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Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Kevin Hassett speaks on economy during a White House daily news briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House June 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. Sanders held a daily briefing to answer questions from members of the White House Press Corps. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Buried in "Hilariously Stupid" White House Attack on Socialism, An Accidentally Strong Argument for Medicare for All

Amid hysterical comparisons between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mao Zedong, the White House unwittingly makes a solid case for socialist policies

Jake Johnson

From its heavy-handed comparisons between mild-mannered democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and militant communist revolutionary Mao Zedong to its bizarre assertion that the Scandinavian economic model is a failure due to the high weekly costs of owning a pickup truck in Finland and Sweden (seriously), a White House attack on socialism was roundly mocked almost as soon as it was released on Monday, with informed critics arguing that the report reads as if it was plagiarized from a college freshman with a serious Ayn Rand obsession.

Titled "The Opportunity Costs of Socialism," the Council of Economic Advisers' (CEA) new 72-page paper purports to offer an empirical analysis of socialist policies—but what it actually does is make what analysts described as "hilariously stupid" and "intellectually embarrassing" claims accompanied by charts and footnotes that give off the appearance of scholarly diligence.

Characterizing the CEA's report as a "truly bizarre document," Vox's Dylan Matthews notes that the paper's bibliography contains "a mix of books about mass atrocities in Communist regimes, economics papers on the distortionary effects of taxation, and works by socialists, like the essay Vox published by Jacobin staff writer Meagan Day defending democratic socialism."

But a look beyond the CEA's hysterical rants against socialism's supposedly totalitarian nature reveals that the White House accidentally makes a strong case for Medicare for All, which the paper describes as the "headline American socialist proposal."

"Congratulations to Donald Trump for unintentionally making the case for Medicare for All."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

After attempting to discredit single-payer healthcare programs—which multiple polls now show most Republican voters support—as "similar in spirit to Lenin and Mao," the CEA produced a chart showing short wait times for seniors under the current U.S. healthcare system compared to those under the Canadian and Nordic systems.

As Vox's Sarah Kliff notes, the CEA conveniently omits the fact that "America's seniors are essentially in a single-payer system": it's called Medicare.

"The Trump chart doesn't say what the White House seems to think it says," Kliff concludes. "It isn't telling us that single-payer healthcare has long wait times. If anything, it says that it is possible to build a single-payer system with short wait times—and our Medicare program has already done it."

In a tweet, Sanders offered Trump his congratulations for making such a good argument in favor of Medicare for All:

The CEA's Medicare for All faceplant was just one of many ludicrous components of the White House's latest effort to ratchet up fear of the coming socialist menace ahead of next month's midterm elections. According to recent survey data, a growing number of American voters prefer socialism to capitalism—hardly a surprising finding, given that just five men own almost as much wealth as half the world's population and tens of millions of Americans are just one emergency away from economic peril.

In a Twitter thread, Public Citizen highlighted a couple more of the report's egregious lies:

But as the left-wing magazine Current Affairs pointed out on Twitter, no detailed breakdown is necessary to recognize that the CEA's paper is total bunk.

"The White House paper on socialism can be dismissed in a sentence: it defines socialism as state ownership rather than worker control, and therefore does not have anything to say about socialism," the publication noted. "Sorry that you wasted 72 pages and a bunch of hours, White House CEA."


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