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Caseythoughts We've been hearing an innocuous-sounding phrase recently in this 'off-year' election cycle, and I felt it was time to examine it. The phrase is 'democratic socialism', and it took root years ago, but began to bloom, if you must use that imagery, in the campaign of Bernie Sanders in 2016.

It is first important to note that Bernie Sanders is not a member of the Democratic party; he is an 'independent' Senator representing Vermont, and proudly bears the badge of Socialist since his first election in the Green Mountain State.

This banner has been picked up by up and coming newcomers to American politics this year who are convinced that the Democratic party must execute a 'hard-left' turn in its policies and proposed programs to enhance its visibility, actually promote programs which differ from their counterparts and win in November 2018, and beyond to the presidential election of 2020. They are convinced that the traditional ideas of the Democratic party are obsolete and cannot defeat the Republicans, thus, proposals for socialism and its best known philosophy (read: giveaways).

I'm not the only observer to note that Sanders' supporters in 2016 expressed some of the same sentiments (disgust with the status quo, to name one) as Trump supporters, and I think some of them, disenchanted with Clinton, may have actually voted for Trump. I will admit to once sending a small donation to a local leftist who, no doubt, supports this idea of 'democratic socialism', when he was running for Assembly, just because he was so totally against the status quo in Albany and might actually shake things up, even though I disagreed with practically everything he stood for (and he still advocates on a local town board). I found his politics wretched, but recognized that something had to be done to challenge the criminal doings of Sheldon Silver (which came out a few years later).

So, you have a group of angry, disappointed Sanders supporters who feel much like George McGovern supporters did at the 1972 Democratic convention (when they felt cheated out of California primary delegates), and are ready to march to take over the control of government in the name of 'the people' and espouse such whacked ideas as a 'Universal Basic Income' (UBI) and socialized medicine (AKA Medicare for All). In case you think that I am throwing mud at a minuscule minority, it might give you pause to learn that several recent national polls have found that over 30% of our under 35 population thought socialism was a 'good idea'. It would be even more frightening if the under 35s in America actually had any solid idea of what socialism means, and what it has done to more than a few countries and millions of people suffering through the 20th and 21st century under 'democratic socialism'.

First, the Universal Basic Income idea. If you've not run across this concept, it is arguably simple: Every man, woman and child in America gets a check for a given amount each year from Uncle Sam. Everybody gets the same amount, regardless of their other income, which must make Marx and Castro smile up from their socialist graves. You get the money because you're American, right? Amounts proposed have ranged from $5000 to $12,000, and like the popular '50s TV show The Millionaire, there are no strings, no Catch-22---spend it any way you please.

Now, in its original form, it was conceived as a replacement for many of the ineffective and wasteful government programs; it could certainly replace unemployment insurance and food stamps with obvious savings. At its upper end proposal amounts, it could also pay for health insurance if the market were opened up to a wider range of choices. Remember, a family of four would receive $20,000 at the low end of the proposal, and $48,000 at the high end, each year. But, apparently, our young democratic socialists have decided to drop the connection to wasteful programs: they just want to divvy up the tax receipts and turn it back to 'the people', those who don't pay taxes as well as those who do. One point to remember is that corporations pay the majority of the taxes paid each year in our country, dwarfing individual tax payments. Look it up.

Rich or poor, you get a check. Sounds great, huh? Spend it any way you like. It sounds like everybody getting a 'refund check', and it could turn into a spending orgy. Until the money runs out. We couldn't print more money like the government (which Venezuela is currently doing, but more on them in a moment). To the 'rich', $500 or even $12,000 may not seem like much, but if we're all democratic socialists we're all equal, right?

Has this been tried, or is it just an academic exercise? Finland actually tried it last year, but after the initial pilot program they decided to suspend it, expressing doubts. Remember that the Scandinavian countries are, for the most part, cradle-to-grave socialist leaning anyway, so socialist ideas are not too far a cry from their present system. Pilot programs have been tried in Canada, the Netherlands, Scotland and Iran with admittedly mixed results. There has been a pilot program started in Oakland, California, and Stockton, CA is about to test a program that gives low-income residents $500 a month. Stanford University is also beginning a research program on the idea.

