woody zimmerman 118 2007As we near the close of the sixth year of our most leftist president ever, Obama-apologists are again dusting off one of socialism’s great myths to explain why their hero’s tenure has been such a disappointing failure. The myth of which I speak – let’s call it Socialism’s Myth #2 – has been used repeatedly to explain the failure of Marxism in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Venezuela, numerous European countries, and a gaggle of “emerging” African nations. As each failure becomes obvious, Myth #2 is invoked: namely, that socialism has failed because it simply “wasn’t implemented properly.” All would have been well if only things had been done correctly.

Socialism’s central idea is that a successful economic system can be constructed on Karl Marx’s famous principle: “From each according to his abilities; to each, according to his needs.” Each new generation of fresh-faced American students sees socialism as a wonderful new idea just waiting to be tried. It seems so “fair,” so “just,” so “righteous.” How could it possibly fail? But over the past century, the aforementioned nations have demonstrated that socialism is actually a hoary, deeply flawed idea that has repeatedly been tried and found wanting.

Socialism’s Myth #1 is, of course, the premise that socialism can actually work. But it cannot, because it denies a fundamental facet of human nature – i.e., that individuals will not work and achieve unless they have a personal stake in the enterprise’s product or outcome. True socialists call this a character flaw, but we are all made this way. A system that denies it is bound to fail.

I have actually known people who thought Marxism’s foundational principle came from the Bible. All of socialism is based on it, but it is a complete pipe-dream. It can never work without the added “incentive” of force. Even so, it still inevitably fails because (as Margaret Thatcher famously said) “…eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

As the Obama administration’s dazzling promise of social justice, racial harmony and universal prosperity inexorably sinks into the mud of high taxes, anti-business regulations, and minimum-wage jobs, I have to wonder how many times we shall have to hear the same tired, old excuses before politicians, educators – indeed, all Americans – finally comprehend that socialism is a fundamentally flawed concept that can never truly function as imagined.

We should know this by now, but in 2007 we got snookered again by another slick-talking huckster wearing a $2000 suit, who claimed that he knew how to “fundamentally change” the country. We ran after him like the children following the Pied Piper of Hamelin. (When will we ever learn?)

Our latest “messiah” was as good as his word, however. He certainly changed the country – although probably not in ways most people expected. Was a serious drive toward socialism expected? I doubt it. But by remaining deliberately vague about his plans, Barack Obama allowed voters to write-in the change they “hoped” this dazzling new figure would bring. And Mr. Obama and his inside circle very carefully avoided any mention of the S-word, knowing that the public would be wary of it.

This writer belonged to a small group of journalists who understood where President Obama would probably take us. In 2008 I wrote that the Obama camp was going for the “moron vote” (http://www.ahherald.com/columns-list/at-large/4259-going-for-the-moron-vote) because his program, as we grasped it then, appeared to be completely counter to the interests of most ordinary Americans. For my “alarmist” predictions I was roundly denounced – even by family and close friends – as prejudiced, probably un-Christian, and most certainly racist.

“Why can’t you just give the guy a chance?” asked old friends who disagreed with my analysis. (I doubt if the way things have turned out looks very good to them now.) In my article of June 2008, I made the following observations, which have proved uncannily prescient:

Mr. Obama wants to take us not forward, but backward – back to the New Deal, higher taxes, less economic freedom, a managed economy and the Fairness Doctrine. Mr. Obama distrusts private business, and has a ‘can't do’ attitude about the future. He believes the ordinary person simply can’t make it without big government's help. But Mr. Obama distrusts not only business: he distrusts the American people. Are we the indomitable people who built the greatest nation and the wealthiest, most robust economy in history? No! We are pitiable, wretched victims of a failed government and a ‘broken’ system who need his ‘ministry’ in order to avoid ruin…The irony is that Mr. Obama's policies would not empower the down-and-out, but would permanently prevent them from improving their status. Creation of wealth enables economic advancement. Envy-taxes, income-transfer or welfare do not. This seems beyond the ken of Mr. Obama's followers. Indeed, it seems beyond Mr. Obama, himself.

