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Will democratic socialism be expanded?

By Staff | Mar 6, 2020

One of the best stories to come out of the Iowa Caucuses had to do with Elizabeth Warren. She, of course, has been promoting cancelling student loans up to $50,000 per person and was offering free college tuition paid by the government. An Iowan approached her after one of her events and told her that his daughter was graduating from college and that due to his saving for her tuition that she would not have any student loans. Warren reportedly told him “God Bless You”. Then he asked his question “Am I going to my money back?” He said that his daughter had worked since she was 10 years old for college and that the family had scrimped, passed on vacations and saved so that she would not be saddled with school loan debt. His question to Warren was, “Am I going to get my money back?” She reportedly answered “of course not”there was no provision to reimburse those who worked hard, saved money and put themselves through college with little or no debt. He responded, “so you are going to pay for people who didn’t save any money and those of us who did the right thing get screwed.” He told her that “his buddy had fun, bought a car, and went on vacations while I saved”. His buddy’s kids get free college and then Warren’s plan would treat the questioner like a smuck.

Work hard do the right thing and get penalized for it. That is how the questioner felt. We are contributing to our grandchildren’s college fund though our state savings program. We just helped pay our granddaughter’s last undergrad tuition payment and she will graduate with a very modest debt that she should be able to handle. She is looking forward to grad school which is expensive. Warren’s plan doesn’t aid wealthy families but my granddaughter would qualify so why should we save? Warren did not have an answer for that, just talked about having to start somewhere. Frankly, we did not have much opportunity to save early in our family for our children when going through the ag depression of the 1980’s so we shared the debt with our kids to make it affordable.

This actually reminds me of something else my grandfather told me. When they first started paying social security it did not include self-employed farmers. They included farmers in 1955. He was shocked to get a check from the government from a social program that he, farmers, had never paid into. Every month, when he got his social security check, he would take the family out for Sunday dinner, “on the government.” I guess that is where I first learned about socialism. They say there is no ‘free lunch’ but sure there is. I got one once every month going out for Sunday dinner with Grandpa Kruse. I have cashed a lot of LDP, direct payments, ARC and now MFP payments because I am a farmer. I am now drawing social security just like my Grandpa but I did pay in. I have not had the hypocrisy in me to disparage SNAP and Medicaid payments or call anyone a socialist.

I got crop insurance checks from a program that taxpayers subsidize. I had a city friend list off all of the subsidies that farmers get who was insulted that farmers would call anyone one else a socialist. I really didn’t have a good response to that. There is the idea that farmers deserve the money because they work hard and everyone else getting a government check is a bum that is wildly accepted as justification by the farm public. I don’t think that is accurate. I think the taxpayer has benefited from supporting agriculture as part of the cheap food policy.

Warren claims to embrace capitalism and democratic socialism and Bernie is a more devoted to the label “democratic socialist.” Herbert Hoover was a capitalist and FDR was a democratic socialist. Social Security and Medicare were products of democratic socialism and there are many so-called capitalists today who embrace both programs. DJT (Donald J. Trump) is a billionaire socialist who provides a free lunch for the rich, by lowering their tax bill while continuing to spend covering the deficit he created between revenue and spending with debt. That way the rich get the lion’s share of the benefit while the liability is shared by all Americans which ends up as a form of reverse Robin-Hoodism. The debate between ideologues calling each other names is phony. I have not heard capitalists advocating getting rid of social security or Medicare which are the primary vestiges of democratic socialism in the U.S.

The key word for democratic socialism is “democratic”. The U.S. electorate votes for the degree of socialism that it wants and re-elected FDR so often they limited the presidential term. Is the country better or worse off for it today? Let’s put that to a vote. Propose eliminating social security and Medicare and see if you can be elected to office. Bernie and Warren are just taking it to the next level and testing the electorate as to how much socialism that voters are willing to approve.

My grandfather lived in an age when people accepted personal responsibility for themselves. He did not expect social security and would have been fine without it but for many that was not the case. Social Security and Medicare saved people’s lives.

In my opinion we are not arguing over whether we adopt democratic socialism. Both the U.S. and Canada have already done thatjust to differing degrees. The 2020 election will basically let the electorate decide whether U.S. democratic socialism is expanded. I empathized totally with where the guy, who paid his daughters tuition and challenged Elizabeth Warren, was coming from. Not only did he pay his own kid’s tuition obligation but now he would be asked to pay for the others as a taxpayer picking up the tab for student loan forgiveness and tuition costs going forward. He has every right to be angry. I do not think that he will vote for Warrenor Bernie.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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