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Bring Back Eisenhower Socialism

| March 14, 2019

A rather Stalinesque Dwight Eisenhower statue in Abilene, Kansas.  (Shutterstock)

A rather Stalinesque Dwight Eisenhower statue in Abilene, Kansas. (Shutterstock)

By Chuck Collins

Beware of the specter of socialism!

Anytime a politician proposes a wildly popular idea that helps ordinary people, a few grumpy conservatives will call them “socialists.” Propose to reduce college debt, help sick families, or ensure the super-rich pay their fair share of taxes — suddenly you’re a walking red nightmare.

Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart is so alarmed he’s convened an “Anti-Socialism Caucus” to ward off “the primitive appeal of socialism” that will “infect our institutions.” Democrats’ talk of restoring higher income tax rates on the wealthiest or helping families with childcare was enough to trigger Treasury Secretary Steve Munchin to quip, “We’re not going back to socialism.”

These same politicians consistently vote for tax cuts for the rich and to gut taxes and regulations on corporations so they can exercise their full freedom and liberty — to mistreat workers, pollute the environment, and rip off their customers.

The “shrink government” fear-mongers want you to believe there are only two flavors of economic ice cream. Choose strawberry and you get liberty-choking gulag communism. From this vantage, any proposal to rein in the unchecked power of global corporations and the rule-rigging rich is creeping socialism.

Choice number two, blueberry, is plutocracy, a society where the super-rich lord over the rest of us. It’s an economically polarized dystopia with stagnant wages and a declining standard of living for the majority.

Conservative demagogues aim to scare you into embracing their pro-plutocrat agenda as the only tolerable choice.

The good news is there many flavors to choose from. A number of presidential candidates have proposed or endorsed policies such as low cost or free college, a higher minimum wage, taxing the super-rich, and investing in infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions.

These ideas are tremendously popular with voters, winning majority support among Republicans, independents, and Democrats. As Fox News sheepishly reported from their own polling, over 70 percent of voters support tax hikes on households with over $10 million in income — including 54 percent of Republicans.

What would today’s hysterical Republicans say about the “socialist” presidency of Dwight Eisenhower? Most likely they would call him “Red Ike.” After all, during Eisenhower’s two terms between 1953 and 1960, the wealthy paid a top tax rate of 91 percent on incomes over the equivalent of $1.7 million for an individual and $3.4 million for a couple.

That crafty pinko Eisenhower also presided over government-subsidized mortgages that helped millions of Americans purchase their first home and attend college for free. He presided over the construction of public housing and state-owned infrastructure (like highways).

In the early 1960s, the specter of socialism stalked the land again, this time in the form of a proposal to create a national health insurance program to cover senior citizens. Conservatives mounted a full-throated resistance movement to what George H.W. Bush at the time called “socialized medicine.”

The rest of us know it as Medicare.

Prior to the passage of Medicare in 1965, half of the country’s seniors didn’t have hospital insurance, and one in four went without medical care due to cost concerns.  One in three seniors were in poverty. Half a century later, nearly all seniors have access to affordable health care, and the elderly poverty rate has fallen to 14 percent.

Now a majority of Americans support some form of “Medicare for All,” expanding universal coverage beyond seniors and disabled people to include children and adults.

Stay tuned for more fear mongering. Universal health care, the red baiters will say, will zap our national initiative and hurl us toward Soviet-style tyranny. Instead, maybe it will mean not having to choose between paying rent or for medicine.

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies.

14 Responses for “Bring Back Eisenhower Socialism”

  1. BlogBobby says:

    Moving the numbers into the present equals around 30 million dollars in earnings for a couple at the high tax rate. According to another website, around 250 Americans made 50 million dollars last year. That is all.
    Taxing them at 90% adds up to a lake full of shrimp on a treadmill and some nice chairs at a SS office in Pigsknuckle, Arkansas…. THATS IT!

