“America will never be a socialist country,” President Trump said as he launched his bid for re-election last week.
That declaration was an effort to frighten Americans and undermine growing support for expanding Medicare and Social Security—two popular programs that have long been derided as “socialist.” Mr. Trump’s declaration hypocritically ignores that he and his Republican colleagues are the nation’s leading purveyors of an insidious form of corporate socialism, which uses government power and taxpayer resources to enrich Mr. Trump and his billionaire friends.
When we defeat Mr. Trump in this election, we are going to end his corporate socialism and use those resources to create a 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights that benefits all people.
Consider the corporate socialism we’ve seen on Wall Street, where the high priests of unfettered capitalism reign. As you will recall, Wall Street’s deification of “free markets” went out the window in 2008 as they watched the financial crisis caused by their own greed and illegal behavior threaten the existence of some of the largest financial institutions in the country. Suddenly, Wall Street became strong supporters of big-government socialism.
They begged the federal government for unprecedented taxpayer assistance, and Congress provided them with the largest bailout in history. The major banks received some $700 billion from the Treasury and trillions in low-interest loans from the Federal Reserve.
Meanwhile, working people all across the country lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings. The most vulnerable were hit the hardest, with the African-American community losing half its wealth.
That was not an aberration. The norm across the corporate world is what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called “socialism for the rich, and rugged free enterprise capitalism for the poor.”
If you are a fossil-fuel company, whose carbon emissions are destroying the planet, Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans offer billions in government subsidies, including special tax breaks, royalty relief and funding for research and development. But if you are struggling to pay your utility bill, you get the free market—higher and higher electric bills.
If you are a pharmaceutical company, you make huge profits on patent rights for medicines that were developed with taxpayer-funded research. But if you are a taxpayer, you get the free market and pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs—and in some cases you die because you cannot afford the medication you need.
If you are a monopoly like Amazon, owned by the wealthiest person in the U.S., you get hundreds of millions of dollars in economic incentives from taxpayers to build warehouses, yet you end up paying not one penny in federal income taxes. But if you are a small business that falls behind on your store’s rent, you get the free market—which means you get an eviction notice.
If you are the billionaire Walton family, state and local governments grant you free land and subsidies and build infrastructure for your stores, even as Walmart ’s tax-avoidance schemes drain local towns of public revenues. But if you are a Walmart worker, you get the free market—which means starvation wages.
If you are the Trump family, you got $885 million worth of tax breaks and subsidies for your family’s housing empire, which was built on racial discrimination. But if you are a homeowner struggling to pay your mortgage, you get the free market—which means foreclosure.
The time is long overdue for the U.S. to end corporate socialism for Mr. Trump and the rest of the billionaire class. Instead, those resources should be put to work to ensure shared prosperity by enhancing Social Security and Medicare and investing in roads and bridges, public schools, clean water and clean air.
Mr. Trump believes in corporate socialism to protect the wealth and power of the rich. I believe the U.S. must end corporate socialism and instead fulfill President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vision of enshrining basic economic rights for all Americans. These include the rights to health care, a living wage, a decent job, a quality education, a secure retirement, affordable housing and a clean environment. We can make this 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights a reality with initiatives like Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, a Green New Deal, student-debt cancellation and legislation to expand Social Security.
I recognize that this agenda will face enormous opposition from corporate America and the 1%. They have a vested interest in protecting the corporate socialism that has enriched and empowered them. The wealthiest three families now own more wealth than the bottom half of the country, and they will do everything they can to block our agenda.
But more Americans are noticing the contradiction between coddled socialism for the rich and the destruction of opportunity for everyone else. I am confident that we will be able to build a grass-roots movement that will not only defeat Donald Trump in this election but finally create a government that works for all people, not just the billionaire class.
Mr. Sanders, an independent, is a U.S. senator from Vermont and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Robert Reich explain how the wealthy and corporations receive billions in corporate welfare.