American views on economics is extremely strange for those who have spent a reasonable amount of time outside of the country. Growing up in Britain, my sense of what was economically "sane" ranged from democratic socialism to moderately deregulated capitalism.
The Labour Party has always stood for more government regulation, greater redistribution of wealth, and more central control over the economy. The Conservatives have always stood for a watered down version of that with less restraint on big business and lower taxes for the wealthy. Neither party would ever run against socialized health care or attempt to destroy the welfare state. Is generally agreed upon in the UK that the welfare state is a good thing, and the government has a role in regulating and curbing the behavior of giant corporations.
In America, the debate on economics is, for lack of a better word, completely insane. The average American hears the word "socialism" and immediately thinks of Stalinist Russia or North Korea. America is a self identified capitalist country, and anything other than slavish devotion to the free market is regarded heresy. When left wing politicians like Bernie Sanders dare to mention the word, the entire right wing media system and propaganda machine goes into overdrive labeling it unworkable madness based on fantasy economics.
Take for example, this extraordinary piece published today in Tucker Carlson's right wing outlet 'The Daily Caller'. Associate Editor Virginia Kruta attended a rally for Democratic congressional candidate Cori Bush where Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke, and walked away terrified at "how easy it would be to accept the notion that it was the government’s job to make sure that those things were provided." She wrote:
But then Ocasio-Cortez spoke, followed by Bush, and I saw something truly terrifying. I saw just how easy it would be, were I less involved and less certain of our nation’s founding and its history, to fall for the populist lines they were shouting from that stage.
- I saw how easy it would be, as a parent, to accept the idea that my children deserve healthcare and education.
- I saw how easy it would be, as someone who has struggled to make ends meet, to accept the idea that a “living wage” was a human right.
- Above all, I saw how easy it would be to accept the notion that it was the government’s job to make sure that those things were provided.
I watched as both Ocasio-Cortez and Bush deftly chopped America up into demographics, pointed out how those demographics had been victimized under the current system, and then promised to be the voice for those demographics. The movement, Ocasio-Cortez shouted, “knows no zip code. It knows no state. It knows no race. It knows no gender. It knows no documented status.”
Bush, after saying her piece, noted that she had been careful to allow speakers from across all demographics to make it clear that she was not running to represent just one particular group, but all.
I left the rally with a photo — in part to remind myself of that time I crashed a rally headlined by a socialist, but also in part to remind myself that there, but for the grace of God, go I.
Ocasio-Cortez's Democratic Socialism is roughly inline with most left wing parties in Europe, many of which are in power or have held power in recent times. She believes in a single-payer health care system, tuition-free college for all American citizens, banning private prisons, and a living wage for all. These are all standard issues in almost every other industrialized nation on earth, other than America where citizens have no notion at all that their government has the power to ensure their jobs pay enough money to live on. According to Kruta, this is "terrifying" and a break from the traditions of America that apparently stipulate free market capitalism is an immutable law that no one can do anything to change.
Kruta obviously isn't very well versed on economics and clearly has no idea how her country works. If she did, she would know that America is a socialist country -- that the government works actively to redistribute wealth upwards to the rich and powerful by handing them giant tax cuts and bailing them out when the economy turns to shit. The Wall Street bailout in 2008 should have cleared any misconceptions up about how the US government works, but Fox News and the right wing media have spent millions of dollars peddling pseudo-economic nonsense to disguise the fact that America is a socialist country for the ultra wealthy.
What Kruta is opposed to isn't welfare, she is opposed to welfare for poor people. Either that, or she genuinely doesn't understand how American capitalism actually works. Ocasio-Cortez is at least being honest when describing her economic philosophy -- she is saying outright that the government should redistribute money, that it has an obligation to curtail the destructiveness of market capitalism and that taxes should be used to pay for things like education and health care.
To think of those things as being extreme or 'un-American' is a product of right wing economic mythology that has promoted a widely debunked form of capitalism that no one has ever practiced, anywhere, at any point in history. American style capitalism exists only in the dreams of intellectuals and TV personalities who are paid handsomely to promote it. Kruta's job at The Daily Caller depends on her believing in this magical thinking, even to the point where she would apparently sacrifice her own children's well being. Should she lose her job and be unable to gain employment in a difficult economy, the America she believes in would leave her and her children starving on the side of the street in the name of freedom. Of course no one hopes this happens to her, but she should at least show some gratitude for those fighting for a country that would ensure it couldn't.