  2. fredrick says:

    Uhh Chuck… the liberal socialists are not talking about “Propose to reduce college debt, help sick families”. Are you even paying attention to what they are saying…. The world is going to end in 12 years, haven’y you heard? So what’s the point of anything. The Democratic party has been taken over by the socialists. It is not the great Party of Kennedy. WTH happened?? You have no message, no direction and you are and have been taken over by extremists.

  3. Richard says:

    Did Ike state with this new healthcare plan that you can keep your current doctor’s and you can keep your current plan? Also, when democrats cannot get “their way” they always claim the republicans are racist, sexist, xenophobic and anything else to denigrate them.

  4. Traveling Rep says:

    The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples money.

    The problem with targeting the rich to pay higher taxes, is that they will inevitably lose interest in making further investments into our economy. They will also be enticed by other markets that are more conducive to business (you already forgot about offshoring?). Indeed, the idea that you should be punitively taxed for the furtherance of your financial successes runs completely contrary to capitalism.

    Medicare is worse than socialism, and social security is worse than Medicare (as a gov program). Both programs have been abused and robbed from by politicians since there inception. Shining examples of governments inability to run anything.

    How about we stop giving away ‘free’ stuff (aka super costly to tax payers) and start paying down the national debt?

    For those of you who are into this newly spun form of Socialism (same as the old form), Nicolas Maduro dices Hola!

  5. Mike M says:

    “Make the wealthy pay their fair share” is such a tired and counterproductive argument. Last year 44% of Americans paid no income taxes and the top 20% paid 70% of all income taxes.

    Those are undisputable facts, the other undisputable fact is that the wealthy don’t sit on their money and horde it they are the creators of this country. They create businesses which in turn create jobs.

    The argument could be made that the wealthy should pay far less tax than they do now because they contribute far more than the average citizen.

    Personally I worked for a company with 300 employees where the average salary was $50k per year. This company was owned by a sole individual. Collectively the employees tax bill would be $2.7 million add to that the fact that 300 families were provided a good standard of living. If that isn’t their “fair share” I don’t know what is.

  6. Bill says:

    the wealthy paid a top tax rate of 91 percent on incomes over the equivalent of $1.7 million for an individual and $3.4 million for a couple.

    OK then lets also go back to ALL other tax code of that time. there where many tax deductions those evil rich could use on that top rate that do not exist today.

  7. Pitching Wedge says:

    I personally like the Liberty flavored ice cream.

  8. Ben Hogarth says:

    Mike M, allow me to take your argument into consideration and then share some facts that you may not know.

    Yes, 70% of all income tax dollars came from the top 20% of the population. But lets look at another statistic that may illustrate as to WHY this other statistic is reflective of a new reality. In 1994, the top 1% of the country owned about 9% of the total nations GDP. Within 10 years of Republican majority rule in Congress, that number skyrocketed to 24% of the GDP owned by the top 1%. Since then… the number has surged dramatically to well over 40% (possibly more now). If you want to have a discussion about middle class and fair capitalism, lets look at all of the corruptions and rule-making changes that occurred in this brief time period thanks to the GOP that actively takes and retains money for the richest Americans.

    So your idea of “indisputable facts” falls on its false premise (face) because it is entirely amnesic of the other facts that led us here. OF COURSE the top 20% are going to pay the majority of tax dollars in a tax system where they have accumulated ALL of the wealth. It’s asinine to think this is a benevolence or hardship on their part – and is entirely omissive of other facts and statistics of the larger picture.

    And your argument that the wealthiest don’t just “horde” their money – so I guess the $50 billion that Warren Buffet (similar to other billionaires) was sitting on in liquid is just a figment of our imagination? We have the richest Americans simply getting richer and many of them have even come out and said that government needs to tax the richest more. The reason they say this is because they don’t want to have to give up cash without ALL of their other rich colleagues are forced to do the same. If another rich man one-ups you in the capital game because only YOU are giving yours up, then YOU can’t accumulate wealth and drive business as a top player anymore.

