Socialism, of all discarded economic systems, is sending shock waves across the political landscape in dark tones as Democratic candidates in the midterm congressional elections pitch their proposals for improving the nation’s economy, which is already looking pretty good. Economics, the dismal science, seldom excites the pulse but everyone has an interest in what’s in his wallet. More than banners and promises from “progressives” will be required to persuade voters that harsh government beats free enterprise.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old Democratic Socialist running for Congress in a deep-blue congressional district in the Bronx neighborhood of New York, illustrates the danger of fuzzy thinking of millennials in her assessment of the state of the U.S. economy: “I do think that right now, when we have this no-holds-barred Wild West hyper-capitalism, what that means is profit at any cost.” She then adds: “Capitalism has not always existed in the world, and it will not always exist in the world.” Profound. Capitalism is not written in the stars, but nothing is.
The nation’s unemployment rate that stood at 7.8 percent when Barack Obama took office in 2009 bounced to 10 percent and then declined slowly to 4.7 percent at the time he moved out of the White House. The rate held steady at 4.1 percent until President Trump pushed his across-the-board tax cuts into law, and then declined to the current 3.9 percent in the reckoning of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment rates for blacks, Hispanics, Asians and women have fallen to historic lows. Youth unemployment has fallen to 9.2 percent, lowest since July 1966. There’s little to dislike there, unless you’re Pocahontas or a Democratic campaign strategist. Even ol’ Stupid gets that.
Companies are beating the bushes for workers to fill more than 6 million job openings. Median base pay grew by 1.6 percent in June, says Glassdoor, an online firm posting salary information. The jobs with the fastest annual pay increases for full-time work are bank teller, truck driver and warehouse worker, all engaged first hand in moving the economy. By any measure, that’s “profit at any cost” accruing to regular Americans at the heart of the U.S. economy. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, says the economy is best for consumers in two decades.
It’s capitalism at its Wild West best at every point of the compass. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow “progressives” have been consuming too many partisan headlines crediting the resuscitated prosperity to Mr. Trump’s predecessor, or pretending the good news is fake news. “An economic upturn begun under Obama is now Trump’s to tout,” says The New York Times. “The Bubble: Don’t believe the hype, Trump leading us to ‘economic chaos,’ liberals say,” reports USA Today. “The Trump economy is cooking,” says Esquire magazine, “but only a few really get to eat.” That’s moonshine to fuel Democratic politics.
Not all Democrats share Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s fascination with socialism, but apparently many do. A Gallup poll finds that 57 percent of the Democrats hold a more positive image of socialism than capitalism. Only 47 percent prefer capitalism to socialism — a reversal of their opinion in 2010.
Facts matter, and juxtaposing opinions about the relative merits of socialism to its actual practice on the ground is instructive. Venezuela’s collapsing government may not represent socialism in its purest form, but it’s surely the most stubborn form. A 20-year experiment with a state-controlled economy has brought growth to a standstill, causing desperate Venezuelans to bid up prices for the shrinking supply of daily necessities, even toilet paper.
With hyperinflation reaching nearly 33,000 percent annually, President Nicolas Maduro is trying to fix it by simply lopping five zeroes off the bolivar. Treating the currency like Monopoly money will not repair the broken link between supply and demand that has sent some 2.3 million hungry Venezuelans fleeing to neighboring countries, leaving the country with the world’s largest oil reserves.
Socialists looking for an example of where socialism actually works point to Denmark. With a population of less than 6 million, against 325 million in the United States, Denmark proves nothing. A government-controlled economy holds little attraction for Americans. An examination of the real-world implications of the gauzy concepts that Democrats tout on the campaign trail, demonstrates that capitalism, blemishes and all, is a better choice. Capitalism may be a miserable system, a wise man once said, but it’s better than all the others.
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