By Kadijah Bah
With the presidential election coming up in 2020, the Democratic Party has seen a rise in candidates that refer to themselves as “Democratic-Socialists.” Supporters of the Democratic-Socialist movement, such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have gained a lot of popularity in recent years, especially among younger generations. In a recent Gallup poll, 51% of Americans aged 18-29 had positive feelings about socialism, compared to 45% who felt positive about capitalism. The question remains, is Democratic-Socialism a feasible option for our country? The answer is certainly no.
First, let’s discuss the actual definition of Democratic Socialism. Democratic Socialism defined by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), is a way to make the economy and society run more democratically by looking out for the public’s needs over profit-making. They claim that democracy and socialism go hand-in-hand and want to abolish capitalism in favor of an economy run by a group of elected working-class people or elected government officers.
The problem with abolishing capitalism is that if we were to, many minority groups in America would end up being ignored. We are one of the most diverse nations in the world, with people of various races, ethnicities, religions, and cultures making up our population. If the economy is run by the government or by a group of elected workers, who will ensure that the needs of underrepresented minorities are met? Capitalism allows for private industries to meet the needs of different demographic groups, with profit-making being an incentive to actually provide for these people. The “public’s needs” that the DSA refers to do not include those of the underrepresented minorities.
Another consideration is the power we are taking away from the people. Socialism allows for the government to centrally plan and distribute certain goods. The government can use this to advance their agenda and interests. For example, government officials could distribute goods in a way that favors their supporters over others, which creates more inequality. There would be too much power concentrated in the government, which goes against the basic values of democracy.
The main reason Americans, in particular, are opposed to socialism the increase in taxes it comes with. The United States has prided itself on our fairly low tax rates, with 37% being the highest income tax rate this year. In various European countries that support many socialist programs, their highest income tax rates reach over 50%. For example, Finland, which has free higher education, various social welfare programs, and universal healthcare, has 58.3% as their highest income tax rate this year. The stark increase in tax rates that would arise if we followed in Finland’s footprints is alone a big reason why many American taxpayers would be against socialism, despite many younger Americans viewing it positively.
Even with an increase in federal income tax rates, the reality is that it still wouldn’t be enough for the government to completely fund these socialist programs. Then, we would be adding to the national debt by spending more than we are raising. The more national debt we accumulate, the higher the net interest we must pay each fiscal year will be. This leaves even less money for these programs and for other programs the U.S spends on in the future. In addition, our generation will be the one left with the task of fixing the ever-increasing national debt. As nice as “free” higher education and “free” universal healthcare may sound, especially to younger Americans, the reality is that many more problems arise that will negatively affect our future.
There is a logical reason as to why we have never had any socialist party run the country. There have been attempts, especially considering the pressures we’ve faced from nearby countries, but it just isn’t possible. We are a nation run on capitalistic values, and almost every aspect of American culture is built upon the freedom we have in our economy, so to assume that these values would suddenly cohere with a socialist economy is unreasonable.
As someone who politically identifies with the Democratic Party, the values of social and economic equality that the party holds are very important to me. However, the value of individual freedom is something I consider much more important. We should not compromise our independence in any way for what socialists perceive to be equality. Bernie Sanders has said that his definition of Democratic Socialism is “a vibrant democracy”, but what he fails to realize is that Socialism creates the exact opposite of this definition. I agree that we need to create a more vibrant, intersectional democracy where everyone feels they are represented and treated fairly, but the best way to do this is by keeping the economy primarily in the hands of all citizens.