Gary Horton | Guess What? We’re All Social Democrats Now

Gary Horton

“Social democracy is a government that uses democratic process… committed to acting for the common good… where the government plays an active role in regulating certain political and economic conditions… for the protection of minority groups and programs to benefit the poor.” 


When one brings up the phrase, “social democracy” reddist-types run for the hills like scared jackrabbits. Knee-jerkingly equating social democracy with communism, all thinking shuts down and the auto-dogma-defense shields go up. “Better dead than red!” Social-anything gets incorrectly equated to dictatorships like Venezuela and Cuba. (While New Zealand, Finland, Norway, Australia, Sweden, Germany – and all the other western social democracies are overlooked…) 

The Big Lie is that America has ever been straight-up capitalist. Early on, America socialized toward the common man and saw fit to provide universal education, Social Security, shared government-provided services of a post office, of national defense, of food safety, of police and fire protection, of public parks, streets, and all the rest we take for granted — yet few pause to think that all this is actually socialized income redistribution, where folks with money pay for stuff that everyone, regardless of income, gets to share.

Whether we admit it or not, America has long been a mostly socialized democracy. 

Today, common conservative dogma plays, “Life isn’t fair – we’re not our brother’s keepers.” (All while evangelicals ignore the pleas of the Bible saying so…) And so, we let folks rot in the streets, die for lack of health care, and generally turn our backs on the 20 or 30% neediest among us. We’ve been sold that blunt, naked capitalism is the cure for our ills, regardless of abundant evidence of the ever-creeping social sicknesses surrounding us.

Further, we were told during the 2008 banking crisis, back when Republicans so adamantly resisted Barack Obama’s American Recovery Act, “Capitalism shouldn’t pick winners and losers.” 

“No bailouts for Detroit.” 

Blah, blah. 

Well, something happened to conservatives between the 2008 banking crisis and the 2020 COVID-19 crisis: 

They say, “It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job — but it’s a full-on depression when you lose your own.” 

Today, during the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve become blatant, unabashed, throw-care-to-the-wind social democrats! And the greatest capitalists among us are the most fervently vocal converts to this super-social democracy – where government actively saves our butts to ensure a positive economic outcome for our businesses – (and perhaps gin up a winning outcome for Donald Trump…)

A whole bunch are hurting, and businessfolk are among the most vocal new socialists. Their babies, their businesses — everything they’ve worked for, are all at risk! It’s rich guys’ lives on the line now – so wow, have attitudes changed fast! We’ve been dealt a crisis – and businesses are turning en masse for government intervention and bailouts. Not just loans, but full-on bailouts. Money for nothing and the checks in the mail and the payroll loan will be fully forgiven and Boeing and airlines and farmers and friggin’ anyone who might be persuaded to vote for Trump is getting big dollars dangled.

Boy are we grabbing! “Throw us the lifelines!” 

Never matter the $3 trillion in new government debt! 

“Send us the money – save our souls!” 

“We need a safety net.” 

Old dogma is out the window. Government socialization of private business problems is the new darling.

Indeed, bad things will happen without a business safety net. Still, if you take a look around, bad things have been happening to regular Americans our entire history.

Today, nearly every business owner wants the feds to help guarantee their recovery and success. Urgency has opened their minds to the benefits of a suddenly expanded welfare state – at least when it serves their purposes.

Yes, business is in crisis! But we’ve had people literally born into crisis all along. Consider all the poor kids in poor cities with poor schools and poor options. Consider mass generational poverty and ignorance. Consider those born with handicaps and hardships. And those fallen on hard times – sometimes for no more cause of their own than businesses today and COVID-19. 

Why act during this crisis but not during theirs? Poverty causes way more deaths and misery than COVID-19. 

Social democrats have been calling for years for relatively modest programs to assist poorer suffering folks. But we’ve been shouted down as “Cuban communists” to suggest government can play a positive role in bringing its citizens up a few notches in life. 

But boy, have things changed and we’re all social democrats, now! You, me, the businesses all over town. We’re all ready to take government assistance, no matter how large the deficit or how much it costs.

And so… we’re all either newly minted social democrats – or big-time hypocrites. Once fully restored, will we come together to assist all Americans, weak or strong? Or will we again sing the false tune, “Government shouldn’t interfere in peoples’ lives.”

After this $3 trillion debacle bailout – can you believe in the recent past we’ve been so petty as to run up school lunch bills for poor kids? Or that we’ve tolerated a system where even many middle-class folks can’t afford health care or college without giant debt?

After all these COVID bailouts must either change our ways to care for all America, or we will have become the very worst of hypocrites.

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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