Can we please clear up one thing right now? Next year’s election is not about socialism versus capitalism. It’s about democratic capitalism versus republican capitalism. Nothing better illustrates the difference than Liz Warren’s brilliantly conceived ultra-millionaires tax. It is by far the most interesting policy proposal of this nascent 2020 presidential campaign. In a nutshell, she proposes that the richest one-tenth of one percent of Americans should pay an additional two cents in taxes for every dollar they have – with the first fifty million dollars of their net worth being exempt from the tax. No I’m not kidding. That’s two cents on the dollar with the first $50 million free from any additional taxation. This simple, straightforward proposal would generate nearly $3 trillion in new revenue over the next decade.
Still, within literally seconds there were howls of protest from the Boo-Hoo Billionaires Brigade and their paid apologists whining about what an intolerable burden this would be for them. Socialism, they screamed! Which tells you all you need to know about who we are dealing with here: the greediest pigs on the planet.
Unfortunately for our country, these porcine plutocrats have been running things for practically ever and the results are miserable. Look around. The stock market is high. Productivity is higher. Unemployment is low. Yet most Americans are anxiety ridden wrecks living paycheck to paycheck under crushing debt because their wages have been flat since Ted Turner launched CNN. Where did all the wealth they created go? Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the Great Recession of 2008, you already know the answer. It went to that filthy rich sliver of the population who are now calling Liz Warren a socialist.
You want to know why AOC and the House freshman class of 2019 are so popular? Because for the first time since Watergate, voters are finally woke to the fact that republican capitalism is a no rules, no holds barred, free-for-all shit show that has been rigged for the super rich for years at the expense of everybody else. Admittedly, it took an unapologetic crook in the White House to focus the mind. But make no mistake about it. The country is focused right now. And the old “socialism” trope that failed in 1935 against Social Security, failed in 1965 against Medicare, and failed in 2008 against Obamacare, is going down spectacularly again in 2020. For nearly a century, with overwhelming popular support, democratic capitalism has included two fundamental American values: fairness and compassion. Republican capitalism has no use for either. But don’t take my word for it. Gallup has been polling these same issues for decades. The numbers speak for themselves. The fact that policies central to democratic capitalism -- which are consistently supported by a substantial majority of Americans -- can’t seem to find their way into law is the result of a broken political system, not a divided electorate.
Gore Vidal famously defined capitalism (the republican variety) as, “socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor.” Which brings me back to the new crop democrats who are finding their voices and their footing this year. People, I’m begging you. If you must have a label for a country with a living minimum wage, health care and higher education for all, fair taxes and a clean environment, please just call it “compassionate capitalism” or “democratic capitalism.” Then let Trump’s GOP squabble over which concept they hate the most: compassion or democracy.