Donald Trump’s economic advisers released a bizarre report attacking socialism yesterday. Socialists can only take one lesson from it: we’re winning.
by Miles Kampf-Lassin
Part 2 - The Ghost of Thatcher
The report frames its critique of socialism by quoting former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s oft-cited claim that “Socialist governments … always run out of other people’s money,” and thus the way to prosperity is for the state to give “the people more choice to spend their own money in their own way.”
It’s appropriate that the authors take the Iron Lady’s words as gospel, since she was similarly distressed by “creeping socialism” and used her time in power to push neoliberal economic policies of deregulation, privatization, and austerity coupled with attacks on voting rights and organized labor.
The ruthless ideology grounding Thatcher’s market-centric economic philosophy, “monetarism,” was revealed by Alan Budd, one of her economic advisers, in 1992 when he called monetarism “a very, very good way to raise unemployment and raising unemployment was an extremely desirable way of reducing the strength of the working classes. So what was engineered there, in Marxist terms, was a crisis of capitalism which recreated a reserve army of labor and has allowed the capitalist to make high profits ever since.”
Such high profits for the super rich are the type of benchmarks the CEA sets for judging economic success. Throughout the report, the authors consistently use “growth” as a marker for how capitalist economies are able to outperform socialist ones. (Never mind that a full 95 percent of income gains in the growth years following the Great Recession — from 2009 to 2013 — went to the top 1 percent.)
Inequality levels in the United States continue to rival those of the Gilded Age, while the racial wealth gap grows ever larger and millions of Americans go without adequate access to housing, education, health care, and other basic needs.
But these are not the concerns of the CEA analysts. Instead, they employ a series of absurd Friedmanite graphs, odd references to discarded Christmas sweaters as representations of mixed value (“the recipients of Christmas gifts sometimes value the gifts less than they cost the giver, as exemplified by Christmas sweaters that are never taken out of the closet to be worn”), and strange claims that “owning and operating a pickup truck costs the average worker in a Nordic country substantially more than it costs the average American worker” to prove that capitalism must be the only system capable of ushering in true “economic freedom.”
At no point, however, does the report address the fact that the kind of “economic freedom” the report’s authors are championing is incompatible with a profit-driven order that systematically deprives large swaths of the population of the freedom to live in an affordable home, be taught in a fully funded school, and access lifesaving medical care without breaking the bank.