The 2016 Presidential Campaign is increasingly appearing like a show down between the socialists and capitalists. During the October 13 Democratic Debate, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and every other candidate, with the possible exception of Senator Jim Webb, in one way or another demonstrated an acceptance of a socialist approach to governing America. In contrast, the Republican frontrunner Donald Trump brags about his wealth and tells the American people that they can become rich too.
Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, has performed far better in the polls than anyone every anticipated, beating the front-runner Hillary Clinton in some states. The Independent Senator from Vermont delivered this message to the debate viewers “And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent —almost —own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.” Sanders also went on to say that socialists have “a vision that’s very different from what the status quo politicians have, and essentially, what it means is that you have a feeling that this world can be radically, radically different from what it is right now, and that what’s going on in front of your eyes is crazy, it’s not real, it’s a phase of history that needn’t exist and that someday will pass.”
As recently as a few months ago, Bernie Sanders was viewed as a highly unlikely candidate because he espoused “radical” viewpoints such as this. However, the public acceptance of socialism has been slowly growing. An April Gallup poll reveals that 52% of Americans believe that the government should “redistribute wealth by placing higher taxes on the rich.” This statistic represents the highest level of support for wealth redistribution since 1940. A June Gallup poll is even more telling with 47% of Americans saying that they would consider voting for a socialist president. This statistic includes 59% of Democrats, 49% of Independents and 26% of Republicans. For the American people, the concept of socialism has translated into “free stuff” including those programs already implemented by President Obama including free cell phones, free internet, “affordable” healthcare, affordable housing in affluent neighborhoods, and most recently, free college. In fact, during the debate, Clinton and Sanders appeared to be competing as to whose “free college” program was better. Ironically Clinton sounded almost like the voice of reason when she made the point that the students should be required to work while receiving the free college because of the value of work.
Spectators watching the debate may have very likely walked away with the impression that the five candidates on the stage thought capitalism was the “evil”. Interestingly enough, Hillary Clinton was the one candidate who delivered a lukewarm defense of capitalism. In response to Anderson Cooper’s question “Is there anybody else on the stage who is not a capitalist?” she replied, “When I think about capitalism, I think about all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and make a good living for themselves and their families. I don’t think we should confuse what we have to do every so often in America, which is save capitalism from itself.” Again, I found myself complementing Hillary Clinton for the second time as she clearly demonstrated that without capitalism, we would not have a thriving small business engine in our country. But of course, her defense of capitalism was undercut by her caveat that we need to “save capitalism from itself”. In other words, capitalism is good because it fuels people to create a source of income but it needs to be saved when it creates “excessive wealth” for any one group or individual.
Why does capitalism need to be saved from itself? Why is it unfair that those who worked hard to generate wealth have more than others, like the current Republican front-runner Donald Trump? Why is it unfair that individuals such as Republican candidate Jeb Bush have acquired some of their wealth through the blood, sweat and tears of their antecedents? Capitalism is defined as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.” The key component of capitalism is that it is fueled by private ownership of wealth. It is the private ownership which is the engine which drives entrepreneurship and income creation. But somehow the left has gotten this wrong and has demonized those who have been successful in creating wealth and lionized those who are the recipients of government funding. Somehow a perception was created that those who have money are obligated to share it with those who don’t. Many people believe that those who have wealth should share it with others. We call that charity. But again, charity is voluntary. If we take away the voluntary component and start mandating that wealth be redistributed, we remove the “gift” from the action.
The concept of wealth redistribution is harmful in that it crushes the motivation of workers and also deprives them of the satisfaction which comes from productive work. It also suppresses competition and breeds complacency. We have seen the manifestation of this complacency with our social welfare programs. Some individuals see social welfare programs as temporary assistance and work hard to become self-sufficient. Others view it as a lifelong entitlement and lose their motivation to get off the “gravy train”. They become a bunch of lotus eaters content to spend their days lying around using their government funded phones and internet.
We all need to feel like we are contributing to the greater whole. We need a competitive economy which rewards hard work, productivity and ingenuity. That’s the ticket to “making America great again.”
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com