Hammering away on that point, the report mentions Cuba, China and the U.S.S.R. more than 30 times each. But the star of the report is Venezuela, which is mentioned nearly 60 times. The report estimates that emulating Venezuelan economic policies would cause the American economy to shrink by 40 percent. It’s something that Mr. Trump has repeatedly suggested Democrats want to do, but neither the president nor the report presents any evidence and no Democratic candidate has come anywhere close to embracing Venezuela’s policies.
Bernie, meet Mao
The report opens by asserting that “socialism is making a comeback in American political discourse.” The word itself is certainly enjoying a revival. A handful of high-profile politicians, including Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a candidate for a House seat from New York, call themselves “democratic socialists.” A Gallup poll this year found that 51 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 had a positive view of socialism, however they defined the term.
The report acknowledges that these democratic socialists don’t see themselves as the heirs of, say, Lenin. It specifically notes that they’re not advocating violence. But it nonetheless seeks to connect liberals and their policy proposals to past socialist regimes.
“There are proposals on the table, like the ‘Medicare for All’ proposal, that are very consistent with the design of socialism,” Kevin Hassett, the chairman of the council, told reporters during a conference call to discuss the report on Tuesday.
The report frequently adopts the facile tactic of comparing or lumping leading liberal politicians and demagogues. For example:
The Chinese leader Mao Zedong, who cited Marxism as the model for his country, described “the ruthless economic exploitation and political oppression of the peasants by the landlord class” (Cotterell 2011, chap. 6). Expressing similar concerns, current American senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have stated that “large corporations . . . exploit human misery and insecurity, and turn them into huge profits” and “giant corporations . . . exploit workers just to boost their own profits.
The socialist narrative names the oppressors of the vulnerable, such as the bourgeoisie (Marx), kulaks (Lenin), landlords (Mao), and giant corporations (Sanders and Warren). Piketty (2014) concludes that the Soviet approach and other attempts to “abolish private ownership” should at least be admired for being “more logically consistent.”
And even in the footnotes:
“Speculators” are also blamed for high prices and other social problems, as by Marx, Stalin, Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, and Fidel Castro, who said that they “have turned the planet into a giant casino.”
Sweden is no paradise, especially for pickup trucks
When liberals speak fondly of democratic socialism, they often point to Scandinavia — and a set of higher-tax countries that provide more robust government services and safety nets to their citizens. The report acknowledges this — and then walks a fine line around it.
First, the council notes all the ways that Nordic countries don’t necessarily comport with a liberal ideal of government, including a heavy middle-class tax burden and lighter-than-you-might-expect regulation of business.