Socialism, from the “democratic” flavor to full-bore public ownership, is on the upswing. More millennials have a favorable view of socialism—whatever that means to them—than of capitalism. And we don’t need polls to tell us that the Bernie Sanders (now Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) wing of the Democratic party has slingshotted from the fringes to squarely in the mainstream.
There’s a lot of variance within the party on how far to take this new attitude: Are we content with Medicare for all, or is the mere existence of billionaires now immoral? For all of the differences, there is an agreed-upon baseline—give more money, and thereby power, to government.
Before you object: By its very nature, Medicare for all means giving more money and power to government. So does enabling the feds to retrofit every building in America with eco-friendly plumbing, or to break up big tech companies simply for making too much money (more than $25 billion, to be exact).
The debate, then, centers around how much more money and power to give to the government. That is where the conservative-progressive split begins. You may be surprised to learn that I share many of the Green New Deal’s goals. I would love if our infrastructure were repaired, or our carbon emissions were eliminated in a decade, or that all those unable to work received a living wage.
I just don’t trust government to do it.
Ignore the innumerable examples of federal ineptitude when given power and money (anyone checked in on the Native Americans lately?), and focus on the state level. Let’s use my home state as an example.
Michigan roads are bad. Like, 50th place out of 50-bad. They’ve been bad for decades, at least as long as I’ve been alive, which means we citizens have been treated to oodles of lip service from politicians for just as long. With each new initiative (read: tax increase), governors from both parties have assured us that that their predecessors got it all wrong and that this one will be the one to finally fix everything.
In a shocking turn of events, we’re now hearing that the tax increase from 2015 (passed under a Republican) simply won’t be enough. Our newly-elected Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer has proposed a 45-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase to fix Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure. The plan is projected to raise over $2 billion annually and would catapult Michigan’s gas tax to the highest in the nation, ahead of Pennsylvania’s 58.7 cents per gallon.
My question for the governor is the same question I have for whenever an initiative like this comes around: Why should I trust you? If this plan is implemented, Michiganders will pay nearly 90 cents extra per gallon of gas. This is because unlike most states, Michigan charges its 6% state sales tax on fuel in addition to standard state and federal fuel taxes.
Instead of funding roads like the other fuel taxes, that sales tax goes to support Michigan’s school. Sounds nice, until you realize Michigan schools rank in the bottom half nationwide, and even lower for standard achievement metrics. For all the extra penalties government places on a routine activity like driving, all it has to show for it are failing schools and dangerous roads.
At what point do we question the notion that if we just pay more in taxes—or allow just a little more government intervention—things will be safer, cleaner, better? The evidence does not bear out this conclusion. Not just in Michigan: in California, Maryland, New York and the United States itself, too. And let’s not look only to left-wing examples: It’s clear now that the victor in the War On Drugs is drugs. Plus, President Trump’s penchant for picking winners and losers in the private sector hasn’t gone so well.
I’ll leave you with this: We could give government the power to, say, force you to create or sell a product with which you disagree. In this case, you might say, the baker in question should not be legally allowed to discriminate against LGBT individuals. Alright.
What happens when those in power aren’t on your side anymore?