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Commentary: Despite Stewart’s fears, nobody is calling for Soviet-style socialism here

FILE - In this April 3, 1989 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro and his brother, Defense Minister Gen. Raul Castro, left, escort Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev during a welcoming ceremony at the airport, in Havana, Cuba. In the heyday of Soviet aid to Cuba, the socialist state was a paternalistic presence that provided modest but comfortable lives to virtually everyone on the island. But life in Cuba changed dramatically after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 resulting in a crisis known as the Special Period. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Rep. Chris Stewart is so afraid of socialism! Quick, a caucus to exorcise this ideology straight from the pits of hell.

He correctly points out the failures of socialism in the old USSR, Cuba and Venezuela. What’s new? He then writes that modern American socialists – scary characters such as Bernie and AOC — often point to Canada and Scandinavia as examples of successful socialist policies. He also writes that Canada and the Nordics rank high in terms of economic freedom, sometimes even higher that the U.S.

And then comes the zinger: “Clearly economic freedom is key to their generous social safety nets.”

Thank you Mr. Stewart. Bernie could not have said it any better.

No Democratic politician advocates for a Soviet-style planned economy. But they all mention over and over again the very countries that Stewart acknowledges as having a high degree of economic freedom combined with a generous social safety net. One does not exclude the other. The U.S. economy was doing very well when top marginal tax rates hit 90 percent.

While there has been a large exodus of people from Cuba and Venezuela, there is no such stampede out of Canada or Denmark. The very wealthy in those countries could live anywhere, yet almost all of them stay put and pay very high taxes. There is still plenty left over for them to fulfill their dreams.

They also take pride in the fact that their societies rank at the very top on almost every social and economic measure, thanks to a strong consensus that this outcome is preferable to a dog-eat-dog society where the very rich hoard an increasing share of the national wealth and income.

Denmark is not the U.S. And that’s OK. But there is a reason why the idea of democratic socialism finds growing acceptance among younger Americans. While the U.S. is still a very successful and innovative economy, increasing numbers of Americans are excluded from that economy.

The recent government shutdown starkly illustrated that point. One missed paycheck, and tens of thousands of hard working people line up at food banks and fear losing their homes. Denmark has one of the most flexible labor markets in the world. You can be fired within five minutes, yet nobody has to fear losing everything. Society makes sure you can live in your home, receive health care and needed training to find another job.

Nobody, least of all the economy, benefits when people go bankrupt or become homeless. Health care costs are the number one reason for personal bankruptcy in the U.S. Student loans are now bigger than car or credit car debts. Ten percent of the population owns 75 percent of all the wealth, and yet they clamored for even more tax cuts.

Nobody says everybody has to be equal or that being rich is immoral. But we have reached a point where a few thousand extremely wealthy individuals and families dictate, through our corrupt campaign finance system, how the country is run for their own benefit.

We kicked out the old British aristocracy that was based on lucky genes and landed estates only to replace it with a new aristocracy based on … lucky genes and political contributions.

Stewart deliberately muddies the waters by connecting American democratic socialists to failed non-democratic socialist states that are very far removed from Canada or Denmark. He wants to maintain the status quo and keep his donors happy with constant tax cuts and subsequent cuts to social programs.

Everybody who dares to point out that such policies are actually counterproductive to a healthy economy is vilified as a socialist who admires Venezuela. Stewart’s donors hide behind his comments.

Thomas Fritz

Thomas Fritz is a fee-only financial planner who lives in Sandy.

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