Column: Trump denounces socialism. But does he really understand it?
As inequality worsens and support behind socialist policy grows, the only thing standing in the way of progress is an out-of-touch government.
Feb. 13, 2019
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
Bryce Kolk is a freshman journalism major at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.
Socialism has long been a dirty word in American politics. The word itself can evoke images of Marx, Lenin or a military parade through downtown Pyongyang, North Korea. But demystifying the term can go a long way toward progress.
In the State of the Union address last Tuesday, President Donald Trump gave a wholehearted denunciation of socialism. He insisted that “America will never be a socialist country.”
Sure, it leads to dystopian thought — breadlines through Manhattan, or a Guevara-inspired armed insurgency in Washington. But this is fantasy.
Key figures in the Democratic party have begun embracing socialist policies. Calls for a single-payer health care system or tuition-free college have resonated through large swathes of voters. It’s becoming mainstream to favor socialist policy.
A seemingly impossible 70 percent of Americans support a single-payer health care system, according to a Reuters poll. In addition, a majority, 52 percent, of Republicans support this “socialist” policy that’s been condemned by Republican legislators.
The same Reuters poll also found that 60 percent of Americans support tuition-free college.
Americans want socialized medicine and socialized education, not socialism. The merits of these proposals can be debated, but it’s clear there is a mainstream appetite for reform in America.
We need to provide ourselves with some international perspective, first.
America is the only large, rich country without a universal health care system, according to The Economist. Unless we’re going to call every successful country socialist, we need to reevaluate.
We also spend more than any other country in the world on health care per capita, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Our spending as a proportion to our GDP also leads the world. Since 2000, that number has risen steadily from 12.5 percent to 17.2 percent in 2017.
Our healthcare system is broken and getting worse. So, too, is our educational system.
American university students spend more than any country in the world on tuition. Americans also owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, according to Forbes. It’s a crisis by any measure.
More generally, we can look to the GINI coefficient, a measure of economic inequality, to see if everyone in America is struggling in the same way. The U.S. is the 59th most unequal country, according to a World Bank ranking of 158 countries. Countries with these “socialist” policies fair much better, with Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden considered some of the most equal societies in the world.
It makes sense why all the talk around income inequality scares Trump. He has a net worth of $3.1 billion and is among the richest people in America, according to Forbes.
Making society fairer means taxing Trump and his brand of elites.
It’s a moment of crisis in America, as economic inequality worsens. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans control 38.6 percent of wealth. The poorest 90 percent control just 22.8 percent. We are the richest country in the world, yet the average American is still burdened by health care costs, student debt and fallout from a decade old recession.
These modest proposals would not transform America into a communist banana republic, as Trump would have you believe. Something more akin to Swedish or Danish welfare capitalism could be on the horizon.
Elites may try to convince you that social welfare programs are un-American. They may allude to imagery of Cuban revolutionaries, or Venezuelan instability. But if it’s un-American to provide insulin to diabetics and housing to the homeless, I’m not sure I’m comfortable being their version of an American.