George Will marvels at the recent surge of popularity for the new angrier Socialism.
Two-thirds of the federal budget (and 14 percent of GDP) goes to transfer payments, mostly to the non-poor. The U.S. economyâ€™s health-care sector (about 18 percent of the economy) is larger than the economies of all but three nations, and is permeated by government money and mandates. Before the Affordable Care Act was enacted, 40 cents of every health-care dollar was governmentâ€™s 40 cents. The sturdy yeomanry who till Americaâ€™s soil? Last yearâ€™s 529-page Agriculture Improvement Act will be administered by the Agriculture Department, which has about one employee for every 20 American farms.
Socialists favor a steeply progressive income tax, as did those who created todayâ€™s: The top 1 percent pay 40 percent of taxes; the bottom 50 percent pay only 3 percent; 50 percent of households pay either no income tax or 10 percent or less of their income. Law professor Richard Epstein notes that in the last 35 years the fraction of total taxes paid by the lower 90 percent has shrunk from more than 50 percent to about 35 percent.
In his volume in the Oxford History of the United States (The Republic for Which It Stands) covering 1865â€“1896, Stanfordâ€™s Richard White says that John Bates Clark, the leading economist of that era, said â€œtrue socialismâ€ is â€œeconomic republicanism,â€ which meant more cooperation and less individualism. Others saw socialism as â€œa system of social ethics.â€ All was vagueness.
Todayâ€™s angrier socialists rail, with specificity and some justification, against todayâ€™s â€œriggedâ€ system of government in the service of the strong. But as the Hoover Institutionâ€™s John H. Cochrane (a.k.a. the Grumpy Economist) says, â€œIf the central problem is rent-seeking, abuse of the power of the state, to deliver economic goods to the wealthy and politically powerful, how in the world is more government the answer?â€