President Nicolas Maduro has no tolerance for dissent. For months, he’s used brute force to silence his critics, and most recently, families of opposition leaders have alleged that Maduro’s political rivals have been seized and shipped off to an unknown location. However, long before the current political turmoil, a number of economic crises created the civil unrest Venezuela now faces.
Venezuela wasn’t always this chaotic, and although absolutely none of the politicians in Washington, D.C. deserve to be put in the same camp as a tyrant like Maduro, it’s worth remembering that the very same political philosophies serving as the foundation of the Democratic Party are the philosophies that have utterly destroyed Venezuela: price fixing, centralized economic controls, a nationalized economy, and an emphasis on expanding the role of government in nearly every aspect of life.
The promises of charismatic Venezuelan leaders of both today and the past vary little from the promises now offered by Democrats. They, too, demanded the “rich” pay “their fair share,” that the government provide health care for all, that through various economic controls and manipulations, the economy could work for everyone. The result? Economic calamity.
And yet, the example Venezuela has set, as well as countless similar examples throughout history, has not deterred Democrats in Congress from doubling down on socialistic policies. At the end of July, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rolled out portions of the Democrats’ “Better Deal” plan, in which the Democrats promise to stop big businesses from merging, control drug prices through the power of the federal bureaucracy, and manipulate the economy by picking winners and losers using tax credits.
Many Democrats are now also calling for the creation of a public health insurance option -- which would almost certainly run traditional health insurance companies out of business -- and to raise taxes on virtually everyone, but especially the wealthy. In recent months and years, Democrats have arbitrarily raised the minimum wage dramatically in numerous cities and states, placed massive taxes on “sin” products like sugar, and provided billions of dollars in government handouts to renewable-energy companies.
These policies have failed over and over again, both in the United States and throughout the world, but because the basic concept behind them -- that the government is here to help -- seems compassionate and caring, millions of voters continue to buy what Democrats are selling.
When asked about the numerous failures of socialism and liberal policies, Democrats always respond, in one form or another, in the same way: It’s never the philosophy that’s the problem, only the way in which the philosophy has been translated into policy.
Most recently, we’ve seen this with Democrats’ attempt to improve the U.S. health care system. Obama promised Americans their insurance prices would improve, that they would have more high-quality health insurance options, and that people would finally be protected from evil health insurance companies. After about seven years of ObamaCare, prices have skyrocketed, millions of people have been forced into joining the low-quality Medicaid system, and millions more have lost insurance policies and/or doctors they wanted to keep.
Even the number of health insurance options have been greatly reduced. In June, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services updated its county-level projections for ObamaCare exchanges in 2018 and found more than 40 percent of all counties are expected to have only one ObamaCare health insurance provider available on their health insurance exchange, leaving 2.4 million people in the unfavorable position of having to choose between buying an incredibly expensive health insurance plan they don’t want and likely can’t use without paying a huge deductible, or paying a government fine for not having a “qualifying” health insurance plan.
As always, Democrats say the way to solve these problems is to “tweak” and “fix” ObamaCare, not to reject the flawed ideology behind it, which is the same ideology that has pushed Venezuela into chaos.
Some might suggest Democrats might share a basic principle with the extremists of Venezuela, an emphasis on using the government to “help” people, but no more. While it’s true the degree to which the Venezuelans have engaged in price controls and economic manipulations is more extreme than the Democrats’ platform, this does not serve as evidence of a different political philosophy, but rather a difference in circumstances and consistency.
Even if Democrats wanted to transition the economy to a full-blown socialized system, the American people wouldn’t let them. After ObamaCare was passed in 2010, pro-liberty Americans voted Democrats out of power in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and eventually dozens of state houses across the country. If Democrats had absolute power for a significant period, it’s likely they would adopt much more socialistic economic policies than what we have today.
Democrats are also wildly ideologically inconsistent. In one instance, Democrats support strict government controls, while in another, they opt for a more moderate approach. Consider guns and alcohol. Not a single high-profile Democrat in Congress supports banning the consumption of alcohol, but the vast majority of Democrats do support restricting or even banning legal gun ownership, despite the fact alcohol is far more deadly than legal gun ownership, especially once you take suicide out of the picture.
Philosophically, the same arguments Democrats use when opposing gun rights could be used to ban alcohol, but because the political will to create another national prohibition doesn’t exist, Democrats oppose such a policy.
No, Americans today are in no danger of being dragged from their homes in the middle of the night by Democrats, and I suspect they won’t be at any time in the near future. But that’s not because the Democrats’ political philosophy, especially for the left wing of the party, is different than that of the Maduro regime. Maduro is just far more consistent about how he applies his philosophy to policy. Philosophically consistent Democrats, if given enough power for a long enough period, would likely destroy the U.S. economy in much the same way the socialists of Venezuela have.
Justin Haskins (Jhaskins@heartland.org) is executive editor and a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.