Republicans call all government programs socialism. Many Republican congressional candidates have used that charge to attack democratic candidates' support of government-sponsored programs, such as the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, pre-school education, subsidies for child care, and other safety nets for the middle-class, working-class, and poor families.
Max Boot, journalist and fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, reminds us that Republicans have been "crying wolf about Democratic Socialism for 90 years." It was evident at the 2020 Republican National Convention when Trump campaign advisor, Kimberly Guilfoyle scared Republican delegates with the warning: "Biden, Harris and the rest of the socialists will fundamentally change the nation." In his rallies, Donald Trump has added to the charge of socialism a more damning label: "communists." During the 2020 Georgia runoff senatorial races, Trump warned Georgia Republicans, "If you don't vote, the socialists and the communists win." Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has added his incendiary voice, calling the entire Democratic agenda socialism.
These scare strategies deliberately ignore the fact that the market model of "leave it to the initiative and competition of private companies and corporations" can't do everything. There are some things that only governments can accomplish.
A prime example is the development of vaccines. Few companies will undertake the capital-intensive task unless they are funded by a government. It's just too risky for a private company or public corporation to invest the vast sums required for vaccine development. That's why Dr. Peter Hotez, an expert on vaccines and infectious diseases, backed off from further development of a promising coronavirus vaccine four years before the current pandemic. In 2016 his team at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston developed a vaccine against SARS, a deadly strain of coronavirus similar to COVID-19. But he couldn't get funding to test it on humans. It had been ten years since the SARS scare. The money for coronavirus research dried up, despite prophetic warnings of a future coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Hotez says it's a typical pattern of funding vanishing when an immediate threat subsides. He believes that this flaw of penny-wise and tons foolish has now proven to be fatal and needs to be corrected.
Dr. Hotez's vaccine remains in a freezer at the University of Texas. He told Congress in 2020: "Had we had those investments early on to carry this all the way through clinical trials years ago, we could have had a vaccine ready to go." Sadly, had he obtained funding untold numbers of lives might have been saved.
Fortunately, "socialism" kicked in once COVID-19 became a deadly reality. Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Johnson and Johnson received hefty government support, which enabled them to develop their vaccines. According to Republicans, of course, that government funding was "socialist." It's worth noting, too, that in light of the current worldwide anti-vaccine movement, private and public companies will be even less likely in the future to risk engaging in vaccine research without "socialism."
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