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Monday, January 21, 2019

Can Liz Cheney and the GOP Save America?

The November U.S. election marked a shift in the ideological balance in our nation's politics. The progressive caucus is now the largest Democrat voting bloc in the House of Representatives, lending big weight to its outright socialist agenda. Back in December I explained the depth of the radicalism that the socialists in that caucus are committed to. Their poster child, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, continues to deliver, explaining that she wants to turn America into another Sweden.

This statement is crucial, explaining what lies ahead as we move into 2020 and the next presidential election. The left is going to be very aggressive in pushing its agenda, which - if taken to its full extent - will put the final nail in the coffin of the America that our Founders created almost a quarter millennium ago.

In the face of this agenda, the Republican party is as inept at fighting back as it has been for the past 55 years. Ever since the Democrats began building a Swedish welfare state here in America, the Republican party has been wobbling between quiet acceptance (have you looked at the growth of entitlement spending under Presidents Reagan and Bush Jr?) and blank-shot references to socialism.

The latest example of the latter was a passing remark by newly elected GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney about the "fraud of socialism". It was on January 4 when she nominated Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for House Speaker that she also took a jab at the radicals on the other side of the aisle. 

A reference to socialism may stir up some support among Cheney's conservative base (especially here in Wyoming), but it will not tip any opinion scales to the GOP's favor as we move toward the crucial 2020 election. One big reason for this is that six out of ten Americans actually have a favorable view of the term "socialism". To call the rising stars in the Democrat party "socialists" will actually strengthen their position among Democrats, while doing nothing to sway moderate voters.

It is, simply, an abstract term that nobody outside of an informed core of conservative and libertarian thinkers have an interest in understanding, let alone debating.

Quite frankly, I am worried that Representative Cheney and her fellow leaders of the Republicans in Congress are in over their head. This is a fight they are not intellectually prepared for - yet they seem to think they are. 

The consequences of their political hubris will be catastrophic.

There is only one way to effectively defeat socialism, and that is to get into the trenches of actual policy. Bluntly: Cheney et al must take Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seriously when she refers to Sweden; they must listen to the socialists in Congress when they say that they want to build a Scandinavian welfare state, not a Venezuelan disaster.

Ocasio-Cortez may or may not understand the difference between Sweden and Venezuela. That is not the point. Sweden represents the "entry point" of the disaster slope that takes a welfare state from seemingly stable and functioning, down to its collapse into starvation, chaos, authoritarianism and societal disintegration. In other words, Venezuela. A leftist who has done even moderate studies of the two countries can make a coherent argument as to why Ocasio Cortez is right in distinguishing between the two countries.

The leadership of the Republican party, including Conference Chair Liz Cheney, are unable to explain the opposite. They cannot explain how Sweden actually becomes Venezuela. Unless they learn to do it, they will lose badly in 2020. 

So long as Cheney et al remain at the abstract, superficial level of the political discourse, the socialists are going to push forward with actual policy proposals. They are going to talk paid family leave, single-payer health care and universal child care - actual reforms that will resonate with many Americans. They will be successful in doing so, not because those ideas are good, but because the Republicans are not putting together a coherent counter-argument.

To win this one, Liz Cheney needs to educate herself on policy, and she needs to do it on two levels. The first one has to do with the actual policy ideas that the socialists in the Democrat party are going to push, primarily paid family leave, general income security, single-payer health care and universal child care. She needs to understand what these ideas are about - and what damage they actually do to people in the countries where they have been tried.

The second level is macroeconomic in nature. A Swedish welfare state puts a country on a slow but steady path into economic stagnation. As I explained in my book Industrial Poverty from 2014, the European welfare state as a socio-economic organization has brought the entire continent into a permanent state of slow-to-no economic growth. The consequences are profound, such as:

  • Long-term decline in government services, where all the government's promises slowly deteriorate;
  • Long-term increase in taxes, with high taxes trickling down to the broad layers of low-income workers;
  • Permanently high unemployment, especially among the young;
  • A generational downward ratchet of the standard of living, where kids grow up to be poorer than their parents; and
  • Rising social conflict.

This last point is clearly visible in Europe today, but there are numerous examples of all of these points from around the continent. Greece is an excellent case study, and highly relevant for America, as I have explained in a two-part paper for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity. In fact, the Greek example is much more relevant for the United States than people realize: acknowledging the major differences between the Greek economy and ours, there is also a line of progression of the welfare-state crisis from Sweden to Greece to Venezuela.

It is the line of this story that the Republicans in Congress - and everywhere else in America - need to tell over the next two years. They have to educate themselves about it; they have to know it better than their opponents; and they have to learn how to explain it to the American public.

But that is not all. In fact, explaining the crisis in the welfare state is just the beginning. Next, Liz Cheney and her Republican friends have to learn to explain what their alternative is: 
  • How does free-market based health insurance make lives better for a family living on $35,000 per year? How can privatized, individualized Social Security accounts help a single mom working a $20,000-a-year job?
  • What will Republicans do to help young families afford to raise their kids in the future?
  • What are Republicans planning to do to alleviate the burden of our government debt on the shoulders of our grandchildren's generation?

If the GOP leadership can learn to answer these questions, they will win by a landslide in 2020. If not, they will lose.

And if they lose, the winners will not be your grandma's Democrats. The winners will be people who hate capitalism more than they love America. If they saw it necessary to achieve their ideological goals, they would destroy this country as we know it, including rewriting the constitution to create a European-style parliament and a unitary nation-state in place of our constitutional republic.

Why? Because parliamentary democracies allow for very radical legislation to move from bill to law in an expedient fashion. No executive branch to veto, no states that can create their own laws. And "best" of all: under a parliamentary system it is the parliament alone that has jurisdiction over the constitution. They can rewrite it as they see fit.

The crop of young socialists in the Democrat progressive caucus in Congress is a threat to the very existence of our country. This threat is not just constitutional in that they will, when given a chance, try to rewrite our founding document; it is a threat to our prosperity, our very economic survival as a country. Their welfare state will inevitably throw us into a tailspin of a Greek-style fiscal crisis, but because of the size of our economy, and its global significance, the consequences will be catastrophic for both us and the rest of the world. 

Bluntly speaking, once the socialists have destroyed our country, there is no coming back. 

Only one question remains to be answered: is the fight to save America too much for Liz Cheney and the Republican leadership?

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