How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

Mission Possible: How You Can Start and Operate a Soup Kitchen

The 2020 Election - A Referendum on Socialism vs. Capitalism

The President, his son Eric, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are hard at work painting the Democratic Party as a collection of crazy radical Socialists who are out of touch with main street America and who are hell bent on destroying capitalism as we know it. In the past, this would have been a surefire winning strategy. I’m not so sure that is the case today.

Politicians calling themselves “Democratic Socialists” have made very visible gains in the past few years. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, who beat 10-term incumbent Democrat, Joe Crowley,in the New York’s 14th Congressional District, is a social media sensation who is garnering more attention than the vast majority of Democratic presidential candidates. Senator Bernie Sanders is a first-tier candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. The trend goes beyond, these two individuals as polls show Democratic voters across–the country and particularly, the young, are favoring socialism over capitalism.

Currently 47% of those polled are favorable towards capitalism. This is down from 56% in 2016. Back in 2010, 68 percent of young people approved of capitalism, while 51% approved of socialism. In August 2018, among the same age group, socialism was favored over capitalism by 51 percent to 45 percent. There has been a 12-point decline in young adults' positive views of capitalism in just the past two years and a dramatic 23% decline since 2010. It is important to point-out that Republicans, of all ages, remain very positive about capitalism and only 16% positive about socialism.

Given this, I’m not convinced that clamoring “better dead than red” or other anti-socialistic diatribes that suggest that Democrats are seeking to destroy the free enterprise system or that socialism is a form of communism will resonate with younger Americans who do not have a personal memory of Soviet-style socialism. Young folks have little recollection of the days when the Soviet Union did not go by the full name of the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republic” nor do they remember the Cold War or the Berlin Wall. Simply put, they don’t associate socialism with an enemy of the United States.

Instead young Americans associate democratic socialism with the robust array of social services that are offered on a universal basis in the Scandinavian countries. They know that these countries are not horrible totalitarian places in which the government controls the major means of production or where private property has been abolished. They are more market driven economies than socialist planned economies.

To attract young voter Democrats will need to embrace key elements of the pro-environment “Green New Deal” and offer a specific policy agenda that reduces growing income inequality and its destructive correlate low economic mobility across generations. Economist Raj Chetty at Harvard has shown that “children born in 1950 had an 80 percent chance of making more money than their parents … those born in 1970 had a 61 percent chance. But since 1980, children are as likely as not to earn less than their parents.”

Democrats need to make it abundantly clear that the problem with America is not that we have too many billionaires – it’s that we have too many poor people, many of whom are hard working and that the middle class continues to struggle to keep their heads above water.

Many other major countries provide health care to all people as a right except for the United States. Similarly, many countries offer greater accessible education, universal child care, extensive job re-training and have much fairer tax bracketing to insure that the wealthy pay their fair share. Given our nation’s enormous wealth, we should do likewise. If that makes us a “socialist democratic” or “progressive capitalistic” nation, so be it.

Democrats should acknowledge that capitalism is the best economic creator of wealth ever devised. The problem has been the fruits of the labor of capitalism have not been shared fairly since the 1970s and President Trump has made the system worse by providing tax breaks to the wealthiest Americas while cutting back on the social services safety net for those who are hurting.

Democrats should also emphasize that capitalism without clear rules and regulations and vigilant enforcement often goes amok. Witness the 2008 financial crisis, various catastrophic water contamination disasters and the outrageous prices charged by some pharmaceutical drug companies for certain drugs. Democrats should be making the case that in the wealthiest country in the world, people should not have to worry about going bankrupt to pay for insulin and that will not happen if they take back the presidency.

Clamoring about creeping socialism or the destruction of capitalism will probably resonate with President Trump’s core supporters, but it will not expand his base. This is because an ever increasing number of Americans are realizing that the political system is rigged in favor of those who are extremely wealthy with the result that there is disconnect between continued overall economic growth and the slow wage growth for the vast majority of Americans. Further they recognize that markets must be policed and that Elizabeth Warren got it right when she said: “Markets without rules are theft”.