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Peter Morici: Socialist is the label that scares most Americans

September 3, 2018

Republicans are begging a shellacking in the mid-terms. They are relying too much on the recent economic boom and the Democrats’ socialism problem to win independent voters and energize their base.

The GOP deserves credit for revving up growth and driving down unemployment, but the second quarter 4.1 percent GDP spike is not likely to repeat. And many post-financial crisis college graduates and older folks who lost careers remain stuck at Starbucks or in jobs that do not exploit and pay for their experience.

Third-quarter growth estimates will be released 10 days prior to the November elections and likely will be in line with Mr. Trump’s goal of 3 percent growth. That offers new grads better opportunities but won’t lift many folks stuck in substandard jobs whose degrees are 5, 10 or more years older.

That’s why new grads are enjoying robust opportunities, but real wage growth for workers already employed is not picking up.

Saddled with student debt, unable to buy affordable health insurance or a home, these folks see great wealth around them -- witness the incomes in the Silicon Valley and on Wall Street. However, as the economy is now organized and run by either political party, it relegates them to marginalized status until something comes along to shake up the system.

An October 2017 study found 46 percent of Americans between 18 and 29 believe governments are more effectively run by experts than elected officials -- among those older than 50, the figure was 36 percent. Similar polls show wide youth dissatisfaction with capitalism.

Enter avowed Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats like Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Cory Booker advocating radical, statist solutions.

The Socialist label scares most Americans. They remember the workers’ paradises in Soviet-era Eastern Europe and how state-ownership in Cuba and Venezuela gave rise to present-day dystopias. But young people also see China where autocratic state direction is pulling off a miracle on the scale of the opening of the American West.

More importantly, Bernie Sanders and his acolytes are not talking about nationalizing whole industries as did post-war British Labor governments with disastrous consequences, but rather a continuation of the Obama agenda to make American social policies and economic regulations look more like Western Europe.

In the European Union, Brussels experts impose regulations and make antitrust, civil rights and international trade policies with little or only distant political accountability.

Sen. Sanders’ Medicaid for all would ultimately look a lot like the German health care system -- private providers, regulated prices and bigger federal subsidies. Fiscally irresponsible, yes, but not the work of Bolsheviks.

Government guaranteed annual incomes and jobs taken together really become a rework of conservative prescriptions to scale back the complex array of entitlement programs with a large refundable income tax credit and work requirements.

After Bernie has bankrupted the Treasury with the highest-price national health plan on the planet, the only way to raise the money for those hobby horses would be to curtail welfare benefits and force the able bodied to take one of those guaranteed jobs.

Yes, the insurgent left’s policies look like Stalin building the Moscow subway but also like Speaker Ryan’s more pleasant daydreams.

Labels count but, more importantly, Americans are still doing poorly enough to throw the rascals out yet again. But in the process, voters may become tools of the new racism and sexism.

The real agenda of the insurgent left of the Democratic Party is to use the opportunity of the mid-terms to both knock off Republicans and replace the aging, white hierarchy of the Democratic Party -- Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren post an average age of 73 -- with younger leaders, more women and, in particular, women of color.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come under fire for not being liberal enough or supporting enough female candidates. That is laughable for a guy who championed paid family leave and a $15-hour minimum, but his real crimes are his age, 60, close association with establishment Democrats and that he is a white male.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has refused to commit to backing Ms. Pelosi for Speaker, and Kamala Harris, exploring a bid for the White House, is doubling down on identity politics -- gender, race and open borders -- to try to reinvent the magic that put Barack Obama in the White House.

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