Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise victory over 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in a New York primary last month sparked a national conversation about the rise of socialism. To prove she’s not a part of a coastal or fringe movement, Ocasio-Cortez joined fellow socialist Bernie Sanders at a July 20 rally in Wichita, Kansas. It’s too soon to say what impact this movement will have but it should be taken seriously and engaged with the kind respectful, fact-based analysis former Senator Tom Coburn provides here.
One factor that may be fueling the rise of socialism is generation theft. As Pursuit has described here, America’s older generations are literally stealing opportunity and wealth from younger generations by forcing them to pay for current benefits with borrowed money millennials will have to pay back. In other words, millennials will have to bear the brunt of the Baby Boomers sense of entitlement.
For years reformers in older generation (i.e. Boomers and even Gen Xers) assumed future generations would never accept the massive tax increases that would be required to fund “Medicare for All.” Those assumptions may no longer hold. If today’s millennials conclude they’re condemned to a lower standard of living opportunistic politicians may well convince them to bring older generations down to their level through demagoguery and class envy.
Millennials, therefore, can either repeat the mistakes of past generations and try to tax and spend their way to fairness and equality, or they can forge their own path that creates true liberty, prosperity and opportunity. Responding to generational theft with generational retaliation – taxing older generations to pay for new benefits – will leave everyone worse off.
This push has gone beyond a handful of members of Congress. Earlier this month, 70 House Democrats launched a “Medicare for All” caucus. Leading presidential contenders are embracing the concept as well.
The rise of socialism has been building for some time. In 2016, a Gallup poll showed that socialism was more popular among millennials than capitalism. Recent polls tell the same story. As Reason magazine noted in May of 2018:
The University of Chicago’s GenForward Survey of Americans ages 18 to 34 finds that 62 percent think “we need a strong government to handle today’s complex economic problems,” with just 35 percent saying “the free market can handle these problems without government being involved.”
Overall, 49 percent in this group hold a favorable opinion of capitalism – and 45 percent have a positive view of socialism. Socialism gets higher marks than capitalism from Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and African-Americans. Sixty-one percent of Democrats take a positive view of socialism – and so do 25 percent of Republicans.
The rise of socialism should be a wake-up call for Americans young and old. It’s time to confront generational theft now before bitterness turns it into generational retaliation.