    I digress Mike, but sadly your deeply naïve opinion is shared by far too many people in this country (albeit not the majority opinion). And while the majority of our capital is reinvested in Asia by these rich elites, you will continue to support their campaign while tightly clenching that capitalist bible.. all the while forgetting it is Congress who was Constitutionally charged with regulating commerce – NOT the aristocracy.
    But if more people side with this opinion, then there is no hope for a middle class in America. It will be a very select few oligarchs having absolute political and legal power. And all of this uproar about certain parents bribing for their kids to go to schools they haven’t earned will be in the history books – because that corruption will no longer be illegal or unusual, even in the public eye.

    What a sad day for America – when the Democratic Party is actually supporting a return to the economic model hat ACTUALLY made America Great at one time – the same time period the “MAGA” Trump folks claim to want to return to. How ironic…

  9. mell says:

    Damn right, Bill–that’s how the Interstate Highway System got built. Among other things.

    The problem isn’t “socialism”–the problem is the greedy uber-rich who infest places like our Congress, and their grotesque fealty to unfettered capitalist business. And they have bamboozled a whole lot of good people into thinking we can’t go back to that.

    We can, and we should. But the greedheads won’t let that happen and unless the rest of us get clued in, we’ll continue to get nothing.. Lucky for them, most people would rather debate the merits of “socialism” or lecture everybody about “how nothing is free”. Way to miss the point, people…

  10. hawkeye says:

    this is why I am in favor of the “fair tax” ,every body pays 10% whenever they buy something, this way , rich ,poor , middle class all put in their fair share.

  11. Percy's mother says:

    How OLD is Chuck Collins (the author of this article)?

    Can anyone tell me?

    Chuck, how old are you? You don’t have to give an exact age . . . just a general idea.

  12. Pogo says:

    @Ben Hogarth

    Your explanation is excellent.

    If only it would fit on the front of a ball hat. No, on second thought, that won’t solve the problem either. The maga hat wearers use their heads for hat racks – not thinking; and too, their penchant for turning logic and experience on its head. They bought ronnie’s joke about a kid digging in a pile of manure as cute – he wasn’t joking – he was explaining:

    “Mr. David Stockman has said that supply-side economics was merely a cover for the trickle-down approach to economic policy—what an older and less elegant generation called the horse-and-sparrow theory: If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows…”

    The same genius explains the logic of their beloved fair tax: a sparrow can pull a wagon as well as a horse.

    And so it goes.

  13. Sal Redding says:

    Best thing Ike did was adopt the Interstate system he learned from Germany.
    Couple of points:
    🔹Nothing is free
    🔹Single Payer is a nightmare
    🔹Middle Class is the engine of America
    🔹Most rich people have earned it
    🔹College isnt for everyone

    So when the government starts providing all this free stuff, where will the incentives be to actually male something of yourself, work, or try to contribute? What happens when these people default on their house, although not likely because they’ll be in an apartment or with their parents.
    If progressives actually understood investing, corporations or smart financial decisions these “gimme” quips and entitlement qualms would be lessened.
    Finally all these ridiculous majors offered in college lead graduates out with a four year degree (paper) and immediate debt. It might as well be endentured servitude. Then they wonder why they cant get a job because their major is meaningless when they couldve learned a skilled trade and already be contributing to their 401K, health and whatever else. Instead they’re brainwashed by professors who know everything.
    I’m 35 years old, and some my generation and those younger are entirely clueless, spoiled and easily manipulated.

  14. Elvis says:

    “That crafty pinko Eisenhower also presided over government-subsidized mortgages that helped millions of Americans purchase their first home and attend college for free.”

    Wasn’t this the “GI Bill” promised to those fighting a war, that if they survived, they would have a chance to succeed, prosper, and raise a family. Stupid liberals.

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