Mr. Obama’s soaring promises of a bright new future notwithstanding, middle-class incomes have stagnated to levels of 10 years ago. Millions of Americans have been unemployed for so long that they have given up on finding work. This eliminates them from the unemployment-rate calculation – making the nation’s employment picture seem better than it really is. So while the Obama Gang celebrates an unemployment rate that has fallen below 6%, voters see things less optimistically, knowing that many of their comrades and relatives are still unemployed or have taken part-time work just to keep afloat. Like millions of my fellow Americans, I can’t recall a time when I have personally known so many people who are out of work – some of them for long periods of time. According to the New York Times, only 61.8% of adult Americans are currently employed. It is the lowest percentage in 15 years.

Although most Americans are not exactly students of political history and governance, they can clearly see how Mr. Obama’s push toward socialism has affected their own lives and livelihoods. Exhibit A is obviously the sluggish economy and the paucity of good-paying full-time jobs. But Exhibit B would have to be Obamacare – the 2010 law which placed one-sixth of the nation’s economy under governmental control. Originally sold as a wonderful new system that promised to lower medical expenses without disturbing current insurance plans and medical relationships that Americans wanted to retain, this “dream” legislation – enacted without a single Republican vote – has turned into a nightmare for millions across the country.

Other commentators have detailed the many ways in which the changeover to socialized medicine has hurt citizens, so I won’t repeat those analyses. Suffice it to say that millions have had their health-insurance policies cancelled because they don’t meet the new law’s standards; myriad others are seeing much higher insurance premiums and/or larger deductibles; and legions have learned that their long-time, trusted doctors are no longer available under the law’s terms.

Finally, as a kind of “last straw” millions of workers have been hit with a reduction in work-time that puts them below 30 hours a week – the AHCA’s arbitrary threshold for “full-time” status. Businesses must furnish medical insurance coverage for full-time workers, unless fewer than 50 such people are on the payroll. The 50-employee threshold also represents another perverse reason for businesses not to expand, grow and hire new workers.

The Affordable Health Care Act – was ever a law so oxy-moronically named? – has been cleverly rolled out through several election cycles to conceal its most onerous provisions until just after the “next” election. But that tactic could work only so long. Enough of the truth has now emerged to show how disadvantageous the whole business is going to be. There is little doubt that this dawning realization helped to produce the election “tsunami” of November 4th which swept Republicans into control of the Senate and expanded their hold on the House of Representatives.

That many Democrat politicos did not see this “wave” coming indicates how clueless Mr. Obama and his minions have been about the electorate’s hostility toward socialism and its dismal economic fallout. For most of his term, Mr. Obama has claimed that the economy has been sub-par only because Republicans have “blocked” the good things he wanted to do. It was another whopper, and finally the longsuffering Hoi Polloi saw through it. Even Mr. Obama’s faithful young and black voters deserted him, as these two groups suffer from unemployment rates far higher than in the general population. The jig was finally up, and there was nowhere left to hide from the wrath of the voters. Obama-socialism had shot its wad.

Socialism’s earliest American application, at Jamestown, Virginia, was a complete failure, as the colony’s leaders quickly realized that individuals simply would not exert themselves unless they stood to gain from their efforts. The colony began to thrive only after people were granted title to their own land and full ownership of what it produced.

Americans have a recurring fascination with socialism for at least four reasons:

  1. Because they like the benefits they get from it.
  2. Because our primary economic system – privately owned capitalism – has natural ups and downs. People get frightened when the “downs” go too low.
  3. Because politicians cannot resist tinkering with capitalism’s workings to make it “fairer” and more accessible to more people. Individuals’ lack of discipline or substance often crash these political incursions.
  4. Because new generations of young people are constantly arriving who are ignorant of socialism’s many failures and of the two great myths upon which it rests.

Have we seen the last of socialism? Hardly. Currently we are spending two-thirds of all federal outlays – amounting to 14% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product – on Social Security, other income support programs, Medicare, Medicaid, all other health programs, and all programs for education, job training and social services. In 2013 those federal expenditures totaled $2.28 trillion. Polls continue to show that these programs enjoy wide support from the American people, although there is less support for the taxes needed to keep them going. This is the great conundrum facing Republicans as they take the legislative reins.

The 114th Congress won’t be perfect, but they’ll certainly be an improvement on Harry Reid and his do-nothing gang. Let’s hope they’re tough enough to stand up to Mr. Obama, and smart enough to know how to begin dismantling the gigantic socialist edifice we’ve built over the last century. They’ve got a lot of work to do, and whatever they do is bound to offend some interest group that likes the “getting” part of socialism, even if it dislikes the “paying” part.