Dangers Left and Right 

Dr. Malcolm Cross

President Biden’s growing tendency to call Republicans and their policies fascist contributes to the accelerating decline of political discourse in America as more and more activists toss pejoratives such as “fascist” and “socialist” about.  Usage of these terms undermines real efforts to try to restore sanity to our fiscal policies, and helps make whatever problems we face worse.

Biden initially began referring to “MAGA Republicans,” presumably supporters of former President Trump and his tactics for trying to remain in power, as “semi-fascists,’ with obvious emphasis on the word “fascist.”  After all, why work the word into discussion unless you want to identify your opponents with it?

Biden has since begun labeling Republican policies for reforming our tax code and Social Security program as “MAGA-Republican” policies as well.  Since he identifies “MAGA-Republicans” with fascism, and since the policies he’s denouncing are widely supported by Republicans in general and not simply by Trump’s supporters, it’s obvious he’s using a broad brush to label all Republicans and their ideas as fascist.  In this sense, he’s joined the ranks of the nut-jobs and crackpots on both the left and the right who’ve abandoned any pretense of rational analysis of the issues in favor of name calling and the use of labels whose original meanings bear no resemblance to what they’re being used to describe.

This is not to say that Republican policies should not be criticized.  With trillion-dollar deficits and a national debt of about thirty trillion dollars, it should be obvious that America’s tax and spending policies are utterly irresponsible—for which the Republicans share much of the blame.  They justify their incessant quest for more tax cuts without corresponding cuts in spending with the fantasy that sharp enough tax cuts will produce such great economic growth that the taxes, however low their rates may become, will collect enough revenue generated by that growth to balance the budget.  If the lower taxes aren’t producing the revenue, then they must be cut even more. 

But however irresponsible this “voodoo economic” approach may be, it’s not fascism.  A truly fascist regime retains private property, while subjecting it to far greater political control.  The Republican scheme of cuts in taxes and regulations at least has the virtue of expanding—not reducing—the freedom of property owners to use their property their way, and not the government’s.  To simply call Republican programs “fascist” obscures the real flaws in them, and thus makes more difficult the efforts to address those flaws.

Democrats, too, must bear their fair share of the blame for making American fiscal policy so laughable were it not so pathetically irresponsible.  They propose to spend vast amounts of money to implement their programs without providing any means of paying for them other than by taxing “the rich.”  Just as Republicans believe in fiscal responsibility only when Democrats control the White House, so too do Democrats preach fiscal responsibility only when Republicans have the White House.

But Biden’s proposed spending policies, however ruinous and irresponsible they may be, are not socialistic by any stretch of the imagination.  In a truly socialistic economic-political system, the government would own the means of producing goods and services.  Private business and industry would be outlawed.  But Biden proposes no such undertaking.

Take, for example, his “Green New Deal.”  In essence, Biden and the Democrats want to spend billions of dollars to promote “renewable energy sources,” electric-powered cars, etc.  But they do not propose to do so through the creation of new government agencies, which would indeed be socialistic.  Rather, the Biden approach is to financially subsidize the expansion of existing private companies, or the creation of new companies in the private sector, to promote the development of wind and solar power, to build electric-powered cars while phasing out cars with internal combustion engines, to retrofit buildings to be more energy efficient, etc., etc., etc.  Are his proposed programs and those of other Democrats at the national, state, and local extravagant?  Wasteful?  Irrational?  A strong case can be made for answering “Yes.”  For example:  California’s legislature has passed a law prohibiting the sale of gasoline-powered cars in 2035, but the government is urging the owners of electric-powered cars to not charge them for the time being.  The Biden Administration is discouraging American drilling for more oil while urging those paragons of democratic stability, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, to do exactly that.  But whatever else one might say of Biden’s cockamamie energy policies, real and proposed, they’re by no means socialistic.  To say that they are is not only false but a distraction from attempts to analyze their true weaknesses.

Whether the misuse of terms such as “fascist” and “socialist” is the product of cynical malice or simply pathetic ignorance is of secondary importance.  Far more important is the need to recover the lost arts of seeing clearly and speaking plainly, without the obfuscation caused by the negligence of misused labels.  Until we do so, our political discourse will be dominated by the rantings and ravings of demagogues of both the left and the right, while the problems they so ineptly and dishonestly handle continue to grow.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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