The cost? If we instituted it at $1000 a month per capita, on a national level it would cost $3.9 trillion (yes, trillion) dollars a year, which happens to be about the current expenditure of the entire US government (including debt, which currently is about $20 trillion, not counting unfunded mandates). How would we pay it? Three guesses, and the first two don't count: the simple answer, according to our democratic socialists, is just to raise taxes on income (for the middle and upper class, of course: what the government gives it can also take away, I guess), taxes on carbon (in otherwords, any energy you use which isn't solar or wind generated), estate taxes, pollution taxes, etc.

Fits right into the classic Marx model of socialism, doesn't it? Tax, tax, tax. Income taxes in Europe (where unemployment, just to give one figure, averages eight to ten percent) can run upwards of 90%, the average being around 60%. Here in America, the average working class stiff has an effective rate of about 15%, and we seem to be doing pretty well, still financing a trillion dollar budget as the richest country in the world. Should we look at a limited program of money handouts in return for limited ending of certain outlandish and wasteful government programs? Maybe. The fear of giving $5-12000 dollars a year to the addicted and scam artists as well as the perpetually unemployed may be overblown. A limited program in Liberia showed that the 'giveaway' went mostly to subsistence and legitimate enterprise. Interesting.

But, our democratic socialists would never hear of ending programs to support a Universal Basic Income. After all, that would also mean putting more than a few thousand excess unionized government workers out of work as well, placing them in line for the UBI, or at least unemployed for awhile.

How about Medicare for All? This is another cry from the far left. A recent study looking at this idea (and, this writer, being a beneficiary of Medicare, is willing to consider possibilities) poked more holes in the idea than a pound of Swiss cheese. 'Single-Payer' is another way of describing this. You see, another example of changing the name of something to make it more palatable. According to Charles Blahous, at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University (and a former public trustee for Social Security and Medicare from 2010-2015), covering the medical care for every American would cost $32.6 trillion (there's another 't' for you) in the first decade. Even if we doubled everyone's individual and corporate taxes, there still wouldn't be enough money to cover this expense, much less the other trillion or so to keep the federal lights on.

That estimate, by the way, assumes that America's medical providers, hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical manufacturers, would accept Medicare rates which are about 40% lower than the typical charges. With that in mind, is it not surprising that Britain's National Health Service (to name one country which is struggling politically with 'single payer' medical care) is flat broke and decaying? And, Blahous' study is only one of many which find the same or similar results.

And, one more argument on a basic, gut-level response to the young and inexperienced (and frequently non-voting) banner carriers who think that democratic socialism will cure our social ills. I agree that the status quo, the dreary give and take of political argument and the feathered nest thinking that pervades Albany and Washington needs to be rethought and perhaps re-done. The 'old days' of bipartisan leadership are gone. I find myself thinking and wondering what happened to such American political wonders such as Tip O'Neil, Howard Baker, Sam Nunn, Scoop Jackson, Daniel Moynihan, Charles Percy, Frank Church and others who knew how to make things happen in the give and take of politics, caring about their ideals as well as placing their country above partisan crap which is making us sick to our collective stomachs, and giving rise to more and more radical and frightening ideas of 'how to fix it'. The 'lefties' are right: something's got to give, and each day of disgust just gives more ammo (forgive the analogy) to the crazies on both edges of our political spectrum.

But, please, dear advocates of so-called 'democratic socialism': please look at the results of so-called 'people's revolutions' and socialist movements in our current world. Cuba continues on its communist path and its backwardness and lack of individual progress is evident when you recognize that the individual income on a national level is about $35 a month, as decreed by the Havana 'governing politburo'. Everybody gets the same 'basic income', unless you're a bigwig in the communist government. The 'people's revolution' in Venezuela? Venezuela's inflation last month was at a yearly scale of 46,000%. It could go to one million per cent by next year. They are using bank notes as wall paper, or to trim handbags. What was once recognized as one of the richest countries in Latin America (prior to Hugo Chavez' revolution and democratic socialism in 2000) is now a basket case whose borders are now overflowing with refugees escaping their so-called 'democratic socialism', and the socialists in charge are blaming the USA for their destruction.

I wonder how far a 'Universal Basic Income' would go in circumstances like that. Maybe, we need to see that the concept of just giving money away, as well as 'free' medical care, could become the causes instead of the cures for misery.

It can't happen here? Sinclair Lewis said that, in so many words, too. Back about 1935. Find a copy of that classic novel by that name, if you can. Read it and weep. You may find that both political extremes that many are playing with are frightening.

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