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Democratic Socialism Briefly Explained: It’s Not What You Think

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Millersville chapter.

In recent years Republican attacks against Democrats for embracing “evil socialism” has exponentially increased. It first started when President Obama was called a “Marist Communist” and “Fascist” by Fox News despite empirically being one of the most moderate presidents in recent history and a self-described “Moderate Republican.” However, in the past two years, this narrative has become mainstream with the adoption of this story by President Trump and other G.O.P. politicians in all levels of government. They claim that recently elected Justice Democrats, such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and senior politicians such as Senator Bernie Sanders, want to “turn the United States into Venezuelan” and claim that they believe “breadlines are a good thing.” This myth was even perpetrated by President Trump in the last State of the Union where he claimed American would always remain “free” and not a socialist county.

Image courtesy of Google Images

This framing could not be further from the truth as Justice Democrats support “Democratic Socialism” which is more academically known as Social Democracy or the Nordic model. This is far from the authoritarian socialism of Venezuela and the authoritarian communism under Stalin. Social Democracy works to promote freedom and justice by ensuring that everyone is equal under the law and given the same opportunities in regards to education, healthcare, and social opportunities. Moreover, it ensures that everyone is able to live their lives as they see fit without interference from the state or society. It also means that advancement is based on merit and not nepotism or other forms of favoritism. This system has led to some of the happiest, free, and most developed countries in the world.

The United States, on the other hand, has started embracing unfettered capitalism around the age of Ronald Regan which has led to an influx of money in politics, an increase of corruption in the government, a reduction in economic freedoms, and relaxed regulations. Furthermore, it has led to stagnating wages, more outsourced jobs, and a massive increase in income inequality where the top 1% owns as much wealth as the bottom 90%. Progressives believe that reforms in healthcare, education, the environment, the minimum wage, and taxes, along with other adjustments will fix the various problems facing our country. These policies would begin to make our country more aligned with the Nordic Model and thus freer!

The first major reform to increase economic freedom and social justice in our country would be to implement a Medicare For All Single Payer system with no cost at the point of service. Currently under the Affordable Care Act otherwise known as Obamacare, we have a mixture of a public and private healthcare system which improved upon the purely private system, but still has a long way to go. Our healthcare system has double the cost of the average developed country and worse healthcare outcomes in terms of infant mortality and life expectancy. This system still has 27 million uninsured people which causes thousands of deaths each year. Medicare For All would enable every citizen to have quality affordable healthcare and save the American people two trillion in the next decade under the most conservative studies including the Mercatus Center. In addition, it would end the hundreds of thousands of medical bankruptcies each year and allow greater flexibility in employment. This greater flexibility would be due to healthcare being portable and not required by the employer. Employees with families could work at start-ups or jobs that better fit their skills and not have to work at a dead-end job just to have healthcare.       

The second major reform would be College For All which would enable the upward economic movement of a college education to be accessible to everyone. Currently, the collective college debt is 1.5 trillion and the average amount of debt a student owes is $37, 000 in the 2016 graduating year. This burden forces recent graduates to accept any job that will pay well even if it does not fit their skills or preferences which causes economic inefficiencies. It also forces out qualified students with low incomes who might have gone on to a prosperous career into carriers without a future. Likewise, it limits the amount of money a graduate can put into the economy and forces them to put off buying a house and having a family. College For All would allow students to work a part-time job (around 10 hours a week) and receive a high-quality college or trade school education. It would be paid for by the federal and state government along with the student.        

Third, the Green New Deal would work to protect our future by preventing the worse aspects of climate change. Current estimates by the IPCC and our own Federal Government say we have a little under 12 years to act on climate change or face the irreversible effects of climate change. The Green New Deal would completely transition our economy to being carbon natural by 2030. It will involve building smart grids, upgrading current structures to reduce energy usage, and installing solar and wind farms across the country. It would create millions of good paying green jobs and fix the racial inequalities perpetrated in our country. It will provide worker protections, stronger unions, and access to good healthcare and benefits. It will respect the rights of Native Americans and end the practice of taking land by eminent domain for pipelines that will increase the effects of climate change.         

Lastly, a combination of a progressive tax system with an increase in the minimum would help employees and reduce income inequality. Currently, 1.8 million Americans work at or below the minimum wage and much more work slightly above it. At 7.25 an hour with a yearly wage of $15,080 this places a family of two or more under the poverty line in the United States. Couples and families are often faced with the decision of paying for healthcare or rent. They will have to work multiple jobs and yet struggle to survive. Raising the minimum to at least $15 an hour adjusted for region and inflation would allow employees to pay for their basic needs and would also allow more money to flow in the economy. It would also allow for more free time for employees to spend with their families and gain the skills needed for a better job. In addition, the creation of a progressive tax system and specifically a 70 percent tax on the top income bracket would encourage employers to reinvest into their business instead of hoarding the money for themselves which has been happing for decades under supply side economics which is better known as Trickle-down economics or Reaganomics. The tax system would work by adding a bracket at the 10 million mark, at which any dollar made over 10 million a year would be taxed at 70 percent. This does not mean that all their wealth will be taxed at 70 percent. Currently, the U.S. has brackets ranging from 10 percent at $0 to $9,525 to 37 percent at $500,001 or more.               

The United States is at a turning point where we can embrace the propaganda of the Trump administration and the far right or we can work to create just and free social democracy. We can allow America to become a corporate oligarchy or we can fight back. We must stop waiting for hope to arrive and take the future of our country into our own hands. We need to get deeply involved in politics by volunteering and working for great candidates. We need to encourage members of the community to run for office and even run for office ourselves. In the following weeks, I’ll dig deeper into the problems facing our country the solutions it needs.       

Caleb Nauman

Millersville '19

Activist, policy nerd, and political writer.
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