On Tuesday, the Trump administration’s Council of Economic Advisers released a report on “The Opportunity Costs of Socialism.” Responding to the increased prominence of democratic socialism in American politics, the report warned that socialist policies would wreck the economy.
The report repeatedly conflated different forms of socialism, mixing together the autocratic policies of states like the Soviet Union and Maoist China with democratic socialism. “The socialist narrative names the oppressors of the vulnerable, such as the bourgeoisie (Marx), kulaks (Lenin), landlords (Mao), and giant corporations (Sanders and Warren),” the report argues.
The report does also discuss the democratic socialism practiced by some European countries. It argues that those countries are not really socialist and also that they are poorer than the United States. “In many respects, the Nordic countries’ policies now differ significantly from what economists have in mind when they think of socialism,” the report contends. “Living standards in the Nordic countries are at least 15 percent lower than in the United States.” The last claim seems dubious both factually (Norway has a substantially higher per capita income than the United States) and also irrelevant if the Nordic countries are not really socialist.
As Sarah Kliff of Vox notes, the report also accidentally makes the case for single-payer healthcare—while arguing against it. The document features a chart which, “compares wait times for seniors in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the United States. It purports to show that seniors in single-payer countries wait much longer than those here in the United States.” But as Kliff observes, American seniors themselves have a form of socialized medicine: Medicare. So the chart merely confirms that Medicare is compatible with brief wait times.