In today’s tumultuous political climate where the left and the right appear to be more divided than ever, politicians are turning to new policies and tactics in an effort to draw in a larger voter base. On the left, a large number of younger candidates are embracing the title of “Democratic Socialists,” a trend which may have been sparked by the success and attention garnered by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election.
Demographically, Sanders was extremely popular with younger voters and millenials, no doubt due to his ability to identify a supposed enemy for them— the 0.1 percent— as well as promising a multitude of unrealistic social programs such as Medicare for All, tuition-free public college, and student debt forgiveness. The Sanders-esque candidates in 2018 have not only adopted these policy goals, but included others such as a federal jobs guarantee and housing as a human right. Together, these programs would cost $40 trillion over the next 10 years in addition to our current expenditures according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Yet, their insolvency does nothing to prevent left-wing populists from touting them as a solution to our country’s supposed problems.
A statistic many of the so-called Democratic Socialists point to as indicative of our country's “problems” is the gap of income inequality. Admittedly, some groups such as the 1 percent are earning more proportionally, but according to the Congressional Budget Office, every level of income is better off than they were 50 years ago and the growth in the gap of income inequality has slowed. Regardless, differences in income are natural outcomes of a market based system where one’s income is determined by what they provide. While it is true that economic mobility in the United States has declined somewhat in recent years, American adults who “at least finish high school, get a full-time job and wait until age 21 to get married and have children will join the middle class” at a 75 percent rate according to the Brookings Institute, a liberal think-tank. Democratic Socialists refuse to accept that it is up to the individual to try to help themselves, and would rather have the population be completely provided for by the government. This type of illogical thinking is rooted in the very constitution of the DSA, who use their label to hide the fact that they are full-on socialists advocating for “popular control of resources and production, economic planning” and overhaul of the class structure.
Despite the fact that unemployment is at its lowest level since the 1990s at a rate of about 4.7 percent, the obsession of Democratic Socialists on income inequality suggests they would rather the poor be poorer, provided that the rich were also less rich. They are unable to see economic growth as a boon where everyone benefits, instead viewing it through a Marxist lens where those at the top obtained what they have at the expense of those at the bottom. Economics are not a zero-sum game however, and it is possible for everyone to feel the benefits of a robust economy even if some happen to benefit more than others— something which is not wrong on its face. Proposed ideas like a higher federal minimum wage and a federal jobs guarantee would do nothing to address the qualms of the DSA, but would actually hurt consumers and businesses. A federal minimum wage— aside from being a terrible idea due to vastly different costs of living and economic activity across the country— would only pass the costs onto both the workers and consumers as corporations and employers raise their prices to compensate. A federal jobs guarantee causes the same issue as businesses are forced to raise their own wages in order to keep up with $15.00/ hour government-sponsored jobs—again leading to raised prices— but would also increase dependence of the population on unsustainable government jobs, the majority of which would be temporary infrastructure positions. Additionally, these unreasonably high paying government jobs would hurt small business owners in the private sector who are unable to keep up with wages or compete for employees.
PHOTO COURTESY OF AZCENTRAL.COM
Another favored talking point of the Democratic Socialists is that the wealthy need to ‘pay their fair share.’ The idea that they do not already is utterly ridiculous. According to the Tax Policy Center, the top 20 percent of income earners— households earning over $150,000/ year— make up 52 percent of the income earned in the country but contribute 87 percent of federal income taxes. In comparison, the bottom 60 percent of income earners— households earning under $86,000/ year— pay zero net federal income tax when deducting the governmental programs that they benefit from. The hypocrisy of these Democratic Socialists who supposedly care so much for those with less than themselves eclipses that of the capitalist entrepreneurs they love to denigrate, endlessly wanting to take more and more from those who already shoulder the majority of governmental expenditures in the country. At what point would the wealthy have paid their ‘fair share’ in the minds of the Democratic Socialists; at what point would it be enough?
The fact of the matter is that the national government is not designed or intended to support a population who refuses to support themselves or acts against their own self-interest— nor should it be. As noted before, The Brookings Institute outlined a clear path to the middle class with three simple rules. Yet according to the Center for Disease Control, 39.8 percent of children in America were born to an unmarried woman in 2016. This is not inherently bad, but trying to care for a child as well as hold a job is quite difficult, resulting in children from single-parent households being four or more times as likely as children from married-couple families to live in poverty. Some of these people deserve to be helped without a doubt, but the majority of these single parents simply made the avoidable mistake of having a child before properly situated, which the average taxpayer should not have to clean up after. The social safety net should only be designed to help those who cannot help themselves, not designate the government as an antidote to bad decisions. If anything, governmental measures should focus on cheaper preventative programs rather than expensive cleanup. The solution to the government being short on funds and running a $898 billion deficit is not borrowing money or taxing more— it is cutting or reforming unnecessary and wasteful government programs. The top 20% of income earners are already contributing almost double their “fair share,” and just because they will not “miss the money” as much as those with less does not make it moral to take more from them than necessary to support burdensome and inefficient programs— or to create new ones. Redistributive programs can have negative long term economic effects outside of the short term “lets help people,” and expecting those who are better situated to burden the problems of those who can certainly help themselves is hardly a morally good course of action.
Ryan is a sophomore Political Science major with a minor in Law, Justice and Society.