My face oozed smugness the day I found out that Fox New’s own poll returned results saying that over 50% of self-identified liberals and young people preferred socialism over capitalism. I could only imagine the pearl-clutching that must have occurred in every household when Fox News announced its findings. A day later, the conservative punditry was quick to do another series of articles, with titles often veering off into kindergarten mocking rather than any serious analysis, touting capitalism as the final victor in a follow-up poll. Subsequently, every person over forty exhaled in a sweeping sigh of relief heard around the world. The old order was still safe, for now.
I admittedly am a bit ignorant to the intricacies of some of these terms. Socialism means different things to different people, and it differers from Democratic Socialism. It also differs from Communism. Left and liberal vary by country and are used often inappropriately in a variety of different contexts. None of this context matters though when you’re dealing with straw men. Whether you’re talking about free college, medicare-for-all, jobs guarantee, or social security, entitlements is the name given to these types of things, which is a stroke of pure political genius by conservatives back in Reagan’s day. The word, “entitlements”, is purely political, meant to devalue the legitimacy of the policy before we even get to what each policy actually does. This parlance has had mixed success, but there is no doubt it has incessantly acted as a cudgel, stifling liberal and youth ideas for generations.
I remember my conservative family’s concerned amusement reading about why the current generation (millenials) demands so much without seemingly working for it. Eagerly pronouncing them as ignorant and lazy, they wondered aloud how this generation thinks it has the right to ask the world of anything; remarking that our sense of “entitlement” is unbelievable and our work ethic unseemly. For the longest time I’d keep my mouth shut when these conversations reared their head, but more recently it’s become harder and harder.
The indictment of my generation is everywhere, playing out over and over again in the constant criticisms of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (AOC), the lamenting on Fox News of our kids being brainwashed with nonsensical values of fairness and equality, and the bad-faith arguments trodded out against Medicare-For-All and the Green New Deal. It’s integral to Mitch McConnell railing against voting and campaign finance reform, and the writing off of solid policy brought to the table by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. It’s painting with a thick red brush with intent to terrorize. It’s almost laughable in a lot of ways. My girlfriend showed me an article from The Heritage Foundation remarking that the next target on millennial’s freebie list is weed (Seriousy, not a bad suggestion, Heritage, if you’re reading).
All of these insincere pronouncements are usually veiled critiques of socialism, an idea that has been gaining steam among younger Americans. This has been drawn into sharp focus in the rhetoric surrounding Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ascendant stardom. AOC, a self-proclaimed, Democratic Socialist has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the political ethos as America’s youngest Congresswoman. A tremendous accomplishment that came as quite a shock to a political establishment. She unseated Joe Crowley, a twenty year veteran of Congress, who prior to his electoral defeat was rumored to be the next Speaker. Thoroughly flummoxed about how to handle AOC and her fellow congressional freshmen, the establishment has rolled out every trick in the book from saying she’s ignorant and doesn’t have enough experience to writing her off as radical and extreme. It’s confronting the source to delegitimize the message. Standard stuff for the prior generation.
It’s been this way for awhile though. Conservative media and figures have gotten quite good at dismissing any whiff of socialism, real or imagined. For thirty years, conservatives have built up what being a proper American is, highlighting the “self-made” men who have worked for every penny they’ve earned. Beginning with McCarthyism, they have worked steadily to malign any trace of socialism in the U.S. and abroad. The crazy thing is that it worked, and the irony is that radical socialism by American’s standards is usually the bedrock of center-right moderation in other countries. Most conservatives in the United Kingdom are quite happy with their universal healthcare known as the National Health Service (NHS).The same goes for Canada too, and this isn’t even mentioning Scandinavia where the Democratic party would pale in comparison to the political parties there.
If you were to ask most Americans today what is socialism, a lot of them would mention free healthcare, free college, and SNAP assistance among other things. They would conjure hordes of deadbeats and drug addicts who were abusing the system and stealing their hard-earned tax money. They would describe in great detail their carefully constructed image of trust fund, latte-sipping, beanie-wearing, hoodie clad bros that don’t particularly care for trying hard. Most would probably be shocked then to realize that when we examine our current system, whether it be via tax credits to corporations, or the constant stream of billionaires claiming they’re under attack for potentially being forced to pay their fair share, the wealthy and corporations are overwhelmingly the leading recipients of welfare from the government.
Not millennials or the youth or college kids or anyone under forty.
In December of 2017, the Trump administration passed a massive reduction in taxes for Americans. What most people don’t know is that billionaires and corporations received the majority of the benefits, with most middle class and poor citizens receiving little to no cuts, having their tax return reduced or even having to owe the IRS money.
The stated statutory tax rate prior to the Trump tax cuts for corporations was 35%. In actuality, though most major companies have been paying far less for years. In 2017, The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy studied the federal tax rates of some the top companies doing business in the United States from 2008 to 2015. This study included most, if not all of the biggest corporations operating today including Netflix, Amazon, Amazon, Apple, Time Warner, Comcast, Wells Fargo, and others. The study found that:
- 18 companies paid ZERO in taxes over the full eight-year period.
- 100 companies paid zero — or less — in at least one profitable year during the eight-year period, 58 of those companies had multiple zero-tax years.
- 24 companies zeroed out their taxes in at least four of the eight years.
- 48 companies paid a rate between 0 and 10 percent over eight years.
- Five companies — AT&T, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase, Verizon, and IBM — enjoyed more than $130 billion in tax breaks during the eight-year period.
Top companies haven’t been paying their fair share for a long time, and with Trump’s tax plan, there is far less incentive to contribute. According to a report by the Institute for Policy Studies, in 2018 the richest 1% of Americans will receive a total of $85 billion in tax cuts this year.
To quote their report:
Our progressive tax code is designed so that the more money you make, the higher percentage you pay in taxes. Ideally, everyone pays what they can afford, and our government has the money it needs to function.
It’s clear that hasn’t been the case for awhile. Warren Buffett, billionaire entrepreneur, famously quipped that his secretary paid a higher tax rate than him. And even after admitting that, no movement has been made to fix that inequity. The reason being that the people in power have made us look down the societal bracket for the perpetrators instead of up.
They are perfectly happy with letting politicians and residents squabble amongst ourselves, blaming the other for the reason why the corporate gods were adequately paid tribute. Everyone thinks the Amazon deal in New York centered around $3 billion in tax credits and incentives given out to the corporation. That’s not it at all. A company that brings in billions of dollars of revenue every year doesn’t need $3 billion in tax credits. The fact that’s barely mentioned is that they already have offices in New York City, just not headquarter level offices. What Amazon thought it could do is throw its weight around until a city bowed to its will. They were exerting power. This is evidenced by the Hunger Games-style competition they made cities across the country jump through in order to win their business. As soon as it saw its plan falter in New York City, it got up and left because it can. It has the resources and it knows that the government, Republicans, and cities will keep on catering to its whims based on simply a promise of jobs. To that I say, Google Foxconn.
And so I celebrate with AOC and the other New Yorkers who kicked Amazon out. It’s a symbol of local citizens standing up to big corporations. Something that must happen on a far broader scale and swiftly. Hopefully this is only the beginning, but as we’ve seen Amazon is only the tip of the iceberg.