Threatening Us With “Isms”


If every American had a dollar for every time the Republicans labeled their opponents Marxists, socialists, or communists we would all be in the top 1%.  Whenever someone on the left mentions “inequality,” the Republicans’ default response is to accuse them of one of the dreaded “isms.” (Trump, of course, took it a step further, ominously implying the country was at risk of becoming “Venezuela.”) But the primary cause of our inequality, along with shifting to a globalized, information-based economy, is the “supply side” (trickle down, if we’re lucky) economics initiated by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.  As a result, the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer, and the divide between the two gets bigger.  For all Trump’s bragging about “his economy” being the greatest economy in world history, his tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy only made inequality worse.  I’m not the only one who’s convinced that forty years dominated by Republican economic policies are at the core of our ills, and that, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, a society with inequality as great as ours cannot stand.

Rich and Poor

It was long assumed that economic growth was invariably good, that a rising tide lifted all boats, but the “Trump economy” demonstrated that we cannot always grow our way out of inequality.  Growth is never bad, but it’s increasingly apparent that a healthy middle class, what made American society so strong in the decades following World War II, doesn’t come automatically with economic growth; growth allows for it, but it doesn’t guarantee it if the tax structure overwhelmingly favors corporations and the top 1%—and government is starved of its capacity to nurture a strong middle class (a fair minimum wage, access to education and quality health care, etc.).  When growth benefits only the top 10%, and especially the top 1%, it only adds to the stress already tearing apart our society.

The problem is, Republicans manage to bamboozle a good portion of the American electorate (many of whom are now MAGAs) into voting against their own economic interests, using every desperate, dishonest strategy but the kitchen sink: the perennial race card; endless fake culture wars; fear of crime (works well with race card); fear of “invasion” at the southern border (also works well with race card); and last but not least, fear of the dreaded “isms,” even though most people, especially MAGAs, don’t really know what they are.  As a result, much of the American “middle class” can’t get much smaller or poorer and still claim middle class status, and if a new Republican Congress, let alone a Republican president in 2024, champion economic policies that constitute more “socialism for the rich,” things will only get worse.  If there’s anything people fear more than the Republicans’ usual suspects, it’s falling out of the middle class, but if they aren’t careful, that’s where they’re headed.

Republicans Claim They Lower Taxes to Spur Growth, but All They Want to Do is Starve the Government.

Top view of Monopoly

The Republicans can scream the isms and all the rest of it at the top of their lungs, but a big chunk of the American public is totally tapped out.  Forcing the wealthy to pay their fair share and stopping them from taking every dollar in circulation (all the “Monopoly” money), hardly constitutes socialism; it’s necessary to maintain a sufficient degree of economic equality to allow our society to function. 

Why should people value the rule of law in a country where everything feels so “rigged” (one of Trump’s favorite words) that there is no way for people to prosper and pursue happiness?  And why should people value democracy if it feels like nothing will ever change for the better?  Democracy may indeed be on the ballot, but people have no reason to vote for it if they don’t believe it represents hope for a better life.

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