In the March 25 issue of the Greene County Record, Bert Nye forecasts doom for the country as a result of the election of Joe Biden and a slim Democratic majority in the national House and Senate. He implies that progressive policies are aimed at controlling every aspect of our lives. With Mr. Nye, it’s all or nothing: the status quo, or extreme socialism—no middle ground.
There’s plenty of space for a middle ground in the United States with a somewhat leftward turn that does not put us in the iron grip of the federal government.
Progressive political reform is not the biggest challenge to democracy in the United States. In a study published in the Visual Capitalist a year ago, the U.S. ranked 27th out of 82 countries in social mobility, beaten out by all the Scandinavian countries (top six) as well as Germany (11), France (12), Japan (15), Australia (16), and the U.K. (21). The vision of the United States as the “Land of Opportunity” is increasingly an illusion. Economic freedom in America belongs to the wealthy, not the bulk of the population.
It’s no coincidence that the countries that excel in social mobility are countries with stronger safety nets, universal health care at lower cost with better outcomes than we have, stronger public education, superior infrastructure, better internet connectivity, more parental leave and the like. All of these policies give more opportunities to those lower on the economic ladder. These are countries with robust mixed economies that conservatives in the U.S. brand as extremely socialist or even “communist.” What you get with communism is total state ownership of the means of production and supply chains and state price controls. It’s a red herring to equate communism with the economies of Western Europe who strike a balance between extreme free-market policy and extreme socialism.
In regard to deficit spending, the federal government as the issuer of a fiat currency does not have to obey the rules of budget balancing as do households, state governments or other institutions. When the government issues more money, what appears superficially as a deficit is actually a surplus going out to the real economy, where exchanges of goods and services occur. We may disagree about where the surplus should go—health care, education and infrastructure are favorites of those on the political Left, whereas national defense and subsidies to factory farms, fossil fuel companies and pharmaceutical companies are favorites of those on the Right—but the idea that the surplus is going to crush future generations is off-base. The real enemy of excessive spending is inflation, which happens when supply cannot keep up with demand. With so many people out of work and so many others underemployed, there is plenty of unused productive capacity in the economy right now to absorb high government spending without runaway inflation. To increase deficit spending is to expand opportunities for all of us.