From a purist point of view, one could argue that progressivism does not equate to socialism, after all progressives never have advocated the direct ownership of any industry. This unfortunately, is a naive understanding of the purpose of socialism and to the same extent progressivism. Both are forms of managed economies much like communism on the left and on the right, fascism. American Progressives and European Socialists have the same ideals, thwart the evils of unfettered capitalism.
In addition to thwarting the evils of capitalism (economic booms and busts), American Progressives often have a social agenda. The most common social agenda shared by both Republican and Democratic progressives is full employment. The primary weapon of progressives to obtain full employment –spending.
The progressive movement began in the Republican Party but was quickly adopted by the Democrats. Today, the progressive philosophy lives in both parties although in different strains. In the 100 plus years since the progressive infection, government spending (Federal) has grown to over 20% of our economy up from 2% and deficit spending has burdened the economy with eighteen plus trillion dollars of debt.
The debt service in 2013 accounts for $221 billion at an average interest rate of 1.3%. At a 4% interest rate (~ 10 year T-bill rate and still below historical levels) on the National Debt service would be 729 billion, surpassing our spending on welfare, Medicare and Medicaid and approaching our spending on Social Security and national defense. The cost of progressivism has been steep.
In the hundred years of applying progressive philosophy the debt has only been reduced six times since 1929 for a total surplus of $23 billion. Even during the Clinton years, when large budget surpluses were supposed to exist, through twisted political accounting, the debt increased each year. Even if the progressive application of Keynesian economic principles is logical in extreme depressions, a century of deficit spending will be the anchor that drowns American prosperity. As opposed to saving the economy, progressives will destroy it. Even Keynes, himself, never counseled for perpetual stimulation.
When it comes to spending, in particular how to spend, Democrat progressives split from Republican progressives. Republican progressives favor spending on national defense. The excesses, waste and pork barrel spending in this area have been well documented. From expensive duplicative weapon systems to idle bases to a perpetual state of war in part due to global policing; America’s spend on defense has been hefty. The Republican progressives have even experimented on social spending when they passed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act. The Republican progressives trumpet the efficiency of the act yet forget to mention that they never funded the bill but instead opted to increase the national debt.
The Democratic progressive prefers to spend on social programs. When they spend, they spend big. From Social Security to Welfare, progressives have had ambitious agenda to thwart as they see the injustice of the market with direct intervention. Armed with the progressive tax code, progressives have targeted redistributing American prosperity. As the progressive have pushed aside classic economics for a planned economy, their big programs have remained unchecked with appropriate stewardship and have become unsustainable. Welfare has increased dependency and reduced upward mobility resulting in higher cost and widening income disparity. Social Security through inadequate stewardship has resulted in an unsustainable program, where recipients retire in poverty for far too much of their productive life. The democratic progressives continue their expansion of spending as they attempt to control and manage the Health Care industry.
We need to develop an alternative to the progressive/socialist solution. It is most likely not possible to return to a period of totally free markets. The electorate has no patience for weak economies and idle or ineffective leadership yet we have grown to accept steep recessions and slow recoveries as managed solutions demonstrate ineffectiveness of planned economies. Creating an environment that leverages the free market tenets. This alternative will give Jeffersonian Democrats, Lincoln Republicans and constitutional fundamentalist a platform to confront the progressives/American socialists. To date, there has been no alternative to the progressive solution, making choices for the American people limited and misguided.