Home Budget & Tax News Commentary: Trump's 'American Greatness' Agenda Is Slower Road to Socialism

Commentary: Trump’s ‘American Greatness’ Agenda Is Slower Road to Socialism

Mind your own business.

Every one of us has thought or said words to this effect when others have told us how to live our lives. Who our friends should be, what career we should pursue, where we should live, the person we should marry, how we should spend our money, or even what clothes we should wear or how to furnish or decorate the place we live.

Even when others have the best of intentions, after all, whose life is it?

Yet, especially in presidential election years, we hang on the words of candidates who all have “plans” to tell us precisely what should be the answers to most of these matters, and many more, in our everyday lives. Not only do we often hang on every word they say, but we actually end up voting for people who are determined to use their election to political office precisely to attempt to run our lives.

Joe Biden and the Democrats have made it clear what their plans are for us. They want to plan our health care, “guarantee” our retirement, cover most or all of the cost of going to college, put us to work on infrastructure and “green” jobs that they know will make our existence “clearer,” “safer,” and more meaningful, along with telling us how to associate with people, including the words we can use and the forms of interaction we may practice in our relationships with others. And all at someone else’s expense, of course. (See my article, “Biden’s ‘Passion and Purpose’ is More Political Paternalism”.)

Trump’s Economic Record

Donald Trump shared his vision for America in his acceptance speech on August 27, 2020 as the Republican Party’s candidate for his reelection to the presidency of the United States. He reminded people that he had overseen cuts in taxes and a reduction of various government regulations that limited the market-based decision-making of private enterprises.

He proudly hailed how these and other policies sponsored by him had reduced unemployment to modern lows, including for minorities and women across the country, accompanied by improvements in wages and standards of living—before the coronavirus crisis struck, that is, in the early months of 2020. In his first term in office, Trump had been making America “great again.”

Donald Trump, like all politicians, wants you to think that everything good is due to and dependent on him. He “saved” and created jobs by “protecting” American business from those big, bad foreign competitors. He started the process of restoring the industries that he knew are the right ones for America’s future. He held China at bay, made our North American trading partners, Canada and Mexico, stop “stealing” our jobs and “robbing” us of factories at home. Plus, he did all in his power to prevent people that he considers “alien” threats from entering the country and joining the American melting pot of opportunity.

In his acceptance speech, Trump warned of the radical socialist policies that putting Joe Biden in the White House would bring to the United States. In theory and practice, socialism has and does mean government direction and planning of economic and social life. That is, government telling people what to produce, how to produce, where to produce, and determining the socially just “fair shares” that everyone in society should receive.

Coronavirus Crisis Central Planner

So, what did Donald Trump say he has done and insisted he would do more of, with his own form of government direction of various aspects of social and economic life?

He “took on Big Pharma and signed orders that will massively lower the cost of your prescription drugs.”

He has “done more for the African-American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln.”

He has put in the right leadership at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to assure that “talented American Workers have been rehired” to supply energy to a variety of southern states.

“He” has been imposing mandated prices, determining who has jobs and to do what, and lifting up black Americans more than any president since emancipation.

Trump told the American people that if Joe Biden is elected, “China would own our country.” Trump, instead, held the Chinese off not only in the arena of economic trade but in China’s “export” of the coronavirus.

Warning of the socialism of Joe Biden, Trump praised his own pandemic central planning in fighting the spread and impact of the virus. Trump stood before the American public in the spring of 2020 and assured us that he had the authority to shut down the U.S. economy and reopen it whenever he considered it good for the country. Where he found such authority in the Constitution, he did not bother to explain.

His administration oversaw the boondoggles of government regulations and controls that delayed or prevented the ability of the private sector to respond to and redirect its production activities to meet the needs resulting from the virus in terms of medical equipment and sanitizing products.

Donald Trump placed before the American public the medical “experts” who first said face masks and lockdowns were not needed, and then insisted that they knew how far we should stay apart of from each other, said we had to stay home and not go to work, and then insisted that we did have to cover our faces.

In conjunction with the draconian policy decisions by governors and mayors around the country, the Trump administration oversaw the collapse of a good part of the U.S. economy, reflected in a contraction of more than 30 percent in Gross Domestic Product (at an annualized rate) in the second quarter of 2020 and a rise in overall unemployment from 3.5 percent in January to more than 20 percent in April of this year.

Even with the allowed “unlocking” of various economic activities, unemployment was still over 10 percent of the workforce in July.

