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Socialism For Me, But Not For Thee

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

Republicans love to invoke the term “socialism” whenever it comes to democratic priorities or initiatives that help the poorest and most marginalized communities in the United States. They used it for the Affordable Care Act, the Infrastructure Act, and now Build Back Better.

From the Washington Post:

Republicans know that the individual provisions of the Build Back Better bill, such as pre-K programs, a child tax credit and clean energy, are popular. They also know that most voters don’t seem to much care about deficits. But Republicans still feel compelled to oppose major Democratic legislation, regardless of the merits. So to pillory this bill they fall back on the dreaded s-word.

Somehow, over the course of the last 30 years, GOP politicians and their voters have implicitly agreed on what the word “socialism” means to them; it’s not the meaning as understood by economists that the community shares control of the means of production and distribution. Rather, it is a coded phrase that signifies assistance or “giveaways” to people traditionally considered to be part of the Democratic voter base – the non-white poor. President Reagan made famous the specter of a welfare queen buying T-bones with food stamps, wearing a fur coat, and driving a Cadillac. It helped the narrative that the woman in question was half-black – the socialism dog whistle has, since then, meant an unfair reward to lazy black Americans.

The irony is that when it comes to “giveaways” the biggest recipients have been Republican states.

  • Eight of the 10 states most dependent on the federal government were Republican-voting, with the average red state receiving $1.35 per dollar spent.

  • Nine states sent more to the federal government than they received — seven of these were Democrat-voting and had higher per capita GDPs than many of the red states that received the most.

  • The eight states receiving the highest child tax credit per capita were all Republican-voting.

And it is a very neat trick. Red states keep their taxes low, so they have less money for social programs to benefit the poorest in their state, which means their residents are much more likely to apply for federal aid in the form of Medicare. (To be fair, Republican politicians don't really seem to care about the well-being of the poor in their states, so this kind of federal aid may not be something they actively solicit.)

Republican senators are also hypocritical about “socialism’ when it comes to subsidies to industries in their states. Texas gets billions in subsidies on oil and natural gas, but Texan legislators are furious about any such subsidies to clean energy initiatives.

Farm subsidies, which typically benefit rich farmer and large consolidated farm holdings, ballooned under Trump, while the GOP constantly invokes fiscal discipline and work requirements when it comes to low-income individuals.

Our own holdout Senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin (let’s make him irrelevant this November!) is another prime example of this hypocrisy. While fighting to keep intact subsidies for the fossil fuel industry (and his rich coal mining friends) Manchin has been blocking every attempt to address climate change investment in the guise of being fiscally concerned.

As informed voters, it’s time to throw the word “socialism” right back at the Republicans. And ask ourselves who really benefits from the Republican version of it.

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