A recent NBC poll found that low-information voters tend to support Sen. Bernie Sanders and other socialist candidates. This was pointed out on “Meet The Press” by moderator Chuck Todd based on a poll conducted by Monmouth University.
That means voters who favor socialism are less informed about how socialism actually works and exactly what it means. Perhaps if they had a better understanding of socialism, which is an economic system, they would think twice before supporting socialists.
Much of Sanders support comes from younger Americans. Millennials and Generation Z show strong support for socialism. In fact, nearly half said they would prefer to live in a socialist country. This is very alarming, considering that our country has faired so well mostly because we have generally resisted socialist policies.
It is, however, easy to understand why socialism is so popular among young Americans today.
Millennials and Generation Z have never experienced true economic prosperity. From 2005 to 2016, economic growth averaged about 2 percent annually. That slow growth meant that there was a shortage of good opportunities. New college graduates were the first to experience the negative impacts of slow growth.
When the economy is growing at least 3 percent per year, there is opportunity. During the 12-year stagnant period from 2005 to 2016, new college graduates had difficulty finding a good job. Many accepted jobs at lower salaries. Often these jobs did not require a college degree.
Since many of the grads had an average debt of about $30,000, the low salary put strains on them. They simply couldn’t afford to pay for basic living expenses. For them, Sanders free college tuition and free health care were very appealing.
For those who did not have a college degree, there was very little opportunity at all because the college grads were taking many of the jobs that did not require a college degree. These people became so discouraged by the lack of opportunity that they stopped looking for work and dropped out of the labor market.
For them, free health care and other social programs like food stamps, welfare and basic universal income were very appealing.
Perhaps if they had opportunity and more information their views would change. Fortunately, the current administration has set economic growth as the top priority. Since the second quarter of 2017, just a couple of months after the new administration took over, economic growth has averaged above 3 percent annually. This growth is providing opportunity for the underemployed and discouraged workers.
Sanders’ supporters should look to the future. Their view of socialism would likely change.
Free college tuition and free health care will be very expensive in the long term. Free tuition during the four years of college sounds like a good idea. It would result in grads who had absolutely no debt. The taxpayers would pay the bill for them.
But after they graduate and get a job, they become taxpayers. That means for the next 40 or 50 years they would be paying additional taxes to cover the tuition expense of the current college students. The same would be true for health care.
It would be free or low cost while an American was unemployed or underemployed, but as soon as the individual found substantial employment, they would not only have to pay for their own health care but they would have to pay additional taxes for health care for others who could not afford it.
Socialist income transfer programs are costly, inefficient and often times do more harm than good. That’s because the government is not motivated by profit — meaning there is no incentive to reduce cost. Taxpayers ultimately pay the bill for the inefficiency.
Socialist principles are exactly opposite to what made America great. Recall the U.S. went from the birth of a nation to the largest, most prosperous economy in the world in about 150 years. The U.S. topped countries that were hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years older.
There were four basic economic principles that allowed this to happen.
The U.S. economy emphasized individual freedom, allowing Americans to pursue their goals. Second, there was individual responsibility where Americans, for the most part, took care of themselves. Third, the government placed low rates of taxation so Americans could keep nearly all of what they earned. And fourth, there was a limited role for government.
Socialism is exactly opposite to each of those core principles. Americans lose individual freedom when the government takes over industries like health care and higher education. Socialism means there is much more social responsibility and much less individual responsibility.
Tax rates for all Americans will have to increase substantially to pay for these programs — and there would be a much greater role for government.
In the long term, socialism results in slower growth.
If young people were fully informed about the impact of socialism perhaps they would not support Sanders or any of the socialist candidates. Lack of full information always leads to less than optimal decisions.
Can someone explain this to our youth?
Michael Busler, Ph.D. is a public policy analyst and a Professor of Finance at Stockton University where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Finance and Economics.
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