Many small, medium, and large businesses have been pushed into permanently shutting their doors or filing for bankruptcy in attempts to reorganize and possibly save their existence. People’s life savings have been consumed in a government-created recession caused by socialist-style command and control over production and employment.

Throughout the spring, Donald Trump zigzagged back-and-forth: No, there is no coronavirus crisis; yes, there is a dangerous crisis. Yes, we need to direct and dictate what and how businesses respond to it; no, we need to let American business get back to normal work and rehire those millions let off or told to stay at home.

For weeks, Trump hosted daily press conferences with himself at center stage, creating an impression in many people’s minds that his only real concern in dealing with the coronavirus crisis was to seem to be in charge and to “look good” to assure his reelection in November of this year. (See my articles, “To Kill Markets is the Worst Possible Plan,” “Leaving People Alone is the Best Way to Beat the Coronavirus,” “The Coronavirus and the Attack on Liberty and Privacy,” and “The Conquest of America by Communist China.”)

Probably the greatest irritant with Donald Trump is his own “cult of the personality.” This has repulsed not only “progressives” and mainstream Democrats but large numbers of independents and (though many refuse to say it in public) Republicans who cannot stand his tweeting, boasting, exaggerating, abusing of people around him, and his embarrassing anti-intellectualism of even traditional Republican market-oriented ideas.

Middle-of-the-Road Socialism and the Foreign Policy Elite

Donald Trump’s version of socialism is in fact not much different from what Republicans have been peddling and presiding over for many decades: duct-taping an unsustainable Social Security system, offering some hybrid private-government medical system, implementing a “conservative” version of educational interventionism, advocating “incentive-friendly” welfare statism, compromising personal and civil liberties in “wars” on drugs, terrorism and various forms of personal behavior not approved of.

Where Democratic and many mainstream Republican elitists have had common ground against Trump has been against his rhetoric of America withdrawing from its role of being policeman of the world, both diplomatically and militarily. The leaderships of both major political parties are united in believing that it is America’s duty to monitor and move the world into the directions that a joint foreign policy elite in Washington, D.C. think has been the responsibility of the United States to bring about since the country’s participation in World War II.

Oh, they bicker with and berate each other for being either too “realist” or “idealist” in how and for what America should put its hand into, seemingly, the affairs of every other country in the world. But suggest and attempt to follow through with a more modest and noninterventionist foreign policy? The heavens will fall, and planet Earth will fall into darkness before that happens.

This is what frightened and angered many if not most of these mainstream foreign policy analysts and advocates. Trump said he was going to end some of these foreign adventures and pull back from others. Instead, he has wanted to use economic and military pressure on China and build up a “space force” for a future military confrontation among the stars.

That Trump has not really followed through with many of these plans, and in fact often did the opposite, while also pushing for much larger defense budgets, has not diminished the panic and fear among the foreign policy elite that America might stop playing the attempted central planner of the world.

Every American citizen who chooses to vote in November will have to make their own decision, either in the voting booth or on the mail-in ballot this year, as to which of the two major party candidates is the least repugnant and less dangerous for the next four years, to vote for the candidate of an alternative party, or not to vote at all.

Democrats Set Collectivist Tone, Republicans ‘Me-Too’ It

The fact remains that both major political parties represent variations on the same political paternalism theme.

There is no doubt that the Democrats, in their rhetoric and their policy proposals, are the far more determined and dedicated “activists” for a road to despotism not only in economics but in imposing a tribalist identity politics, a cancel culture campaign, and a “systemic racism” agenda to remake the institutions of the country and the conception of the society that is both collectivist in its vision and totalitarian in its practice, if implemented in its entirety. (See my articles “Save America from Cancel Culture,” “‘Systemic Racism’ Theory is the New Political Tribalism”, and “Self-Censorship and Despotism over the Mind”.)

But what is the Republican Party other than the “middle-of-the road” me-tooism party that still uses the phrases and catchwords of freedom and free enterprise, but, in my view, has lost both its understanding of the meaning of liberty and the courage to believe that they could win if it were effectively and persuasively presented?

Many years ago, the individualist philosopher Ayn Rand suggested that in politics the more consistent and uncompromising party is more likely to succeed in moving a country in one direction or the other. They more clearly know where they want to go, and they have more determination to push their agenda in that direction.

Even if the Republicans hold on to half of the Congress and reelect a president to the White House, it will not change the general direction in which the country is going until there is a change in the political philosophy of what America can and should be about.

And that, unfortunately, is a longer-term project and agenda than the political cycle of 2020 or those of 2022 or 2024.

Richard Ebeling
Dr. Richard M. Ebeling is the BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel.

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