Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks to a crowd as he campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Russ Feingold, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, Oct. 5, 2016, in Madison, Wis.
Photo by Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal/AP

White House may not have thought through its report on ‘socialism’

At campaign rally last night, Donald Trump told supporters in Wisconsin, “The language of moral condemnation and destructive routine, these are arguments and disagreements that have to stop. No one should carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains, which is done often, it’s done all the time. Got to stop.”

It was an odd thing to say. For one thing, the president has routinely described his American opponents as “evil,” which sounds an awful lot like a “moral condemnation.” For another, the Trump White House issued a new report this week that sought to connect progressive ideas to Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong.

The 72-page document, called “The Opportunity Costs of Socialism,” is rather bizarre. As Vox’s Dylan Matthews explained, “The main task of the document is to draw a precise line between modern democratic socialists like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and socialist authoritarians like Lenin, Mao, and Stalin.”

At one point, for example, the report – more befitting a B-list conservative magazine than an official White House document – told readers, “The socialist narrative names the oppressors of the vulnerable, such as the bourgeoisie (Marx), kulaks (Lenin), landlords (Mao), and giant corporations (Sanders and Warren).”

It’s lazy, ahistorical blather would struggle to pass a Political Science 101 course.

There was, however, one unintentionally funny thing about the report: it accidentally bolstered the case for a system of socialized health insurance.

As Sarah Kliff explained, the document included a chart that purported to show wait times for seniors making medical appointments.

The chart compares wait times for seniors in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the United States. It purports to show that seniors in single-payer countries wait much longer than those here in the United States.

It all looks pretty clear cut: Places like Canada and Norway have long wait times in their single-payer systems, whereas we here in the United States have very short wait times.

Except, here’s the key thing it leaves out: America’s seniors are essentially in a single-payer system. The vast majority of Americans over 65 get coverage through Medicare, a government-run health care plan.

Exactly. The White House’s report, likely intended to serve as pushback against proposals for a socialized health care system, shows how incredibly effective Medicare is in the United States.

And since Medicare is already a socialized health care system, that doesn’t do Team Trump any favors. The chart in the White House’s document effectively says that other countries’ socialized system should do a better job mirroring our socialized system.

If this sounds at all familiar, it’s probably because the right recently got very excited about a study from Charles Blahous of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, who took a critical look at Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) “Medicare for All” plan. The examination put a price tag on the proposal – $32.6 trillion — which conservatives considered proof that such a system would be prohibitively expensive.

The trouble, of course, was that the same study ended up suggesting that the United States would actually spend less under a “Medicare for All” model than we would under the existing system.

Maybe conservatives should take some time to work out the kinks in their argument and get back to us?