With roughly 100 days to go before the 2018 midterm elections, the Trump administration is turning to socialism to save farmers, rather than allowing capitalism to run its course. This can be a very important teaching moment about what socialism actually is, and why it’s necessary to save America.
Farmers have been bearing the brunt of President Trump’s trade war ever since the first round of tariffs was announced. When China instituted a steep tariff on American soybeans in response to Trump’s tariff on imported Chinese minerals, it threatened to throw the local economies of 30 Congressional districts — all of which voted for Trump in 2016 — into total chaos. Farmers are now even committing suicide at unprecedented rates due to steadily declining incomes.
However, instead of Trump allowing his trade war to play out, he’s ordering a special government welfare package specifically for farmers to the tune of $12 billion, according to Reuters.
The concept of the government directly subsidizing an industry not because it’s profitable, but because it’s the right thing to do for people struggling under capitalism would likely offend the political sensibilities of pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps rural voters in red states. But what Trump is doing is the exact kind of socialism rural voters were so scared of happening under former President Barack Obama, and simultaneously the exact kind of socialism that saved rural voters in the past.
In the late 1800s, farmers in the West and the South formed an alliance with industrial workers in the East in order to form the Populist Party, or the People’s Party. The political movement sprung up out of frustration that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans were implementing economic policy that was beneficial to the working class. According to Encyclopedia.com, the People’s Party called for, among other things, an eight-hour workday, state ownership of the transportation and communication industries, and direct election of U.S. Senators (who used to be elected by state legislatures).
Some of the greatest accomplishments of the agrarian populist movement still endure today, like the Bank of North Dakota — America’s first and only state-run bank that holds the state’s tax revenues and invests billions of dollars in public infrastructure.
Despite being founded in 1919 with just $2 million in initial capital, the Bank of North Dakota now has more than $825 million in capital and approximately $7 billion in total assets. Because the bank doesn’t invest in risky financial instruments on Wall Street like derivatives, it reported a 17 percent return on investment last year. The bank also wrote $1.72 billion in loans for agriculture, business, and student loans last year, and has been profitable for 14 consecutive years.
North Dakota is also home to the North Dakota mill, a socialist endeavor that has become the largest grain mill in the United States, producing 3.8 million pounds of flour every day. The mill made more than $155 million in profits over a 43-year period, $87 million of which went right back to the state to be invested in public services. And just two states of South of North Dakota, Nebraska’s state-owned electric company — the Nebraska Power Association — provides electricity to all at a low cost, and has been the sole electricity provider in the state since 1949.
President Trump’s socialism for farmers is in the same vein as popular, well-established socialism in deep-red states, proving that socialism is something that rural red state voters will support if framed the right way. This is likely why so many Republicans are terrified of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist — campaigning in Kansas last weekend, which has voted for Republicans in every presidential election for 50 years.
On Tuesday, Fox and Friends invited Virginia Kruta, an editor at the staunchly pro-Republican Daily Caller, to talk about her experience at Ocasio-Cortez’s Kansas rally. She described how “uncomfortable” she felt when hearing Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush — who Ocasio-Cortez was stumping for — say that Americans should have a right to healthcare and tuition-free public university education.
“[Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush] talk about things that everybody wants, especially if you’re a parent — they talk about education for your kids, health care for your kids. Things that you want,” Kruta said. “If you’re not really paying attention to how they’re going to pay for it, or the rest of that, it’s easy to fall into that trap and say, ‘my kids deserve this, and maybe the government should be responsible for helping me with that.’ ”
Centrist Democrats also mistakenly believe that these bold policy proposals will cost them the 2018 election. On Monday, Hillary Clinton pollster Doug Schoen went on Fox Business to say that “most Americans who vote in midterm elections are not socialist” and that they “don’t want socialist policies.” But Schoen ignored data that showed that more voters in the 2016 Iowa Democratic caucuses identified as socialist than as capitalist.
Maybe what the talking heads in both parties are missing is that when you look past the socialist label, policies that are put in place to help everyday working-class voters have healthcare, job security, public education, and stability for their families are popular regardless of party affiliation. The sooner the major parties abandon the myth that unregulated capitalism should be the natural order of things, the better off the working class will be.