By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
Most conservatives in America think of socialism as a political evil and capitalism as a political good; but in Europe they coexist and thrive. Hitler rose to power in a socialist and capitalist German democracy; and Trump, like Hitler, exploited public anger to gain political power, and they both favored authoritarian politics over freedom and democracy.
Socialism emphasizes the public welfare, while capitalism favors the welfare of the rich. While both can coexist in a libertarian democracy, socialism with no budgetary limits and unregulated crony capitalism have created dangerous economic disparities, and the mega-mergers of Wall Street have reduced the competition essential in a healthy democracy.
In politics, it’s all about the economy. The real threat to American democracy is an oppressive national debt created by unrestrained social spending and dangerous disparities in wealth created by unregulated crony capitalism. A healthy democracy requires balancing Individual rights and wants with providing for the common good, and that’s lacking in America.
Social Security and Medicare are popular socialist programs in America that provide for the common good; but massive increases in spending on stimulus and relief programs and dangerous disparities in wealth created by unregulated capitalism on Wall Street have increased the wealth of the rich and powerful at the expense of the common good.
The altruistic moral imperative in the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves is taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus and has been accepted by Muslims as a common word of faith. In politics it requires providing for the common good and welfare of all--not just some.
Jesus was a radical socialist Jewish rabbi in an authoritarian Roman Empire. It’s ironic that the U.S. has long asserted the moral supremacy of its “Christian” democracy over those in Europe. While the church in Europe is no longer the powerful political institution it once was, the altruistic teachings of Jesus are more relevant in European politics today than in America.
American churches emphasize worshiping Jesus as the alter ego of God over following his teachings as the word of God. But American churches are in decline and may reverse those priorities and put following the teachings of Jesus over worshiping him. It would cost churches their popularity and political power, but it may happen anyway, just as it did in Europe.
In authoritarian regimes socialism is oppressive, but in a democracy socialism can be consistent with freedom and Christian morality. The real enemy of freedom and democracy in America is the oppression of excessive debt and unregulated capitalism. Europe has shown that socialism can work in a democracy; America would do well to consider Europe’s example.
According to Steven Klein, America Is Learning to Reject Socialism, but Love the Welfare State. “Klein has cited Sen. Mitt Romney’s recently released bold proposal for a cash family benefit that breaks with decades of Republican Party orthodox: markets good, government bad. Romney’s proposal has sparked an extensive debate about how best to design a family benefit, with the Biden administration releasing a rival plan. What Romney’s proposal embodies is essentially an effort to remodel the American welfare state—and, by extension, the Republican Party—along the lines of European Christian democracy. Romney’s “Family Security Act” would provide a monthly cash benefit of $350 for young children and $250 for school-aged children, paid by the Social Security Administration. Romney proposes eliminating the targeted anti-poverty program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); the Earned Income Tax Credit, a means-tested tax credit that varies depending on the size of your family; and the State and Local Tax Deduction, which largely benefits better-off voters in states that regularly vote Democrat. This reflects an underappreciated fact about conservative visions of the free market: From Edmund Burke to Joseph Schumpeter, conservative thinkers argued that the family created, for its (male) leader, a sense of responsibility and a longer time horizon, things capitalism needs but cannot itself create. Government financial support for families would complement, not undermine, a market order. Family benefits could establish the family as the key mediating institution between the state and the market, as opposed to socialist demands for politicizing wage labor. Romney’s plan is summoning this conservative attitude. The overlap between conservative concerns about the family and liberal and socialist worries about poverty marks family policy as an important arena of cross-ideological welfare state building. Romney’s plan may also be cunning in securing a conservative welfare state equilibrium, where popular government programs are focused on strong families rather than strong unions and workers’ protections. It will be up to a Democratic presidency to embody that shift in new policies. Romney has a knack for crafting the landmark policies of Democratic presidencies, and his family benefit may be no exception.” See https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/02/17/romney-america-is-learning-to-reject-socialism-but-love-the-welfare-state/?
The Federal Reserve is emerging as a White House Ally in rejecting concerns about overdoing stimulus. “Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell is waving off concerns about an over-torqued economy producing long-feared inflation, saying the job market has a long way to heal before such fears are justified. In recent weeks, the position has been repeatedly embraced and cited by top Biden officials who make a similar argument when they say Congress needs to “go big” to ensure an economic revival.”
Powell said a more accurate measure of the unemployment rate is close to 10 percent, not the official rate of 6.3 percent. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain tweeted: “The danger is not in doing too much. The
danger is in doing too little.” At a news conference this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Biden’s “legislation is necessary, and mentioned Powell’s 10 percent figure, his lack of concern about inflation and his reminders that monetary policy can’t finish the recovery alone. A number of economists and lawmakers say Biden’s bill goes overboard and could actually overwhelm the economy. Harvard professor Larry Summers, who was President Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary and nearly picked by President Barack Obama to lead the Fed, raised alarms this month when he wrote that a big stimulus package could “set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation.” Skeptics such as Summers cite recent research that suggests $1.9 trillion in new federal spending this year would more than close the gap between where the economy is running and what its potential could be. Going far above that could lead to inflation, a problem the country hasn’t seriously experienced since the 1980s. Heavy inflation, in turn, could force the Fed to raise interest rates, which would crimp economic growth and also raise the cost of servicing the growing national debt.” See https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2021/02/28/fed-biden-inflation-19-trillion-stimulus/?
A national debt is represented by treasury bonds that are normally paid off with tax revenues, but the U.S. has extended and increased its debt by renewing treasury bills as they come due and issuing new bonds, some of which have been purchased by the U.S. Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low. The U.S. could reduce its national debt by creating new dollars to pay it off, but increasing the money supply would be inflationary. Even so, the Federal Reserve continues to create new dollars through its monetary policies, and recently its chairman, Jerome Powell, defied traditional economic principles when he said that printing money does not lead to inflation. “In response to a questions posed by Congressman Warren Davidson about whether ‘M2 [money supply] going up by 25% in one year’ is going to ‘diminish the value of the U.S. dollar,’ Powell responded, ‘there was a time when monetary policy aggregates were important determinants of inflation and that has not been the case for a long time.’” See https://www.kitco.com/news/2021-02-24/Jerome-Powell-says-money-printing-doesn-t-lead-to-inflation.html. German hyperinflation in 1923 illustrated how printing money to pay a large national debt can undermine an economy and democracy. It opened the door for Hitler and his Nazi Party to assume power in Germany. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperinflation_in_the_Weimar_Republic.
Interest rates on treasury bills have been rising in spite of Fed efforts to keep them at or near 0%, portending greater costs to maintain America’s astronomical national debt and a threat to a booming stock market. Former NY Fed president Bill Dudley has predicted that Wall Street is in for a rude awakening. “Treasury rates will eventually climb to between 3% and 4% — or higher. And that's a big deal because risk-free Treasuries are the yardstick by which all other investments are valued. Just as ultra-low rates make stocks look attractive, higher rates would steal serious thunder from stocks.” See https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/03/investing/wall-street-markets-bill-dudley/index.html.
On religion and morality in socialist and libertarian politics, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/08/musings-on-religion-and-morality-of.html.
On the danger of an excessive national debt to freedom and democracy, see Debt as a Vice or a Virtue at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/02/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-debt.html.
On the conflicting priorities of following Jesus or worshipping him, the title of Robin Meyers’ book says it all: Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshipping Christ and Following Jesus, Harper One, 2009.