We need policy debates, not name-calling.

By Danny Choriki Support my campaign!

A version of this editorial was published in the November 1, 2019 edition of the Billings Gazette. (bit.ly/BGPolicynotNames)

We live in a time of intense feelings and political divisions.

Social, technical and cultural change is happening at rates never experienced in human history.

Most of us are afraid of the future. And, if you’re not you’re not paying attention.

One trait of times of intense change is the decline of reasoned discourse. Emotion replaces reason. One sure sign of troubled times is the increased use of name-calling. Today, one of those names is socialist.

So, what is a socialist?

Political economists define a socialist as someone who advocates for the communal ownership of property. Except for public utilities and the few industries which do not benefit from a competitive environment, I have never supported the communal ownership of all property.

But this isn’t the only definition used in the popular culture.

For some not supporting more tax cuts or deregulation makes me a socialist.

I’ve been called a socialist for resisting many positions favored by social conservatives.

I’ve been called a socialist for supporting regulations that protect our air, water, and other natural resources from greedy individuals who try to offload the costs of pollution on the rest of us. I’ve been called a socialist for believing that our economic system needs to be protected from sociopaths and that we need to publicly invest in the future through education, research, and development

If I’m a socialist for these reasons, then so was Lincoln, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nixon.

I am currently being called a socialist for supporting an increase in the public safety mill levy as the only way Billings can provide the resources to bring our skyrocketing crime rates down to the national average. I am also being called a socialist for arguing that Billings needs to plan for and invest in our common future.

I can live with being called a socialist, not because I am one, but because I expected the name-calling.

It is way too normal these days. Instead of a rational empirical argument describing where the so-called fiscal conservatives will find $10 million dollars of cuts, efficiencies, and savings in the $75 million dollar general and public safety budgets, they resort to name-calling. And the favorite bogey monster these days to avoid discussing the issues is to call their opponent a socialist.

So, if I am not a socialist, what am I?

I am a capitalist who cares.

One that recognizes that greed needs to be managed for a healthy economy. One that knows markets are gardens and not jungles.  I support the same principles of economics that drove the greatest economic expansion ever seen on Earth, led globally by the United States after World War II, that created the wealthiest and largest per capita middle class ever seen on the planet.

I do not support the changes that have eroded that economy since 1980. I do not support in this economic environment tax cuts for the rich, supply-side economics, cutting even more regulations, and making government smaller just because Rush Limbaugh says it is too big.

I am not alone. Capitalists such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Andrew Yang, and Nick Hanauer are making the same points. Yang calls it human-centered capitalism. Hanauer describes this in a recent TED Talk titled “The Dirty Secret of Capitalism — and a New Way Forward” (http://bit.ly/Hanauer2019).

If we only focus on the supply side, who is going to purchase all the products that robot operated factories produce? If tax cuts for the rich work, where are the quality, high paying jobs?

Instead of showing how great their policies are working so-called fiscal conservatives call their political opponents’ commies, liberals or socialists. If the policies of these so-called socialist are so wrong for Montana, wouldn’t it be easy to argue the facts?

Call me a socialist all you want. The reality is that I am a capitalist who knows that planning and investing in the future works in government just as it does in business. If you want a policy outcome like a lower crime rate, you must find the programs that will reverse the crime trend and then adequately fund those programs.

Call me a socialist because I support policies that help rebuild the middle class and support small businesses and startups. Call me a socialist because you are afraid of the future and you don’t want to listen to what I am trying to say. I will put up with your name-calling. But I won’t stop challenging the economic status quo. It won’t stop me from analyzing our social and economic problems and looking for data to support a hypothesis that makes sense and works.

The challenges we are facing are too complex and the consequences are too severe for anything less than an open and honest policy discussion driven by data and results. Let me know when you are ready to stop calling people names and start talking about results.

We need policy debates. Not name calling.

%d bloggers like this: