Mikhail Taratuta: “Socialist Sanders will never win Trump”
The reason for the “left turn” in the USA: the economy grows, while “the American dream” dies
It is been officially declared in the USA that current President Donald Trump has begun his journey for the right to be elected as president for the second time. Meanwhile, the latest research of sociologists says that 43% of Americans already embrace socialistic ideas — more often they mean free education and health care. In an interview with Realnoe Vremya, famous journalist, specialist in international affairs Mikhail Taratuta explains how real it is to pursue ideas of socialism in the modern-day States and if these moods will help leftist politicians to lead the country.
“Trump raised the economy to an amazing height, though this achievement didn't affect ordinary people”
Mr Taratuta, are the Americans’ embrace of socialism, especially among the young, emotions, something superficial and temporary? Or is there anything serious behind these preferences?
Yes, serious things are behind this embrace. The problem is that the middle class, which is the foundation of American society, has been shrinking for several decades: salaries in this sector haven’t grown, while prices, on the contrary, have, and they have grown much. And Americans began to lose what used to be their outlook, the understanding of the world — the “American dream”.
The “American dream” said that tomorrow you will live better than today, and your children will live better than you. And here people saw that the centre, that’s to say, Washington, didn’t hear them, it dealt with its intrigues, scandals, whatever but not their problems. So annoyance expressed in the discontent is not only against the establishment but also against the system accumulated.
And globalisation pushed this process — the gap between 10% of the richest and 10% of the poorest people is huge now and consistent with what we have (a bit more in Russia), and people began to express their discontent at the order of life in general, they think they should change something in life. And left parties began to mooch off due to these difficulties, as usual. These parties exist everywhere — nothing is heard of them during the best years, nobody needs them, while when a country has problems, the leftists gain in popularity. As it was during the Great Depression when Communists in the USA were very popular, they accounted for over 100,000 people, while the number of sympathisers was much bigger.
Today’s picture resembles the 30s, though perhaps not to the extent of those years. It was considered during those years that capitalism exhausted itself, and a new order was needed, while only Communists offered it. But now the scale is different. Though there is some discontent at the system: yes, Trump raised the economy to an amazing height, though this achievement didn’t affect ordinary people. Yes, salaries are rising, but they are rising very slowly, yes, there have been plenty of jobs (lost during globalisation), but people haven’t felt the changes financially. Here is the left turn.
Does it mean that Americans’ problems were generated not by the mortgage crisis in 2008, which transformed into world, as some experts suppose, but earlier things? Can you specify which ones?
Workforce productivity in the USA has been growing for long, but if earlier its income was distributed in some proportion (though not equally), these proportions haven't been met for several decades already. Not all those benefits workforce productivity gives reach workers. I suppose this has happened since the early 70s when the dollar stopped being linked to gold, and the printing press began to run when authorities wished. So the discontent in 2016 brought to Trump’s win in the election — if all had been fine in America, he wouldn’t have won. Trump promised new approaches to improve the quality of life, he wasn’t a member of this system that created difficulties. And, moreover, he promised to drain the “swamp of Washington”. And as we saw, he tried to do something in this respect.
Yes, Trump raised the economy to an amazing height, though this achievement didn’t affect ordinary people. Yes, salaries are rising, but they are rising very slowly, yes, there have been plenty of jobs (lost during globalisation), but people haven’t felt the changes financially. Here is the left turn
Does it mean that the open protest Occupy Wall Street in 2011 didn’t end but simply turned into moods?
Exactly, everything kept accumulating, while Trump removed the “corks” of the public discontent, and this all broke out. Indeed, a lot of contradictions accumulated in the USA, and it is not only economic discontent. There was a fissure between rich metropolises and the American backwoods, there was a gender-based fissure in society (sex scandals and #MeToo movement), the race problem aggravated, and Trump became a catalyst for all the problems, though he didn’t generate them. The Americans’ interest in leftist ideas comes from here, moreover, they are very catchy — who doesn’t want free education and free health care? But, in addition, leftists offer to refuse to use hydrocarbons to save the climate. But let me ask, how should we then fly on planes? In addition, leftists offer to start paying reparations to slaves’ descendants.
Leftist ideas are good in many aspects, but they need tens of trillions of dollars that are available neither in the USA nor in the whole world.
“The state of war with Trump doesn’t allow socialists to have a positive influence on society”
Is it possible that Americans “saw” the European experience of social policy in the same health care during that globalisation? And then we can understand their serious discontent — it is a superpower but began to forget ordinary citizens a bit.
Perhaps. But I think to care about citizens, the American state doesn’t have to spend so much money on defence. The European experience isn’t acceptable for the USA — Europe has both public and private health care. But if you introduce such a system in the USA, you will have to refuse what Americans aren’t ready to refuse. For instance, in this case, you won’t be able to choose a doctor, while America already has experience proving that all public things work much worse if there is no choice.
