By Bob Leggett:
Over the past four years, the Republican Party has often asserted that, if elected, Democrats would lead the nation down a socialist path. This claim needs to be vigorously refuted as blatantly false, while at the same time making the case that the party supports strong government involvement in the nation’s economy. A prominent government’s role is critical now more than ever as we face serious problems on multiple fronts, including a devastating pandemic and a floundering economy.
The Republican Party has repeatedly assailed the so-called leftist socialist agenda of the Democratic Party. Former President Trump at his rallies the past year, for instance, warned against electing Democrats because they are socialists. The two Republican Party senate candidates who were defeated in the January Georgia election claimed that the Democratic Party stood for socialism. In the presidential election last November, a significant portion of the Latino community in Florida voted for Trump because they were told that the Democrats were socialists and would transform the United States into a Cuban like country.
What is Socialism?
Adam Smith, in the Wealth of Nations published in 1776, described a free economy as one in which the drives of millions of people for personal profit … would produce “universal opulence which extents itself to the lowest ranks of the people.” His groundbreaking work laid the foundation for what today we call capitalism. Socialism is rooted in the works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. They sought an economic and political system where the means of production are owned by the state and economic activity is controlled by the government.
The best example of a socialist government is the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It crumpled in the late 1980s and early 1990s due largely to a wasteful and woefully inefficient economy. The lack of meaningful prices, the irrelevant role of profits, and a lack of functioning markets doomed the USSR’s economic system that failed to reward innovation and technological change. Combined with the excessive resources allocated to the military sector along with blatant corruption in the Communist Party, the USSR collapsed and, as some analysts have described, is now assigned to the dustbin of history.
It is worth pointing out that most countries around the world combine elements of both capitalism and socialism. Surprisingly, the United States is not even ranked in the top 10 most capitalist countries, according to the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation (https://www.thoughtco.com/socialism-vs-capitalism-4768969 ).
The assertions by the Republican Party that the United States would become a socialist country under a Democratic administration are blatantly false and not grounded in fact. None of the democrat candidates for president in the last election endorsed anything close to the basic tenets of socialism described above.
A more relevant issue for debate is not about socialism, but rather about the size and reach of the Federal government in the country’s mixed market economy. Democrats believe that a strong government role is critical to a functioning economy by providing essential services and programs to its citizens. One only need point to the social security program in place in the United States since 1935. Today almost 70 million people receive benefits administered by the Social Security Administration amounting to over a trillion dollars annually. The U.S. government also provides subsidies to farmers and other industries. Direct farm aid amounted to more than $32 billion in 2019.
Republican claims that Democrats are socialists are nothing more than a ploy to keep Republicans in power. It is incumbent on Democrats at all levels to vigorously reject these unsubstantiated Republican Party claims and to fight for government programs, especially programs such as universal health care that benefit middle- and lower-income households. As the working man’s party, we must work to ensure that the needs of all our citizens are met, especially in the midst of a pandemic and lagging economy.
Bob Leggett is a military veteran, having graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy with service in Vietnam. He earned a Ph.D. in Business and Economics from Lehigh University and has been widely published in academic journals and elsewhere. He is a member of the Hunter Mill District Democratic Committee.
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