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WEEKLY WHINE

Is it socialist or not?

In the United States, any argument or debate can be won by declaring the opposing position “socialist”. Americans are offended by the very idea of socialism and will do anything to stop it from infiltrating their nation.

Or will they?

The Occupy Wall Street movement drew support from across the nation. Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, has represented Vermont in the US Congress for a total of 27 years, including eight terms in the House and two in the Senate. A number of socialists have become local leaders such as mayors, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, has won the Democratic party’s nomination for the 14th congressional district in the state of New York. Polls indicate that a significant fraction of Americans, particularly those in their twenties, support socialist positions.

So perhaps it is not that Americans are offended by the very idea of socialism and will do anything to stop it from infiltrating their nation. Perhaps it is that Fox News is offended by the very idea of socialism and will do anything to stop it from infiltrating their nation.

Let us, therefore, examine several laws and policies that have been derided as “socialist”, and then find out whether they actually are socialist, or someone who is opposed to it is intentionally mischaracterising it.

PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2010, and most of its provisions became effective by 2014. This includes changes to regulations that apply to health insurance; for example, insurers must not deny coverage or raise premiums due to preexisting conditions. In addition, it includes a provision for an individual mandate, which taxes those who do not have health insurance. However, this provision has been repealed.

Socialist? No. The PPACA is simply a set of regulations that apply to the existing insurance market, which is capitalist. In fact, the individual mandate was mandatory capitalism.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION STATUTES

A number of US laws, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act, are administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. In recent years, however, we have heard a constant line of attack at environmental protection laws, including from the EPA’s own former administrator, Scott Pruitt. Agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement have often been described as socialist ploys to undermine the US’s sovereignty.

Socialist? No. Environmental protection laws are regulations that apply to existing industries, which are capitalist. Furthermore, the Paris Climate Agreement is a voluntary programme with no enforcement mechanism. It is not socialist; it is nothing at all.

CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is responsible for enforcing regulations on financial institutions, including banks and other organisations such as insurance firms and check cashing businesses. Earlier this year, laws were passed that repeal enforcement of automotive lending regulations and that exempt smaller banks from CFPB regulations.

Socialist? No. The CFPB regulates existing financial institutions with the aim of mitigating the next financial crisis. Therefore, its objective is to preserve capitalism over the long term, not destroy it.

REGULATION

As you can see, the common theme in all of the topics we have examined is that they are regulations. These topics have all been accused of being “socialist”. But if they are in fact merely regulations that are applied to market capitalism, does that mean that regulations are themselves socialist?

Socialist? No. Regulations are a necessary part of a fully functioning market capitalist system. The next time you hear someone deride a bill or a position as “socialist”, you should ask yourself how much carbon dioxide that person wants to dump into the atmosphere, or how high an interest rate that person wants to charge you, or which endangered species’s habitat that person wants to bulldoze.

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