The Trump administration wants to make it perfectly clear that socialism is a very bad thing as far as it’s concerned, releasing a 72-page economic report on the topic Tuesday to hammer the point home.
The report, written by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers and titled “The Opportunity Costs of Socialism,” says that on this, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, “socialism is making a comeback in American political discourse.”
Clearly alarmed by this turn of events, the CEA authors provide an overview of what they see as the essential economic flaws of “Cuba, China, the USSR, and other highly socialist countries” — an overview that is presumably intended to serve as a warning for Democrats who are tempted to follow a similar path, not least by pushing for single-payer health care.
Council Chair Kevin Hassett told reporters Tuesday that some "proposals on the table, like the Medicare for all proposal," are "very consistent with the design of socialism," adding that he was simply providing objective analysis on the subject, not political commentary.
But some critics were taken aback by the partisan nature of the report coming from the president’s economic advisers. “It is not unusual for the White House to issue statements that reinforce the political themes the president's party is campaigning on before an election,” election attorney Brett Kappel told CNBC. “But it is very unusual for the Council of Economic Advisors — a supposedly nonpartisan body of experts — to be used for this purpose."
Writing at Reuters Breakingviews, Tom Buerkle says that the report “bears a White House seal but is filled with rhetoric more suited to a Trump rally.”
In addition to warnings about the horrors of the Soviet Union and Maoist China, the report takes on the Nordic counties, which are portrayed as not really socialist in some respects, although clear failures where they do tend toward socialism. One of the many problems in that part of the world, apparently, is the high cost of operating a pickup truck, as this chart from the report makes clear:
Word to the wise, courtesy of the Trump administration’s publicly funded economic research: If you love your F-150, don’t move to Finland.
The report's main opponent, though, seems to be public health care systems of the kind promoted by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is described in the report as “the leading socialist in Federal politics today.”
One chart attempts to demonstrate the inferiority of universal health care systems by comparing wait times for elderly patients to see specialists. That line of analysis may have backfired, though, as numerous critics pointed out that the chart suggests that Medicare — the closest most Americans get to a single-payer system — offers the shortest wait times. “Weirdly,” Sarah Kliff of Vox writes, the report “contains a chart that actually makes a pretty decent argument for single-payer health care.”
Read the full CEA report here.