By Mike Hodges
Several prominent Republicans are bantering about words like socialism and the lack of a “free market” when describing Democratic candidates’ policy proposals, all the while refusing to acknowledge the harm this president has caused.
First, the definitions.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “socialism” is “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” In other words, “the government owns all.” Meanwhile, that same dictionary defines a “free market” as “an economy operating by free competition.” In essence, that means “no rules”.
Think about that for a few seconds. A totally free market would allow me to own the land next to my neighbor and prohibit his access to water (or a road, a utility, a hospital) on the other side of my land. There would be no “right of way” and no “intrusive” government easements. Political economist Robert Reich put it best in his book “Saving Capitalism.” He wrote “Few ideas have more profoundly poisoned the minds of more people than the notion of a “free market” existing somewhere in the universe, into which government “intrudes.”
No Democratic candidate has called for a takeover of “the means of production and distribution of goods.” What many are proposing is to level the marketplace (a fair market) when needed, and to dispel the lie that all commerce has a fair market.
Let’s talk about some of these policies in the context of the Republican complaints. Some of these policies were universal healthcare, reducing student debt burdens, reversing tax cuts to the top 10 percent, and increasing the minimum wage.
Is healthcare seen as a distribution of goods? If so, what are we bargaining for — a tooth, a leg, a life? Would you describe our federal law prohibiting the Medicare system from negotiating drug prices as a fair market?
Medical care is never free. But the plan we have right now gives $69 billion profit to health insurance companies. Healthcare costs in 2017 alone were $3.4 trillion and climbing every year. I would rather put this money towards a system that covers all individuals. Healthcare is not a market that can be bargained — unless you are willing to put a price on your life.
We have as a nation $1.5 trillion in student debt caused substantially by the reduction in state and federal funding of higher education and the increased number of for-profit schools. In the state of South Carolina, the higher education budget is still $1900 less per student than in 2008. This forces colleges to raise tuition and fees. The funding gap also forces some students to attend for-profit education and/or use under regulated financial institutions, which promise much and deliver little and steal not only money, but education, from emerging generations.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 34 State Attorney’s General, and for-profit ITT Technical Institute are settling a bankruptcy case in which ITT Tech and its financial arm is charged with defrauding students of hundreds of millions of dollars. This is not the first, nor the last, for-profit institution that will use the bankruptcy court system after stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from students. And yet these same students are severely restricted by law from discharging their student debt in a bankruptcy proceeding. This is neither an example of a free nor a fair market. It is more akin to government-imposed tyranny on students.
The best education we can provide for our children and young adults is in our nation’s best interest. In fact, it is necessary for our survival, whether to understand elections, personal finances, education, law, or climate science. Without a vibrant and financially sound next generation we will not have the resources to combat the future. Education will suffer, housing prices will suffer, as will the GDP and our economy, giving us fewer resources to tackle the real issues — like infrastructure and climate change.
Greed and the Federal Deficit
We have all seen the ever-obvious discussions that 86 percent of the last tax cut went to the top 10 percent, and that the rise in the stock market is a trade off to the huge debt we are adding.
Now ask yourself who will have to pay off, or suffer most from, that huge debt burden? Certainly not the 10 percent, based on our unequal pay and tax burden. The middle class is diminishing as the vast numbers of new jobs have less pay and fewer benefits than in the past, and housing is less affordable.
The federal minimum wage hasn’t increased since 2009 as the CEO to worker compensation ratio (2013) is at an all-time high of 295.9. I do not consider it a fair market when minimum wage workers have lost over 17 percent of their buying power over the last 10 years, while CEO pay continues to rise exponentially.
Beyond the Republicans’ disingenuous comments about proposed Democratic policies, what is even more harmful is their cavalier responses to this president’s actions.
There are over 20 solid cases of abuse of women against him, 10 cases of obstruction of justice filed in the Mueller report that are not being prosecuted only because of a Department of Justice memo against indicting a sitting president, numerous examples of his racism, and a total denial of climate change as our area continues to flood to record levels.
Suffice to say that the Republican reaction to the first of the Democratic debates (while ignoring the unmistakable corruption of this administration) seems to point to worries about this election. Maybe they are coming to the realization that it is entitled Republicans who have radically strayed so far from conservative values, replacing them with greed.
Greed is the only way to describe refusing to seat a Supreme Court justice, violating congressional subpoenas, the Supreme Court decision in “Citizens v. United” allowing corporations and wealthy individuals unlimited access to our elected officials, and the $2 trillion in national debt added by the Trump administration’s corporate tax cuts.
Greed is the only explanation for the continuation of oil and gas subsidies as the nation and the world continue to suffer increasingly from climate change, and it is the only explanation for the marked increase in the infant and maternal mortality rate as Republicans continue to close healthcare options.
And, it is the only plausible explanation for their continued silence to the abuses this administration perpetrates on the rights of minorities.
It is time to Take a Stand for America.
Mike Hodges is a former military officer and current airline pilot, and an increasing activist. Married with two grown children and a grandson for whom he would like to help make a better world. Mike is a new member of the HCDP Communications Committee.