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Ronald Reagan led the opposition to Medicare in the early 1960s.

The GOP Wants 2020 To Be A Referendum On Socialism — I Say Bring It On!

Every time the Democratic Party has passed a progressive reform that benefits the poor and middle class, the GOP has raised the scary specter of “socialism.” When Franklin Roosevelt saved capitalism from itself during the 1930s with needed reforms such as Social Security and the minimum wage, America’s billionaire class accused him of being a communist. A front group for America’s wealthiest citizens described the New Deal in the following inflammatory language: “There can be only one Capital — Washington or Moscow. There can be only one flag, the Stars and Stripes, or the red flag of the godless union of the Soviet. There can be only one national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner or the Internationale.”

Approximately thirty years later, a washed up actor named Ronald Reagan was hired by the American Medical Association to oppose Medicare. Reagan not only predicted that passage of Medicare would be the end of freedom in America but he also accused John F. Kennedy of being a Marxist. In a 1960 letter to Richard Nixon, Reagan described Kennedy in the following terms: “One last thought — shouldn’t someone tag Mr. Kennedy’s bold new imaginative program with its proper age? Under the tousled boyish haircut is still old Karl Marx — first launched a century ago. There is nothing new in the idea of a Government being Big Brother to us all. Hitler called his ‘State Socialism’ and way before him it was benevolent monarchy.”

The next major expansion of health care after the passage of Medicare in 1965 was the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obama Care in 2010. Once again, the radical right falsely described a progressive reform aimed at helping the American people in apocalyptic terms. The ACA was routinely described by the GOP as a so-called “government take over” even though a significant portion of the expansion of health insurance was delivered by private health insurance companies. Obama Care was described by disgraced former Fox News entertainer Bill O’Reilly as socialism, free stuff, income redistribution and capitalism versus socialism.

This tired talking point is being raised again by the GOP in the 2020 election cycle since every Democrat running for president favors expanded health care and educational opportunity. However, what is seldom discussed by the so-called “liberal mainstream media” (and never discussed by the GOP) is that Trump and the D.C. Republicans are the ones who support socialism. What they support is socialism for the wealthy. That’s why I welcome a debate over socialism in this election cycle.

Trump’s $28 billion farm bailout is a classic example of the GOP’s version of socialism. The cost of the program is double the cost of the successful Obama auto rescue and (no surprise) the lion’s share of the money is going to wealthy farmers. According to the Department of Agriculture, approximately 54% of the assistance is going to the top 10% of farmers. Moreover, the top 1% of the farm aide recipients received an average of more than $183,000 each while the bottom 80% of farmers received less than $5,000 a piece, on average. And $67 million in free stuff was actually doled out to a Brazilian owned company. You can’t make this stuff up!

The biggest welfare queens of all are in the fossil fuels industry. According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, American fossil fuels companies grab approximately $20 billion per year in direct subsidies from the taxpayers. Over time, the welfare payments to the fossil fuels industry have amounted to a whopping $649 billion. According to Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman: “Without these subsidies, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would still be investing in fossil fuels.” In other words, the oil and coal industries would collapse in the absence of the GOP’s ongoing generous welfare programs.

The fossil fuels companies aren’t the only hogs feeding at the taxpayer’s trough. Thanks to the failed 2017 Trump tax cuts, 91 corporations are paying zero corporate taxes. The effective tax rate for U.S. corporations is now a miniscule 7%. That same 2017 tax bill also allowed the U.S. billionaire class to pay a lower tax rate than the middle class.

The GOP’s socialism for the rich and corporations isn’t free — it’s a very, very expensive welfare program. According to Common, the cost of all corporate welfare payments at all levels of government costs the average American family $6,000.00 per year. According to Common “The $6,000 figure is an average, which means that low-income families are paying less. But it also means that families (households) making over $72,000.00 are paying more than $6,000 to the corporations.”

It’s time for us Democrats to welcome a debate over so-called “socialism” in the context of our values and those of the modern GOP. We believe that government can make life better for the poor and the middle class. And history demonstrates that our progressive reforms have improved the quality of life for millions of Americans. Between the two of them, Social Security and Medicare have reduced the poverty rate among the elderly from 50% to 9%. Obama Care insured 20 million additional Americans and created pre-existing condition protections.

In contrast, the radical right doesn’t believe it is a legitimate function of government to spend money on the middle class, the sick, the poor and the elderly. They just don’t believe in it. Instead, the D.C. Republicans believe that rich people don’t have enough money and that the poor and middle class have it too easy. Trump has already said that he will cut Social Security and Medicare if he is re-elected this year.

Let’s set forth our contrasting visions this year. We Democrats support the people. In contrast, the D.C. Republicans believe in socialism for the wealthy and rugged capitalism for everybody else. I say let’s have a referendum on socialism this year! Bring it on! We can win this debate and election!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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