Lynn Smith: Red State Socialism

Few things are able to leave me speechless, but watching middle-class voters get tricked by right-wing “populists” works every time. Economic proposals that would benefit a broad spectrum of Americans are routinely decried as “socialist” by GOP leaders, and they unabashedly stoke division with threats of “income redistribution.”

This asymmetrical warfare allows them to delegitimize honest conversations around our growing income inequalities and anticipate policy proposals that could restore some economic fairness. And, all the while, they laugh as they go to the bank…or more accurately…deposit our taxes in their own state coffers.

Although he has a lot of competition within the GOP, hats off to Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky for being the biggest hypocrite of them all. While clipping a socialist tag to every program that expands child care or expands Medicare coverage, he never discloses that his own state receives, per person, $14,153 more in federal revenue than they pay. Called a state’s balance of tax payments, this calculation measures the difference between a state’s contributions to the federal coffers and the amount it claws back in federal benefits. But, back to Kentucky… in 2019, they received $63 billion more in aid from the federal government than its citizens paid in income taxes, and it was no outlier year.

Obviously, these are the rules of the GOP playbook: As long as federal tax revenues flow back to Republican-controlled states in amounts disproportionate to what they paid in, those payments will not qualify as redistribution. income, welfare or socialism. . But, when Democrats enter into discussions about strengthening social safety nets for the middle class, or retirees, or our children, the term socialist will be quickly used. This is, of course, both dishonest and divisive.

But red state socialism is not unique to Kentucky or Senator Paul. Eight of the 10 states most dependent on federal government aid are Republican-controlled red states. They include West Virginia, Mississippi, Alaska, Montana, Kentucky, Alabama, Arizona, and Louisiana. Even a huge, wealthy red state like Texas claws back more than it sends into the federal coffers, but that doesn’t stop Ted Cruz from babbling about socialism. Interestingly, in “Don’t Tread on Me” Montana, they didn’t object to the feds returning $2.25 for every dollar their state paid in taxes in 2021.

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Nine states regularly send more to the federal government than they receive in federal benefits, and seven of those are Democratic blue states. Chronically labeled by the right-wing media as bastions of socialism, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois and Minnesota always end up making the most of the federal payroll and are Perennial “donor” states. The math becomes pretty clear: Federal income tax and Social Security taxes levied in Northeast and Midwest blue states subsidize red states, especially Southeast states that have neglected to invest. in their own populations. New York gets 86 cents back for every dollar sent to the federal government, while Kentucky gets $2.35, or nearly 300% more. But have you ever heard that Senator Paul of Kentucky was called a socialist? And if Republicans were really against wealth redistribution, wouldn’t they be advocating for the return of those excess tax payments to donor states like New York?

Please don’t misunderstand my message. I believe that our tax dollars should be used to promote the “common good” throughout our great nation. What I take issue with is the intentional misrepresentation of facts and the chronic use of divisive language to prevent grassroots policy changes that would improve the quality of life for a majority of Americans. .

Make no mistake…our innovative country is firmly rooted in capitalism, which is the only economic structure that rewards private ownership of property and production. We are not, and never have been, a socialist nation. But, our public policy disproportionately rewards those at the top of our economic hierarchy, and that must change if we are to emerge from this age of rage.

Our economy is strong and resilient, and the current level of inflation reflects this. So I would argue that what Americans are witnessing right now is not an economic crisis with social consequences, but rather a social crisis with potential economic consequences. Inaccurate and inflammatory language, when used by our political leaders, only increases our distrust and divisions, and greatly diminishes our ability to unite around mutually beneficial solutions.

Maybe that’s the goal.

— Community columnist Lynn Smith is a retired wealth management executive who resides in the Netherlands. Contact her at [email protected]