everybody.

Medicare for All would remove excessive costs of insurance, hospital fees and prescription drugs, and eventually leave more money in our pockets. Well, maybe not the pockets of pharmaceutical executives, but more for you and me.

For some reason, that is a frightening proposition. And it makes it easy to prey upon Americans’ fear of socialism to distort the discussion.

Anxious for change

The current wave of Democratic Socialists, you see, are not really socialists. They are not calling for communal ownership of production; they are not calling for the kind of centralized control that has led to an economic collapse in Venezuela. As Meagan Day wrote in a guest opinion for Vox.com, “The eventual goal is to transform the world to promote everyone’s needs rather than to produce massive profits for a small handful of citizens.”

Socialism in its purest form is destined to fail. But the thought of combining resources for the greater good can appear attractive when compared with the oligarchy (or is it a kleptocracy?) of the Trump administration. Now President Trump wants to ease the capital gains tax, further benefitting wealthy Americans and adding to a deficit expected to be about $1 trillion this year.

So, it is no surprise young adults are not as terrified of “socialism” as their elders. With wealth inequality at its highest level since just before The Great Depression, it is understandable that people are anxious for change.

And if we can look past the fear-mongering labels, we just might notice that the United States can do better for its people.

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