The White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) isn't usually the sort of crowd you'd assume sounds like Sean Hannity on a bender, but that's only because previous presidents made the mistake of hiring bland grey economists who focused on boring economic stuff, not the perils of the USA suddenly putting Lenin and Mao in charge of national policy, which could totally happen, according to a new 72-page report by Donald Trump's CEA. Titled "The Opportunity Costs of Socialism," the report warns America that while no members of the US political establishment are advocating we adopt collectivized farming, the Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward, or Hugo Chavez's nationalization of the oil industry, there are definitely some Democrats who'd like Medicare for All, so let's take a look at why Lenin, Stalin, and Mao were total cucks, OK? Also, even more modest socialist-lite systems like those in Scandinavia are bad, because have you seen how expensive owning a pickup truck in Finland is?

We are literally not making this up. The report actually says that. It's like a bunch of frat bros snorted Heritage Foundation white papers and turned in a term paper, only with fewer misspellings. In fact, we can say in all honesty that this is one of the most neatly typed, correctly spelled John Birch Society pamphlets we've ever read. On that measure at least, it's WAY better than a lot of White House output. These economists definitely take pride in their work, because capitalism encourages quality.

Lest you insist we're joking, let's look at this excerpt from pp. 7-8, which proves the links between Marx, Mao, and two Democrats in the US Senate because ALL use the term "exploitation":

As Karl Marx put it, "Modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few" (Marx and Engels 1848, 24). 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."

Not a dime's difference between 'em, and if there were, Sanders would surely seize that dime in tax increases.

The ENTIRE FREAKING THING reads like this, usually with a mild preface noting that of course today's progressives don't advocate collective farming or seizing the means of production, but aren't higher marginal tax rates on the One Percent almost exactly the same? Here's another one from the very first page. After noting that today's "socialists" talk about exploitation, the CEA somberly links progressive taxation with Marx's most famous slogan:

The proposed solutions include single-payer systems, high tax rates ("from each according to his ability"), and public policies that hand out much of the Nation's goods and services "free" of charge ("to each according to his needs"). Where they differ is that contemporary democratic socialists denounce state brutality and would allow individuals to privately own the means of production in many industries.

Honestly, Medicare for All (M4A) is the only actual proposal for nationalizing an "industry" the report can find. The authors ignore the silly notion that healthcare should be a right, not a product, as well as the fact that M4A would still leave the provision of care in private hands, as in Canada. (Fine, the report briefly mentions universal college education elsewhere, but only briefly.)

Look, here's another one, also from page 8:

Historical and contemporary socialists argue that heavy taxation need not reduce national output because a public enterprise uses its efficiency and bargaining power to achieve better outcomes. Mao touted the "superiority of large cooperatives." [...] " Proponents of socialism in America today argue that the Federal government can run healthcare more efficiently than many competing private enterprises.

They're not saying anyone who advocates taxpayer funding of services is Mao, but look what Mao said!

Also, there are charts, and explanations of charts, like this homage to Milton Friedman's thinking (p. 9) explaining why you only get best value when you spend your own money on yourself. It has to do with Christmas sweaters, expense-account hotel rooms, and welfare queens:

That's maybe OK as far as it goes, but then the report goes on to suggest that single-payer systems will obviously just bankrupt every nation that has one, which may be news to every industrialized democracy in the world. (No, we won't get into the weeds of how different countries have very different models for making single-payer work, because the CEA insists the only possibility would have to be the maximalist approach. Possibly one that would include collective farms.)

We have to admit it will be fascinating when someone on the panel finally cracks (risking violating a nondisclosure agreement, no doubt) and explains the writing process that led to a document that readily admits no Dems advocate a Stalinist/Maoist takeover of agriculture, and then spends many pages detailing why collective farming was an abject failure, so there, even Obamacare is collectivist and bad! Also Venezuela. Why do you people want America to be Venezuela, huh?

Please don't notice that literally no one on the leftish spectrum (except college tankies) actually pines for the USSR, although sure, Wonkette thinks the art is amusingly triggering for righties. We'd accuse these dips of attacking straw men, but as everyone knows, during Stalin's second Five Year Plan (1933-1938), straw production fell to record lows. Take that, Bernie Sanders!

Just in case the failures of all the biggest socialists ever didn't convince you, the report also notes that many modern liberals think Scandinavia is pretty cool beans, a proposition the CEA takes on in typically schizoid fashion: Your so-called socialist paradises are both not really socialist (the healthcare includes copays, so M4A is more radical!) BUT in these socialist hellholes, the taxes are really high and nobody can afford ... a full-sized pickup truck!

(Yes, fuel costs more in Europe because they add in "taxes" to cover what are called "externalities" like "pollution," which your Editrix is hopping in here to note she learned about in ... freshman Economics at a California junior college. Gas taxes have fuckall to do with Medicare for All, but never mind, let's keep going.)

In an especially bizarre observation, the report notes that Americans of Nordic extraction actually have a higher average income than Nordics in Nordic countries, so they'd better not complain about slavery, or something. In a lovely discussion of all this madness, Vox points out,

[The] poor in Scandinavia are generally substantially better off than the poor in the US. How to balance that against the lower incomes of people in the middle in Scandinavia (especially when those lower incomes don't have to pay for health insurance premiums or college tuition, when child care is heavily subsidized, etc.) is a moral question.

And hey, funny thing, income disparity in Scandinavia is also far lower. How terrible! Suck it, Cory Booker!

The section on Medicare for All just can't help dragging Mao into the discussion, either, noting that advocates of single payer insist it would be administratively cheaper than the hodgepodge of medical "systems" we have in the US. More efficient, huh? Sounds like something the LYING MEDIA would say!

Modern journalists and analysts routinely claim that single-payer programs are more efficient—and thus are similar in spirit to Lenin and Mao, who justified government takeovers on the basis of the virtues of single-payer programs.

These must be the economists who buy single serve packages of everything because it's cheaper.

The report does at least mention the reality that medical providers spend an insane amount of time and effort on insurance paperwork, but simply handwaves that particular inefficiency away by insisting government regulations would be far worse, because duh, government is always worse.

In one of the silliest charts of all, the report tries to explain how every country that has government-run healthcare rations care for the elderly by comparing wait times to see a specialist for patients over 75. You know, the people who in the USA get really good care from our single-payer insurance for people over 75.

Go enjoy another fine essay at Vox on how the CEA report unintentionally makes a really strong case for Medicare for All.

As we say, the whole report is full of laughs; we predict that at gatherings of political scientists or economists, it will someday become the object of hilarious booze-soaked group readings and MST3K treatments, like "The Eye of Argon" at science fiction conventions or "My Immortal" for Harry Potter fans.

And please, any White House economists who want to give us the poop on how this thing was drafted, call us.

["The Opportunity Costs of Socialism" / Vox / Nation / Vox / FastCompany]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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