by Anne Schlafly Cori, Chairman, Eagle Forum
Every generation needs to learn the lessons of socialism. It sounds so good; doesn’t everyone want free stuff? The young Bernie Sanders voters are particularly captivated by socialism. These little socialists like the promise of plenty and equality. Santa Claus brings everyone free health care, free child care, free education, and free housing. The bitter lessons of socialism that were evident during the Cold War with the Soviet Union are unknown to anyone born after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Some think that socialism must have failed because those communist leaders did not do a good job. The communists and socialists of the 20th century did succeed; they succeeded in destroying people, cultures, economic systems, and governments. We must teach these powerful lessons to the new little socialists who do not read history.
The definition of socialism is the abolition of private property. The government owns you and you own nothing. The new face of socialism is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has actually said that she wants to abolish profit. Our socialist poster girl parlayed her new fame into a photo shoot with fancy clothes and shoes, which does not seem fair to those who cannot afford expensive clothes. But why does she not want that clothing designer to profit from her hard work and creativity? Because Alexandria wants free stuff.
The appeal of socialism is to publicly declare their own virtue to prove that they care more about people. The new little socialists are obsessed with two four-letter F words: Free and Fair. These warm and fuzzy words belie reality because freedom is never free and government should not try to guarantee outcomes.
Who decides what is fair? As George Orwell said in Animal Farm: some pigs are more equal than other pigs. Certainly, the pigs in control will always get more than their fair share. Should we trust government to mandate fairness? People may say they want fairness and equality for others, but socialist leaders always demand a higher standard for themselves. Who pays for free? As Margaret Thatcher said, “you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Instead, socialism hurts those it purports to help. Poverty is always much greater under socialism than capitalism.
Socialists proclaim that they want to reduce inequality, but is inequality a bad thing? Would we be happier if we were all the same? For example, should we reduce inequality in athletics? We like athletes who achieve with skill and performance. The workforce is similar and we should pay more for better performance. Socialists respond that capitalism is not a fair distribution of revenues and complain that it is not right that some people earn so much more than the minimum wage. Socialists believe that government bureaucrats should decide what is fair instead of consumers with their pocketbooks.
If you have no job, then raising the minimum wage does not help you get a job. What if raising the minimum wage results in your job being automated? Everyone needs a first job and no one knows anything on his first job. I got my first job at age 16 and I am grateful for a first boss who taught me how to be an employee. Unfortunately, fewer teenagers are getting jobs today — for some jobs, the minimum wage pay rate is too high for a brand-new teenage employee, who always needs much more training and oversight. Raising the minimum wage to $10 or $15 per hour does not make a potential employee into a better worker, because he still has to show up and learn the job first.
Today, the average time a worker spends at one job is four years. Any time a worker tries a new field or a new job, the employer must consider how much time and cost will be spent on training. If the government mandates a wage scale that does not make economic sense for the employer, then no one will be hired. Cities that have dramatically raised the minimum wage have seen businesses close or move, plus an increase in unemployment rates.
The corollary to a minimum wage is a maximum wage, which is a ceiling on how much a person can earn. Socialists think that pay inequality is bad. The maximum wage is usually enforced by taxation. One reason Ronald Reagan became a conservative was the maximum wage imposed on him during his Hollywood years; his accountant told him to work only two months out of the year, because anything he earned in the other ten months would all go to the IRS. So Reagan limited his work and income rather than have his compensation go to the IRS. People want the fruits of their own labor.
Minimum Guaranteed Income
Allegedly, providing a minimum income to everyone would provide “dignity.” The opposite is true; we gain dignity by our own accomplishments, not by what is given to us. Do you get more satisfaction from a job well done or from cash in your pocket? It is not the cash, but the sense of accomplishment that satisfies. Why work if government will pay you? Certainly, a key reason to work is to have money, but it is always better to choose work that we like to do. Many people choose lower paid jobs because they have a passion for that particular work. If everyone in the U.S. had an allowance from the nanny state that paid for the basic necessities, then why would anyone ever try to achieve? People should be motivated to make their lives better.
Everyone has known a co-worker who slacked off. Guaranteeing a job for everyone instead guarantees that workers are not motivated to be productive. If you cannot be fired, then why exert yourself to produce? The guaranteed jobs that exist in European countries have resulted in high unemployment among the youth as older workers stick with safe secure jobs rather than try something new. The ability to change jobs and change careers is a benefit to the economy because choosing work is part of pursuing happiness.
