Republicans are probably going to have to explain socialism to me more clearly. Given that Senator Daines went to state media at Fox the other night to proclaim that our country is facing a choice between “socialism and freedom,” I find myself wondering just what Republicans mean when they throw around the term as casually as President Trump throws around racist slurs.
While there a number of competing definitions of socialism, Republicans seem to believe that any time the government redistributes wealth from one person to another we’ve moved one step closer to a Marxist hellscape and we’re just minutes away from standing in breadlines and wearing those cool hats Russians wear.
By that Republican definition, Montanans have some explaining to do, because the federal government does a hell of a lot of redistributing to us.
It seems appropriate that conservative states are known as the red states because those liberals in the blue states are increasingly being forced to redistribute their wealth to them. As the New Republic reported in 2017, the red states keep taking from their more productive, more efficient neighbors:
Truth is, you red states just haven’t been pulling your weight. Not for, well, forever. Red states are nearly twice as dependent on the federal government as blue states. Of the twelve states that received the least federal aid in return for each tax dollar they contribute to the U.S. Treasury, ten of them voted for Hillary Clinton—and the other two were Michigan and Wisconsin, your newest recruits. By the same count, 20 of the 26 states most dependent on federal aid went to Trump.
And you sure as hell don’t hear Republicans like Greg Gianforte, Steve Daines, or Matt Rosendale who bleat about socialism every time they get on Fox News or right-wing radio decrying that form of socialism, do you?
Air travel offers a constructive example.
The Billings Gazette recently ran a story about the way Republicans endorse socialism when it benefits their constituencies. Because it’s incredibly economically inefficient to offer flights to low population areas, the Gazette reports that federal subsidies for some flights to rural Eastern Montan run as high as $1,000 per seat.
By any definition, that’s socialistic, but you don’t hear Republicans clamoring to end this unfair redistribution of wealth, just as you don’t hear them calling Montanans “anti-American” or “socialists” for taking far more from the federal government than we give.
And don’t even get me started on the massive socialistic subsidy Greg Gianforte and Steve Daines voted in for the incredibly wealthy who only travel private planes.
And that’s what makes the Republican talk about socialism so absurd. In their worldview, providing health care or food assistance to vulnerable people is reckless socialism, but providing massive subsidies to let rural Montanans fly and enormous subsidies for agriculture or oil production are not.
Their selective outrage about socialism is about as compelling as their definition of it is accurate.
It’s easy for me to reconcile this contradiction. I believe the government should subsidize rural air service because it provides a vital lifeline for communities that otherwise could become quite isolated and I believe the government should subsidize health care for the needy because it provides a literal lifeline for people who might otherwise die or be so unhealthy they won’t be productive or happy.
We’re in this together, and a government that works to assist our rural communities urban communities, that builds infrastructure and health care needs, and that works for blue and red states is the one I live in.
This isn’t a choice between “freedom and socialism,” Senator Daines. It’s a choice between enriching people like you and rebuilding communities and infrastructure neglected for too long so you can take more from the trough.