New York Times columnist Paul Krugman took the Trump administration and its supporters to task Thursday by pointing out that the "socialist" dystopia they're scared of is far from what Democrats -- and Democratic Socialists -- are advocating.
Krugman pointed out that 50 years ago, "socialist" straw men were used as fearmongering tactics when people began calling for national health insurance for senior citizens.
"Operation Coffee Cup" involved the wives of doctors who "were asked to invite their friends over and play them a recording in which Ronald Reagan explained that socialized medicine would destroy American freedom."
"The housewives, in turn, were supposed to write letters to Congress denouncing the menace of Medicare," the columnist wrote, pointing out that obviously, the ploy did not work and Medicare has since become a Republican bargaining chip used to batter Democrats.
Nevertheless, that strategy, "claiming that any attempt to strengthen the social safety net or limit inequality will put us on a slippery slope to totalitarianism — endures."
Donald Trump warned of the threats of "socialism" during his third State of the Union earlier in the week. Like with many conservative red scares, "socialism" was not well-defined -- and as Krugman pointed out, right-wing definitions of socialism are themselves a slippery slope.
"Sometimes it means any kind of economic liberalism. Thus after the SOTU, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, lauded the Trump economy and declared that 'we’re not going back to socialism' — i.e., apparently America itself was a socialist hellhole as recently as 2016," the columnist noted. "Who knew?"
In other instances, socialism, as cited by conservatives, means "Soviet-style central planning, or Venezuela-style nationalization of industry, never mind the reality that there is essentially nobody in American political life who advocates such things."
"The trick — and 'trick' is the right word — involves shuttling between these utterly different meanings, and hoping that people don’t notice," Krugman wrote. "You say you want free college tuition? Think of all the people who died in the Ukraine famine! And no, this isn’t a caricature: Read the strange, smarmy report on socialism that Trump’s economists released last fall; that’s pretty much how its argument goes."
With the rise of American politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and others who identify as Democratic Socialists and the growing numbers of voters (especially those under 30) who say they agree with socialism, Krugman argued that their actual beliefs should be explicated.
Most American socialists, he wrote, "actually want is what the rest of the world calls social democracy: A market economy, but with extreme hardship limited by a strong social safety net and extreme inequality limited by progressive taxation. They want us to look like Denmark or Norway, not Venezuela."
"And in case you haven’t been there, the Nordic countries are not, in fact, hellholes," Krugman concluded.
Read the entire column via the Times.