I visited Denmark, Finland and Sweden last month. Guess what they have in common? All three are democratic socialist countries. In Copenhagen, Helsinki and Stockholm, I saw late model luxury cars everywhere, expensive homes, and well-heeled folks shopping in Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Rolex stores.
Conservatives hate this, so they resort to equating democratic socialism with Stalinist-style communism. They want you to believe the only way democratic socialism can work is with gulags and a planned economy enforced by a dictatorship ready to murder millions of people.
In their fever swamp imaginations, it’s always North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.
Here are a few “horrors” they’re forced to endure in developed democratic socialist countries: free education and student subsidies through college or technical school; free quality health care cradle to grave (no, patients don’t come to the U.S. for treatment); a livable minimum wage; generous family leave and vacation time, and many other benefits. Not surprising, all these countries consistently rank among the happiest in the world.
No gulags, no chaos, no dictators.
Does it come at a price? Of course. In Finland, the income tax rate is 51 percent. In Denmark, it’s 55 percent. In Sweden, it’s 61 percent. But voters in all of these countries have chosen democratic socialism because it works. They don’t want the kind of economic and social dysfunction we have in the U.S., mostly because they care about the welfare of their fellow citizens.
Contrast that with how we tolerate poverty, especially in Georgia, a state where so many profess devout Christian values, which mandate caring for “the least of these.”
Conservative Christians assuage any guilt they might feel by offering “ministries” that serve the less fortunate. That’s commendable, but all of the ministries in America could not begin to fulfill the health care, housing, transportation, child care, food and job training needs of the least of these, an inconvenient truth many Christian conservatives ignore.
A lawyer friend, who happens to be a registered Democrat, recently told me he liked Trump’s tax cuts, adding, “but I guess that sounds selfish.” I reminded him that those tax cuts added a trillion dollars to the debt even as the GOP passed a massive spending bill; that Republicans only condemn deficits when Democrats are in power.
And, yes, it sounded selfish coming from my wealthy friend.
The president’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, recently confirmed the least of these will be the ones who pay for GOP tax cuts benefiting the 1 percent and corporations. Thus, the real horror of capitalism is exposed. There are low income men, women and children, many of them disabled, veterans, and seniors, who will be hurt because the “haves” want more … a lot more.
If we voted for democratic socialism, the wealthy would suffer, we’re told. That’s right, that Gulfstream 650 might have to wait because they’d be compelled to pay their fair share. If we asked corporations to pay 35 percent instead of 20 percent, Wall Street swells might have to hold off on those additions to their palatial 25,000-square-foot homes.
Unfettered capitalism isn’t a solution as far as average Americans working families are concerned. If you earn $65,000 per year, the median Cobb County household income, what benefits have you seen since the GOP tax cuts went into effect earlier this year?
Republicans claimed the cuts would result in widespread raises and bonuses for working Americans. In reality, corporations bought back stock, paid bigger dividends to wealthy investors, and handsomely bonused well-to-do C-suite executives. That was always the GOP goal. You? Not so much.
Democratic socialism is the antidote. Given the opportunity, we know it succeeds in other developed countries. If the wealthy want to enjoy the manifold blessings of America, then they can help the rest of us “buy civilization,” as Oliver Wendell Holmes put it.
How do healthy, happy, well-educated workers hurt corporations? How does paid family leave damage productivity if it improves the lives of employees? How is paying $15 an hour to a fast food worker a problem if that employee doesn’t have to rely on federal subsidies like food stamps to make ends meet?
Too many Americans are being left behind while too few hold most of America’s wealth. As long as we have Republican policies, we’ll have conservative politicians and their apologists fear mongering democratic socialism on behalf of the 1 percent.
Call it class warfare, but understand that the war is being waged against America’s poor, middle class and seniors.
Young voters who’ve personally experienced the failure of GOP economic policies aren’t listening to the conservative dinosaurs telling them how wonderful unbridled capitalism is. They lived through the Great Recession. They’re burdened with student debt, they watched their parents struggle to pay bills, and they’ve seen gun violence up close.
Young voters know it can be better and they’re the future.