By Robert Reich
“The big government socialists who have taken over the Democratic Party love to talk about ‘free’ programs,” Newt Gingrich mouthed off yesterday on Fox News, adding that “nothing is free because taxpayers have to pay for it.”
You’re right about one thing, Newt. Taxpayers do have to pay. They had to pay to bail out the big banks during the financial crisis. They bailed out big corporations during the pandemic. And they’re spending tens of billions each year subsidizing the oil and gas industry, Wall Street, and Big Pharma.
This is socialism, alright — for the nation’s top corporate executives and biggest investors. It’s socialism for the powerful and privileged who continue to siphon off a large (and growing) portion of the nation’s economic gains while leaving most Americans with little.
The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans now own a record-breaking one-third of all shares of stock, and the richest 10 percent own almost 90 percent of all shares. Never in the history of this country has corporate wealth been more concentrated.
Most of these owners of wealth didn’t work for the gains they’ve been amassing. They raked it in as the stock market rose nearly 40 percent since January 2020 — a period when many other Americans suffered losses of jobs or pay, or debilitating illness or, in some cases, loss of life.
The billionaire class has never done as well by doing as little. According to the latest figures, America’s 745 billionaires (that’s the latest number) have become $2.1 trillion richer during the pandemic — their fortunes soaring by 70 percent (from just under $3 trillion at the start of the crisis to over $5 trillion now). And much of this is due to their rip-roaring stock holdings.
Newt, I understand why you’re so eager to fool Americans into believing they’re going to be hurt by the measures Democrats are proposing. You want to protect the current system of socialism for the rich and crushing capitalism for everyone else because it’s so comfortable for you and your friends and former colleagues.
But I have news for you, Newt. One way or another, that system’s days are coming to an end.
As Harry Truman once said, “Socialism is a scare word they’ve hurled at every advance the people have made. Socialism is what they called public power, social security, deposit insurance, and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for anything that helps all people.”