Let’s take education. Public schools in the USA are just awful, and it can’t be worse. For instance, only two out of thousands of public schools in San Francisco have queues to enrol. Most of the public schools not only don’t give good education but become a place of distribution of drugs, the concentration of street gangs and God knows what else. This is why those Americans who have some savings go to private schools. Only specialists think that all schools can be made as good as private. And again, where should one find the money for good schools? Socialists offer to impose a 90% tax on corporations. But in this case, a number of companies will simply leave the business, while the majority will simply change jurisdiction and stop paying taxes in the USA. It’s better to pay a 20% tax on imports of goods from Asia than give 90% of profit to the Treasury.
Can the USA significantly reduce costs on defence if such a need is obvious?
It is unreal. The doctrine that traces back to approximately the foundation of the USA sounds the following way today: America is doomed to be the world’s leader, and it has to keep this leadership, including in the military sphere.
Most of the public schools not only don’t give good education but become a place of distribution of drugs, the concentration of street gangs and God knows what else. This is why those Americans who have some savings go to private schools
It is said that the weakness of trade unions and public organisations impede the development of social justice in the USA.
Not exactly. America has a very strong civil society and a big number of different organisations that support Socialists, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians. People in big cities are socially active.
I think socialists will anyway make some positive impact on power, but now everything is becoming tougher because Democrats and the liberal wing of society, in fact, declared war on President Trump, moreover, a real war. The opposition movement against Trump still operates, and we see it in all forms — it is sabotage of the president’s decisions by functionaries, especially by the Ministry of Justice’s functionaries. It is in fact plot of special services against Trump that many equate with an attempt of a calm coup.
The country is in an absolute mess, while the Democratic Party is torn — the war with Trump on the one hand, on the other hand, the influence of socialists. And even Biden rushed to the side of so-called progressives — the socialistic wing of the party. But the Democratic Party isn’t socialistic in itself, though socialists could have a great influence for the party — the issue of social injustice is serious, the state of war with Trump doesn’t allow socialists to have a positive influence on society.
“The real fight at the primaries for the right to become a candidate for US president will break out between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders”
Are there any politics except relatively famous in Russia Bernie Sanders who are ready to consider the citizens’ socialistic requirements in the fight for the highest post in the country?
These politics are all Democrats who began to compete with their embraces of socialistic ideas and promote a number of such ideas. I already mentioned the wing of progressives in the Democratic Party — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who was a barmaid one year ago and now is setting the pace in the country very serious stands out. And as the progressives’ popularity is great, and especially among the youth who are very politicised, they also personified the socialistic wing of the party in the hunt for the youth’s votes (it’s Congresswomen Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris). But if Sanders has a political programme, the progressives took just some socialistic idea (Editor’s Note: higher taxes for corporations, general medical insurance). The Progressives are people without special believes, trend chasers. In other words, it is just profitable for them to be speaking about socialistic ideas at this moment, and they are speaking about them. In fact, most politicians live so, chasing trends. This is why the real fight at the primaries for the right to become a candidate for US president will break out between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
Is it going to be hard for Sanders to make the minimum wage of $15 per hour in general as he promises? With the growing economy?
The Americans’ minimum wage is rising a bit. But the question is the following — how profitable will it be for businesses in the USA to pay a worker $15 per hour? Many firms can shut down with such an approach. What else can Sanders so? To pay off students’ tuition debts? It is impossible, the sum of this debt is very big, and it is going to be great harm to banks if the state pays it off in advance. But this won’t happen either, as this isn’t common practice in the USA.
Yes, Sanders can win Biden but he will never win Trump — no chance. But even if it takes a miracle and Sanders wins, we shouldn’t expect some socialistic decisions from him. In terms of management, the USA is different from Russia, it doesn’t have one centre of power like here. Power in the States is vertical and horizontal, and every power has its own zone of responsibility, and there must be a consensus for the president’s every idea. And it is impossible to reach a consensus on Sanders’ ideas even in the worst nightmare, it is unreal.
Yes, Sanders can win Biden but he will never win Trump — no chance. But even if it takes a miracle and Sanders wins, we shouldn’t expect some socialistic decisions from him
But there was the Great Depression, and the American authorities changed the appearance of capitalism through social policy. Do you agree that nobody guarantees that this can’t be repeated?
Socialism wasn’t achieved even then. In the 30s, Roosevelt successfully found a solution in this situation — he made the state more social, though he didn’t complete his programme. And Sanders, of course, would like to complete it. Roosevelt had ideas of free education and health care, but it was impossible to make them a reality. And if Roosevelt himself wasn’t allowed to do it, how can Sanders do it? No way, nothing can be done in the USA by one person’s will.