What conservatives think liberals believe vs what liberals actually believe

You can't throw a rock at conservative media right now without hitting some kind of fear-mongering about socialism. You see, the liberals are coming, and they're all socialists who want to tax you into oblivion, create dependency on the government, and make the government as large and intrusive as possible. Conservatives paint themselves as business-friendly by advocating for deregulation, tax cuts, fiscal responsibility, and privatization.

It doesn't take much effort to look at the history of conservative governance to see that this idealism doesn't play out. "Deregulation" is essentially code for "erosion of consumer protections to favor the profiteering of multinational corporations." The advocates of "fiscal responsibility" don't seem to mind that Trump is running a nearly $1 trillion deficit.

I could go on, and on. But I want to talk about the fear-mongering over liberalism, because it's not new. The notion that liberals control the media is decades old, and in the 80s and 90s liberals were characterized as "tax and spend" and "big government" despite the fact that Reagan and the Bushes expanded government overreach in massive ways while skyrocketing spending. Do liberals really want a centralized, totalitarian state? I mean after all, you can hardly throw a rock at a conservative page without hitting some meme about Venezuelan socialism and how Bernie Sanders apparently wants the exact same thing and will doom us all. (It's worth pointing out that Sanders' supposed praise of Venezuelan socialism is a myth.)

So here's the scoop.

Liberals basically believe that our current economic system is broken at a fundamental level: i.e., that although the GDP has grown steadily over the last 40 years and the stock market has been generally strong, wages have been flat and the Consumer Price Index has been rising faster than the median household income.

This means that the majority of that GDP growth has been concentrated among the wealthy elite, who have leveraged that power to lobby politicians for ever more favorable tax structures, subsidies, property rights, and weakened unions that further accelerate and exacerbate the disparity of wealth.

Despite very low unemployment, working class Americans struggle to afford health care, housing, child care, and to save for retirement. There are plenty of jobs, but jobs are not paying a living wage and benefits are ever becoming thinner and thinner.

Liberals do not think this is an inevitable consequence of the "free market," but rather the the product of a system that has been rigged against the better interests of American workers to favor an oligarchy.

Accordingly, liberals believe that it's essential to restructure the tax code to be more progressive, to strengthen collective bargaining rights, and to ensure workers are protected against exploitation by guaranteeing a living wage for full-time work.

As far as I've been able to tell, the conservative response has been to fear-monger about "socialism" - i.e., to persuade conservative or moderate voters that liberals want to create some sort of centralized, authoritarian state that controls markets and taxes everyone into dependency on said state. I'm not sure why anyone would buy such a ridiculous premise when even a cursory look at actual liberal policy positions shows the advocated reforms to be much more moderate and sensible.

This isn't to say that liberals always get the economics right. The popular "40% of Americans can't afford a $400 emergency" is not true. It's not true that the ultra-rich pay lower taxes than the middle class.

But the fundamental idea that drives liberals is a right to economic opportunity. When you can't make a living wage, when GDP growth is ever more concentrated among the elite, you're perpetually stuck in a cycle than prevents you from pursing education, saving for the future, and changing careers.

Conservatives seem to just want the status quo. Liberals don't think the status quo is worth defending.


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