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The myth of democratic socialism


Stewart Epstein is a retired sociology and social work professor who taught at West Virginia University, Slippery Rock University and SUNY-Brockport. He recently announced his 2020 candidacy for the U.S. Congress in western New York. He lives in Rochester, NY. 

I believe that the new “Democratic Socialist” members of the U.S. Congress, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have their hearts in the right place, but not their heads.

Like them, I too believe that our federal government should do more and spend more to help make the lives of our citizens better, just like all of our traditional allies do. However, there has never been a truly “socialist” economy in the history of the world that was ever able to produce enough wealth to meet most of the survival needs of its citizens. It has never worked. It is foolish to call yourself a socialist—you’re giving conservatives a new insult and put-down  to hurl at you. The fact is that, in true socialism, the “means of production” are owned by all of the people. In other words, in true socialism all of the businesses and workplaces are owned and run by the people and for the good of all of the people. They are not privately owned by individuals and groups. In true socialism, we are not totally equal in terms of how much we get paid, but we would be much, much more equal than we are now. In true socialism, there would not be billionaires and people sitting on tens of millions. We would share what we have. Those who call themselves “democratic socialists” are actually Democrats who believe that we should spend more than we do on social programs that help people. They don’t advocate replacing our capitalist economic system with true socialism. They support our capitalist system but want a capitalist economic system that has more spending on social programs to help people. Our allies are also not true socialists.

A lot has been said about newly elected Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to tax the income of those earning more than $10 million per year by 70%. The problem is that rather than income, we need to start taxing wealth—income plus the dollar value of everything that you own. That’s where we can get enough revenue to pass a Canadian-style national health insurance program to cover and greatly help 99% of Americans (except for the richest 1%). That’s where we can get the revenue for our President and Congress to declare a “War on Cancer.” Most people have no idea how much wealth there is in this country. What I am proposing is that we pass a “national wealth tax” of 10% on all individuals who have a net-wealth and net-worth of $10 million and higher. This will bring in more money than what Ocasio-Cortez is proposing. Many times more revenue. In addition, on July 31, 2018, USA Today endorsed the passage of a National Wealth Tax. My tax would raise enough revenue that we could also pass a “Good Jobs for all Americans” bill in which the federal government would guarantee and  give a decent-paying job to every American. Instead of raising the minimum wage, the government would supplement it to bring the jobs up to a decent, livable wage-level. No one who worked would be poor or near-poor.

It is possible that we might have a much more equal and a truly “socialist” society one day, if that is our desire. But that day is thousands of years in the future. We will have to evolve and transform spiritually, emotionally and mentally into much more loving, caring and altruistic human beings before we are ready for that. Right now, we are simply too individualistic, too selfish, too self-centered, and too self-absorbed for it to work.


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