Most college degrees are not worth the costly paper diploma, but today college is expensive because government is involved. As long as taxpayers are funding college tuition, then colleges will raise tuition to feather their own nests. If Bernie Sanders could make college free for all, then what would happen to education? Would the quality of education improve? Would you be able to choose your major or would quotas be set for each major?
College is not for everyone and nor should we insist that everyone go to college. Today, 41 percent of students who start college do not finish and graduate. Would making college free increase the number of dropouts? Yes, because the students would not have a personal, financial stake in the game. Free has no value. When students put their own money and sweat equity into getting a degree, then they value the degree much more. Erasing college debt would only create a new entitlement program. To work hard and achieve goals that earn money because others value what you offer is what makes for a happy and productive society.
Medicare For All
If college is free, then health care and child care should be free too. If the services are offered for free, then the pay to providers cannot be high — unless, of course, taxes are raised. Smart people choose professions that pay a good wage. They do not have to go into medicine; they can choose other fields with better pay. If the government mandates “fairness”, then all doctors and all patients are the same. Free health care will result in the bare minimum of care for everyone. Free health care means bureaucrats would make all health care decisions.
China has a severe health care crisis because it is free. Their cradle-to-grave socialized medicine has resulted in long lines for basic services, bad medicine because there is no consumer accountability, plus rampant corruption for elites who can pay extra and jump the line. “Free and fair” health care is non-existent under China’s socialist system.
Free child care and paid family leave have the same funding problems of free health care, plus the added mistake of entrusting bureaucrats to raise the next generation.
We do not have to go back to the ancient history of the Soviet Union to see the tragic consequences of socialism; the evidence is in Venezuela today. Socialism was used as a means to acquire power. Socialist Hugo Chávez was elected in 1998 and immediately threw out the constitution so he could have full power.
In the United States, unlike most of the rest of the world, we can buy and sell property because our contracts can be enforced with the rule of law. The U.S. protects economic freedom for every individual. Our Constitution gives us the opportunity to engage freely in any business, trade, occupation, or profession, plus the right to own private property and the right to enter into contracts that will be enforced. Only a nation that enjoys economic freedom can enjoy political freedom. Only if we are secure in the ownership of our property and the right to choose our occupation, then do we have the liberty to speak out and vote without fear of having our livelihood confiscated.
These rights do not exist in Venezuela. Venezuela is an extraordinarily rich country with more oil reserves than any other country, yet today the country is bankrupt with terrible food and medicine shortages. Venezuela is importing oil because they no longer have the capability to get their own oil out of the ground.
Hugo Chávez started with such promise that the New York Times wrote in 2012: “Since the Chávez government got control over the national oil industry, poverty has been cut by half, and extreme poverty by 70 percent. College enrollment has more than doubled, millions of people have access to health care for the first time and the number of people eligible for public pensions has quadrupled.”
Just six years later and the country is a catastrophe. It seems 21st-century socialism has not worked any better than 20th-century socialism.
The Venezuelan economy has been cut in half since 2013 and unemployment is 30 percent. Basic items like baby formula and toilet paper cannot be found on store shelves. With the loss of economic freedom has come the loss of political freedom. Venezuela has hyper-inflation, so the government just lopped off the last three zeros on the money — which then leads to more inflation. In capitalism, the economic pie gets bigger and people are lifted out of poverty — so much so that the poverty definition gets moved upwards. In socialism, the economic pie gets smaller and people are reduced to poverty. Since everyone is equal and everything is fair and the very few things available are free, are the Venezuelans must be happier now?
Socialist policies erode cultural norms, undermine individual responsibility and the rule of law, and create a destructive race to the bottom.
To counter the idea that necessities should be “free” and wages “fair”, ask socialists these questions: Should you be paid the same as your co-worker who does not complete his work? If you work harder, should you be paid more? If you create a new product, should your work be protected and belong to you? Do you want to be able to choose your medical professional or do you want to just go to the next person available? Ask them to define socialism — if they answer “free and fair” then explain that “free and fair” must be enforced by government power and can only happen with the abolition of private property. Do you want your life to be just the bare minimum or do you want your life to be the very best? The very best of anything is neither free nor fair.
Most people are consumer and results driven, but socialism does not allow for freedom of choice. The socialist world is depressing because no one achieves and successful people are smashed down. Free costs money. The U.S. offers equality of opportunity but equality of outcomes is a recipe for destruction.