Don’t be fooled by the promises from Democratic socialist candidates to erase your personal debt. There will be enormous cost to you.
For a politician to eliminate a nation’s personal debt, they will have to take the nation’s wealth and many of its citizens’ personal rights. If a politician is not incredibly specific and clear about where this power ends, everything then becomes subject to their taking and choosing. Even decisions of life and death.
I’m not exaggerating. The lines between the role of the government versus the individual--and in fact the very notion of a government limited in any way—have seemingly fallen completely out of the vernacular of some of the campaigns.
Are any of the presidential candidates reminding the public that the government can’t and shouldn’t be the decisionmaker about everything in a person’s life? I haven’t heard any such guarantee. Do we never hear this reassurance because it is taken for granted, or because it’s no longer a promise our aspiring leaders are willing to keep?
The plans for universal healthcare, universal childcare, and universal education put forth by Senators Sanders and Warren are not offered as options to the public. They are designed to be “universal,” which means the only option. Under their plans, these are services that the government will take over from the market and for which the government will become the sole provider.
Paying for these things to become state-controlled and provided will be enormously costly. Estimates are in the trillions of dollars, and I believe these estimates don’t appropriately account for the long-term.
The plans that candidates have proposed to pay for these services are based on enormous tax increases. The belief is that America’s wealthy individuals and successful businesses can be hit hard to fund most of these things, but it won’t last. This will massively disincentivize success and the wealthy will find ways to either avoid taxes or discontinue growth and creation. Jobs and industries will suffer. Soon enough, the burden of paying these enormous bills will fall largely on the average citizen.
As we see already in Scandinavia and other countries with massive universal social programs, tax rates will easily climb to over 50% of personal income. The majority of the paycheck earned by an individual will go towards funding the government. Agency and control over one’s own life and wealth will become a belonging of the state.
To do these things, fundamental rights uniquely reserved by the American citizen will have to be taken by the government. Plans to redistribute wealth and enact sweeping new social changes like the Green New Deal will mean a trampling of individually held rights, such as property rights. This is the design of socialism. What one owns will not be secure but subject to the goals of the government, and no one will be exempt. Socialism requires complete buy-in to work. There can be no opting out, because socialism takes from some to give to others. Many will not want to be taken from, so it will be done by force. The choice to be a part of the system and the programs it deems necessary will be removed from everyone.
The government grab for more money will quickly and inextricably become a grab for more power and more of an individual’s rights and decisionmaking capability. On this side of universal healthcare et al, we take it for granted that we have the right to choose our medical providers, our children’s education, and our design for fulfilling our own family’s needs. When enacted, these choices will be made for us. If we don’t like the services provided, we will have no other options. If these services are low quality, we will have no direct power to improve them. In this way, we lose significant rights we currently enjoy as consumers in a free market. These rights and this individual power we will lose will never be returned. Once the government steps into a new expansion of its role, it has never and will never step back out.
But it doesn’t end there. The political elite who envision reshaping American society in socialist form also use rhetoric that dives as far as life and death.
At a town hall on climate change last year, Bernie Sanders indicated his government would support "…educating everyone on the need to curb population growth" in the name of environmentalism. More recently, House Democrats rejected a bill that provided life-saving medical treatment to infants who survive abortions. These examples are indicative of yet another step that government politicians will take into the control of our own lives, and this one is truly scary. The government, these politicians are effectively arguing, should be the ultimate arbiter of life and death.
Whether it’s sold as “democratic” to begin with or not, socialism always grows into the same monster. It is the mechanism by which politicians will find a way to put their preferences on every aspect of your life.
Don’t think for a second that socialism stops when your debt is erased. It’s being sold as a quick solution to personal debt and societal safety nets, but socialism will neither fix these issues nor improve our lives. Socialism is a brush fire that will eventually burn through every liberty we currently enjoy as American citizens. Unlimited government grows unstoppably by design. Incrementally, the government--a socialist government--will expand into the role of decisionmaker about every choice you make. Don’t let this snake oil be sold to you at the ballot box; it is truly toxic.
Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in American policy in the Middle East.
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