By Alan Murray and David Meyer
February 8, 2019

Good morning.

It’s Friday, so time for some feedback.

I tried to avoid the political meat grinder Wednesday by simply reporting what President Trump said in his State of the Union address about the economy and business, without (much) comment. But I failed. The meat grinder chewed me up anyway.

“Really, is re-stating Trump’s false quotes the best you can do? How about a fact check?” wrote D.S. “To present the excerpts…without any qualifying statements felt one sided” agreed D.A. I took particular flack for repeating the president’s promise to “renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” T.C. dismissed the quote as “red meat to his base.”

But there is more going on here than “red meat to the base.” As Cass Sunstein, who served in the Obama administration, wrote for Bloomberg yesterday, “to many Americans, the idea of socialism seems to have growing appeal.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who is now routinely referred to by the acronym AOC—is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Senator Bernie Sanders has long described himself as a socialist. A recent survey shows some 57% of Democrats had a favorable attitude toward socialism, compared to only 47% who felt favorable toward capitalism.

Sunstein concludes that this new interest in socialism “is mostly expressive. It is a way of raising the volume, pounding a fist and offering a signal—of saying, in shorthand, that the U.S. has far too much economic insecurity; that the current system is not working nearly well enough for millions of people; that incremental change is not enough; that bold thinking is in order.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial board thinks it is more than that. Noting the dictionary definition of socialism—governmental ownership of the means of production—it cites a series of policies being pushed by Democrats, including “Medicare for All,” the “Green New Deal,” and a 70% top tax rate, that would represent a lurch in the direction of state control.

Hard to know where this ends. But it would be foolish to ignore it. American politics is at a turning point, and how it turns will have profound implications for business.

Alan Murray


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