The 2020 presidential sweepstakes is already underway and the message of the Democrat candidates is quite clear: (1) The economy is not good enough; (2) There are too many poor people; (3) That poverty is the fault of the rich; and (4) It’s time to punitively tax the rich to end inequality.
To do that, like most socialist ploys, the Democrat candidates seem intent on inciting class warfare. They will seek to make their voters envious while promising that their envy can be satisfied, not through hard work, but through government power and redistribution.
Obviously, to the Democrat candidates, it is of little matter that the economy is doing quite well. Economic growth under President Donald Trump is nearly double that under President Barack Obama.
It also plainly doesn’t matter to the many Democrats that unemployment is at historic lows for blacks, Latinos, women, and the country as a whole. Nor does it matter that wages are rising faster under Trump than Obama.
What matters to the 2020 Democrats is controlling the federal government. Nothing more.
They want to be the party in charge and to redistribute as much as possible of what likely will be $5 trillion in federal government spoils, the projected amount of the 2020 federal budget. They also want their candidate, as president, to choose the replacement of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
So how does one of the Democrat presidential candidates get elected president?
First, they must win their Party’s nomination. To do that, they will have to make more big government promises than any Democrat nominee in history—and likely larger than anyone else in the 2020 field. It’s not the economy, stupid (as Democratic strategist James Carville once said), it’s the government benefits.
Thus, and only as a start, according to Terry McAuliffe, the former Virginia governor and likely presidential candidate, all of the Democrat candidates will support “Medicare for All.” That is a proposed government health care program that promises that everyone in America (legal or otherwise) will have health care.
Never mind that it is projected to cost $32 trillion over 10 years, requires $3 trillion a year in tax increases and that it outlaws private health care insurance. Those are details the public shouldn’t know. They want the government to secure people’s standard of living, if not outright hand it to them, and health care is the centerpiece to that.
Next up is guaranteed incomes. That is why Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) wants “American families making less than $100,000 a year … eligible for a monthly tax credit of up to $500, or $6,000 a year.”
Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.) upped Harris’s ante to “giving poor children as much as $50,000 EACH to pay for homes and college.” You can bet as others get in the race, they will be offering, at taxpayer expense, big government handouts as well.
At taxpayer expense is the key. It won’t be possible for the Democrats to hide the cost of their programs. These aren’t marginal spending increases they seek. Given that voters generally vote against tax increases, the Democrats will need to create a near-crisis feeling among certain voters to get their way.
The hyped-dangers of income inequality will be their calling card. Never mind that if all people had the same amount of money, it would be impossible for large-scale business start-ups and investments to occur. Successful economies are built on savings, which by definition is based on wealth inequality—the person that starts up the restaurant has to have far more wealth than the dishwasher.
So to fix what isn’t broken, the Democrats running for president are pitting one class of Americans against another. According to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the rich have been “making a killing from the economy they’ve rigged,” and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has labeled systems like American capitalism “immoral” for allowing great wealth.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who owns multiple homes and made over $1 million in 2016, also questions the morality of our wealth inequality. In other words, our system is bad, if not its participants, and must be changed—now.
It’s worth recalling that, just over eight years ago, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez referred to capitalism as “criminal.” He sought and got the big government change he wanted—all to the tragic harm of Venezuelans.
As for taxes, according to Harris, “Our tax code should reflect our values, instead of more tax breaks for the top 1 percent and corporations.”
Again, never mind that during the presidency of Democrat icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt 85 percent of working Americans paid income taxes, while now, the bottom 50 percent pays approximately 3 percent of today’s federal income tax. Today, the top 1 percent pay almost 40 percent of all federal income taxes and the top 20 percent pay 87 percent—leaving the bottom 80 percent to pay just 13 percent.
It’s the plan of all the Democrat candidates to repeal the Trump tax reforms, which have led to increased economic growth.
Repeal is not, however, enough. Harris wants to reduce that 13 percent number. Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez wants a federal tax rate of 70 percent.
In 2015, Sanders famously responded ‘No,” when asked, “When you think about 90 percent, you don’t think that’s obviously too high?”
Warren wants an asset tax—literally a tax on what some people own, which they purchased with income that was already taxed.
Such a lopsided tax code bred intense resentment in the South before the U.S. Civil War, as the South was required to bear 75 percent of the tariffs of the age. Historians believe it was a major factor leading to the war.
Of course, history has seen this dangerous play before. Faced with claims of inequality of wealth, in the 4th century B.C., Athenians legally set upon each other with excessive democratic measures of redistribution, meant to “correct” such problems. According to the historian Will Durant, the “poor schemed to despoil the rich by legislation and revolution [and] the rich organized for protection against the poor.”
The historian Sir Paul Vinogradoff, characterized that process as “the ruthless exploitation of private property for the interests of the majority.” The “main expedient,” he wrote, “was to ransom … the wealthier people in order to keep the democrat majority in good humour.”
Isocrates, writing at the time, said that “poverty and envy of other people’s prosperity brutalize men and breed hatred.”
Durant concluded the process was “empowered envy.”
As I wrote in my book “The Divided Era,” those policies resulted in “bitter class warfare of the time [that] included not only government efforts at redistribution and a distrust of ‘democracy as empowered envy,’ but also murderous class violence that left Greece and its allied states badly divided—so divided, in fact, that with their energy sapped, they all but ignored the outside world until they were conquered by Philip of Macedon in 338 B.C.”
Beyond the economic and societal damage socialism has uniformly imposed on everywhere it has been tried, today, America faces great dangers abroad from China, Russia, ISIS, and Iran—to name a few.
The question for the rest of history will be whether America falls for the rhetoric of demagogues like Harris, Warren, and Ocasio-Cortez or will heed the advice of history. There are always those who lie in waiting for those civilizations willing to make the wrong choice.
Thomas Del Beccaro is the author of “The Divided Era” and is a former chairman of the California Republican Party.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.