*Socialism has gotten a bad reputation in our country.
Because of a misnomer on the part of the Soviet Union, it has been unfairly equated with communism since the end of World War II. During the 19th century socialists were implicated in several attacks on government and corporations.
In reality socialism is an economic philosophy that prevents people from becoming overly wealthy through taxation, and creates and maintains a safety net for the impoverished with the tax revenue collected. Because our country is based on the possibility that anyone can become wealthy, socialism is not our preferred perspective on economics.
And this is where the difference between Obama and Romney is especially pronounced. Because Romney embraces free market capitalism while Obama wishes to restrain it. Romney would like to minimize the social safety net and/or decrease it; Obama would like to maintain and/or increase it. Romney and his Republican supporters would have you believe that this is a recipe for disaster, but this is simply not the case.
According to some estimates the government spends approximately $800 billion in social welfare programs. There is no denying that is a large sum of money. What does this cost taxpayers though? People below the poverty line depend on a variety of programs, many of which do not put money directly into their pockets. Ultimately each poor person costs about $20,000. These are the programs Obama believes are worthwhile and the costs he believes are justified.
On the other hand corporate welfare totals approximately $1 billion dollars annually. Obviously not as much as social welfare, but there are two critical differences. First there are not as many companies taking advantage of corporate welfare as there are individuals making use of social welfare. So the cost per capita is higher. Secondly corporate welfare directly affects the bottom line of the companies. Social welfare programs like free lunch programs for kids means children get to eat something in the middle of their day; the family that the kid is a part of does not all of a sudden have a household income of $80,000 instead of the $25,000 they were due to make. But the corporation that gets tax breaks through corporate welfare does denote a profit of $2 million instead of $1.5 million. Romney wants to protect and extend corporate welfare.
In one case the program helps masses of people and contributes a lower cost per person. In the other it helps a smaller number of people with a higher cost per person.
Furthermore the unintended consequence of Romney’s preferred perspective is that it creates more of a need for the security net that social services provide. When corporations are given free reign the gap between the haves and have nots gets wider and the number of people that count themselves as have nots increases. Two things follow.
One: some impoverished people want to become part of the haves and will look to the government to help them achieve their goal. Hence the increase in demand for social services.
Two: some impoverished people want to become part of the haves and will look to victimize those that have more; that is, there will be an increase in crime. Increases in crime mean more money spent on law enforcement and correctional facilities. Currently the amount the government spends on inmates approaches $1 billion. Again not close to the $800 billion spent on social welfare services, but also again this sum funds a much smaller number of people in correctional facilities. While social services cost about $20,000 per person, imprisoning someone costs about $31,000 per person. In other words it’s cheaper to help someone with social services than it is to incarcerate them.
When I put all of this together I come up with an inescapable conclusion. Romney’s mindset gives more money to companies to create and perpetuate inequality, and it encourages crime and the higher costs of locking people up per capita. Obama’s point of view is about creating and perpetuating opportunity for all Americans and costs less per capita.
Philosophically and practically, Romney’s vision is not the right path for our country.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.