Readers Write: A better life for all by any name

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“I’m a Danish schoolteacher making about $61,000 a year. We get free education (and) you don’t have to pay for going to a doctor (or) the hospital. We can afford to have our own house, a car, we get six weeks’ vacation and women get one-year maternity leave (when they have) a baby…”

Doesn’t this sound like the American Dream? Yes, but we in the United States have not yet achieved it.

I submit that what is pejoratively called “the welfare state” is considered anathema by most of us. We have been conditioned to believe that socialism is evil.

I have long argued that socialists are concerned with basic needs such as health, education, food, shelter and dignity.

While even the least compassionate conservative will not oppose good health etc., they do make the case that we cannot afford such grandiose goals.

Brian Riedl writing in the National Review: A 70 percent tax bracket (recommended by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) would raise very little (if any) revenue… He goes on to estimate “a green energy initiative costing $7 to 10 trillion over the decade… $42 trillion (which includes) single-payer healthcare… student loan forgiveness (1.4 trillion), free public college (800 billion), infrastructure ($1 trillion )… and Social Security expansion ($188 billion). These costs must scare even the most rabid socialist.

But let’s take a closer look. These are totals for the next 10 years. Why not use figures for one year? And why not prioritize? What if we achieved only two or three of these, for example, Medicare for all and infrastructure improvements?

Couldn’t we afford a scaled down version of this Utopian dream?

On Feb. 7, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, along with Sen. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, introduced a plan called the “Green New Deal.”

It was a bold proposal which strives to achieve on two fronts. First, it seeks to improve the environment by developing 100 percent renewable, zero-emission energy sources (eat your heart out Koch Brothers), including electric cars and high-speed rail systems.” This is designed to get at climate change problems and reduce the social cost of carbon usage.

The second prong is the “New Deal” portion which focuses on universal healthcare, fair minimum wages and regulating monopolies.

Another criticism of the resolution is that there are not many details in the plan, but keep in mind that it was not meant to be detailed — it is, rather, a blueprint for the future designed to start a conversation about what our society might look like.

Who supports this resolution? Presidential hopefuls like Senators Cory Booker, Kristin Gillebrand, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and, of course, Bernie Sanders.  Ocasio-Cortez also has support from economists James Galbraith and Paul Krugman, as well as environmental organizations like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace.

If this proposal is not to your liking, Warren has a different plan.

She proposes that instead of focusing on taxes we look at wealth. It turns out that the richest 0.1 percent of Americans (or about 75,000 families) have nearly the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90 percent of American families combined.

This wealth can be found in art collections, real estate and yachts.

I recall when John McCain was running for president, his family owned eight homes. I remember thinking that this must have posed a problem for him, namely, “where should I sleep tonight?”

Here’s another way of looking at the problem of accumulated wealth. An heir with $500,000,000 in assets can pay the same amount in taxes as a public school teacher. So why not look at “wealth?”

Warren’s plan goes by another name — “the ultra-millionaire tax.” In case you’re wondering how such a convenient tax-dodge come about, it should be obvious that the rich and the powerful control Washington and can elect legislators who will do their bidding.

This is my final letter dealing with socialism in America. The only question which remains is “what lessons can we learn from all this?”

My conclusions are: 1. most Americans will continue to think of socialism as pie in the sky utopianism; 2. the capitalist credo with its Horatio Alger dream of “rags to riches” will prevail; 3. while there are proposals afoot to alter our economic thinking, these will find it difficult to take root in American soil; and 4. while Americans are pragmatists who eschew extremes, I, personally, will always align with “the left” because I prefer being allied with compassion to siding with greed.

Dr. Hal Sobel

Great Neck

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