The politics of so-called “democratic” socialism can best be described as “Santa Claus economics.”
Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and those ideologically aligned with them routinely tout the high public support for the various cradle-to-grave social programs they support. And they are correct – if you ask people if they want free college, free daycare, free healthcare, etc., they’re probably going to say yes. And that’s hardly surprising. If you polled a group of middle-school aged boys whether or not they approved of a “free Xbox” policy, you’d see similar levels of support. You could also expect to see support fall like a rock if it were funded by an annual $300 allowance tax.
Due to fiscal reality, it’s truly no wonder that socialists routinely frame politics as “the rich vs. the rest of us,” to help give the impression that if only we taxed the rich a little more, all of society’s problems could be alleviated. As I’ve pointed out in another article, even taxing 100% of income above $1 million wouldn’t fund a quarter of Ocasio-Cortez’s agenda. Sanders and Cortez will point to Scandinavia as a shining example of countries that have implemented the sort of policies they desire – but never seem to mention that the bottom income tax bracket in Denmark and Sweden exceeds 30%, and there’s a national sales tax of 25%. (I wonder why!).
Despite how high taxes in America are, we do enjoy low taxes relative to most of the developed world and have a public with a general disdain towards taxation. It’s for that reason that despite all the polls showing the popularity of individual socialist programs, or socialism as a whole (particularly among millennials), I don’t believe Americans are as receptive to socialism as the left would like you to think.
To turn most self-described socialists into capitalists you really only need to ask one question; would you yourself be willing to pay more?
Medicare For All – Popular Proposal, Unpopular Price Tag
According to Ocasio-Cortez, there is 70% support for Medicare for all. Politifact rated her claim “half-true,” noting that polls vary (with some confirming her assertion). But as was reported in the website of the journal Health Affairs:
Claims of broad support for Medicare for All are largely overstated. A great deal of media coverage was devoted to one recent poll in particular, in which 70 percent of respondents (including 52 percent of Republicans) either strongly or somewhat supported providing Medicare to every American. Polls such as these tend to find support for the phrase “Medicare for All,” which crumbles when explained or clarified. For example, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that 62 percent of Americans support Medicare for all, yet only 48 percent prefer the synonymous “single-payer health insurance system.” When respondents were told that it would require increased taxes, only 34 percent still favored Medicare for all. This finding was replicated in a recent Politico/Harvard poll.
Once taxes are brought into the equation, nearly as many people oppose Medicare for all as Ocasio-Cortez boasted support it. Oops.
Paid Family Leave
“Every other major country has family paid leave,” said Bernie Sanders during one of the CNN Democratic Presidential debates, in an attempt to shame America into adopting such a policy. According to one poll, there’s an incredible 75% support for paid family leave, so Bernie certainly planted his flag in a popular issue. And if only he never mentions the cost of such a program, he could have success in advancing it. According to the Washington Times, support falls even more drastically than for Medicare for all once the cost is included.
At $450 in higher taxes every year — the minimum price for a small-scale federal program — fewer than half of Americans support paid family leave. Actual costs would likely run much higher. The Heritage Foundation estimates that a 12-week leave program with benefits equal to 45 percent of pay would cost the typical household $570 in taxes per year. For full wage benefits, the cost soars to $1,300.
Since most Americans don’t want tax hikes of that magnitude, why not pay for the program by cutting spending elsewhere — say, in other entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare? The Cato Institute found even less support — only 21 percent — for that option.
I chose Medicare for all (or “socialized medicine”) and paid family leave as two programs to highlight because they’re the most commonly cited examples of social programs that “every other (advanced) nation already has.” While Bernie would like to paint a narrative that it’s the interests of millionaires and billionaires preventing the government from passing such grandiose programs, it’s American’s own frugality and disdain towards taxes doing that.
Which brings me to my final point…
Most Socialists Don’t Know What Socialism Is
While I’ve been focussing exclusively on polling relating to social program so far, what about claims that millennial support for socialism is rising? According to Gallup, 57% of Democrats and 51% of young people have a favorable view of socialism.
In reality, it’s not necessarily a positive view of socialism that they all share, but a positive view of what they think socialism is. As Tony Mecia noted:
[When] Gallup asked Americans to define “socialism,” The most popular response was “equality” (23 percent). In second place was the traditional definition, “government ownership or control” (17 percent). Providing enhanced benefits and services came in third at 10 percent. Six percent defined socialism as “talking to people” or “being social,” which means 4 out of 10 Americans think socialism is just some form of making nice.
So socialists apparently don’t even know what they believe – which makes sense to anyone that’s ever conversed with one before.