United States President Donald Trump had an insult and a warning in his State of the Union address when he said “we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country.”
It was a warning because he suggested the US could follow the same path as Venezuela, which despite its oil riches has become an unstable country.
It was an insult since he was suggesting Democrats want to take the US toward socialism, which has long been thought to be a dirty word in US politics.
“America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination and control,” Trump said. “We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
Donald Trump used it repeatedly in November as he campaigned for Republican candidates and its inclusion at the State of the Union address suggests he’ll be bringing it back as the 2020 campaign ramps up. Here are some of the ways Trump has used the specter of socialism, including about Venezuela, as an argument against tax hikes, as part of a pledge to protect Medicare, and as a dream for his ideal opponent.
Socialism will turn the US into Venezuela
“We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom — and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair. Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country.” – Trump’s State of the Union Address, February 5, 2019.
You hear this argument a lot, not just from Trump and other conservatives, but also from Democrats like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
It is true that the Venezuela government has called itself socialist in previous years when the Venezuelan economy was doing better and before some socialists held it up as a model. But that was before leaders in Venezuela, like the erstwhile President Nicholas Maduro, had turned to authoritarianism and become antidemocratic.
But the path from strongest capitalist society in the world to near-failed socialist state-turned authoritarian regime would be long and have a lot of offramps. Plus, the US economy does not rely on a state-run oil company, as Venezuela’s does almost entirely.