Listening to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one might never imagine that there are any divisions in American society. Rich and poor, black and white, immigrant and native-born–all were one big happy family until mean-spirited “Marxists” came in and tore us apart.
Recently Rubio talked to the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference in Orlando about his views.
“Marxism [is the] argument that the capitalist system…divided people…It said the world, and society, and capitalist societies are divided between two groups. You have one group, which owns the businesses — they are the oppressors. And you have the workers, everybody else, that group, are the victims…today we are being asked to divide…[Marxism] divides countrymen against each other by design, it divides people against each other by design,” Rubio said.
No, senator, Marxism does not divide people—capitalism does. It is capitalism that has created the enormous wealth gap between rich and poor in advanced countries. Under capitalism, there is a huge wealth gap between the richer and poorer nations. Marxism didn’t create this—Marxism simply cuts through the fog the elite generates to obscure these divisions and calls them what they are.
According to Federal Reserve data, the bottom half of Americans have experienced no net wealth growth since 1989, while the wealth held by the top 1 percent has grown 300 percent. PolitiFact notes that in 2019, three people had more wealth than the bottom half of all Americans. Did Marxists create these huge divisions?
Rubio doesn’t mention African-Americans in his Orlando speech, except to briefly snipe at Critical Race Theory. Yet divisions between black and whites in the US are stark. According to Brookings Institute research, the net worth of a typical white family is $171,000, while a typical black family’s is only $17,150. White households are twice as likely as African-American households to receive an inheritance, and whites’ median inheritance is far higher.
According to the Pew Research Center, the difference in median household incomes between whites and blacks reached $33,000 in 2018. Were these stark racial inequalities created by American Marxists?
Most of the world lives under capitalism, and much of the world lives in poverty. According to World Bank data, two-thirds of the world lives on less than $10 per day, almost half lives on less than $5.50 a day, and 10 percent lives on less than $1.90 per day.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD), “Average per capita incomes in developed countries exceed average per capita incomes in developing countries by a factor of nearly 11, and disparities are much starker still between the richest and poorest countries.”
UNCTAD notes that while the income gap between developed and developing countries is now declining in relative terms, in absolute terms it continues to widen.
According to Oxfam, in 2018, the 26 richest people in the world held as much wealth as half of the global population—3.8 billion people.
In a speech to a House Republican Study Committee in May, Rubio praised the free market system as “the biggest eradicator of poverty in the world has ever known.” In evangelizing in favor of capitalism, conservatives often point to the drop in global poverty rates over the past three decades.
But there’s a major problem with this free-market triumphalism: over 60 PERCENT of the drop in global poverty occurred in Communist China. According to World Bank, between 1990 and 2018 China pulled 750 million people out of extreme poverty.
China’s success is so noteworthy that Max Roser, research director in economics at the University of Oxford, felt compelled to write a piece called “the global decline of extreme poverty – was it only China?” In it, he separates out the data on China’s progress from that of the rest of the world’s, which was far less impressive.
Like many other third-world countries, China has invited in a large amount of foreign private capital to help provide jobs and technology. China’s market reforms were largely introduced in the late 1980s, though some predated that. But while China’s private sector has grown substantially, China’s economy is not capitalist. Its banks and main industries, including most heavy industry, high-tech, and defense, are still state-owned and deployed largely in a planned, socialistic manner.
The state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation, for example, is the largest construction company in the world and is responsible for many of China’s world-renowned infrastructure projects, including high-speed rail, super-large bridges, expressways, urban comprehensive corridors, ports and waterways, and more.
State-driven investment is the primary reason the Chinese economy continued to grow remarkably during the Great Recession, even though most countries suffered large economic declines. According to the World Bank, the world economy declined 2.3 percent in 2008-2009 and rose an average of only 1.3 percent from 2008 to 2017. By sharp contrast, China grew 9.5 percent in 2008-2009 and an average of 9 percent from 2008 to 2017.
Rubio is so lost in his free-market enthusiasm that, even though he has been deeply involved in the immigration issue over the past decade, he never seems to notice that the immigrants enduring horrific conditions in a desperate effort to leave their countries—principally Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Salvadorans—are all fleeing capitalist countries.
Counterposed to capitalism is Marxism, which Rubio declares is “the single most evil and destructive ideology that mankind has ever known.” Rubio cites Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua in promoting one of modern conservatism’s most pernicious falsehoods—that communism equals dictatorship, while capitalism means democracy.
Rubio rightly condemns the crimes and human rights violations of the bureaucratic police states born of 20th-century communist revolutions. However, he never seems to notice that in the century since the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the vast majority of the world’s dictatorships—and often its worst ones—have been capitalist regimes, not communist ones.
Nazi Germany, and Fascist Japan, Italy, and Spain were all capitalist dictatorships. A very partial list of other brutal capitalist dictatorships would include: the Pinochet regime in Chile; Suharto in Indonesia; Shah Pahlavi in Iran; Trujillo in the Dominican Republic; Duvalier in Haiti; Marcos in the Philippines; Montt in Guatemala; Gualtieri in Argentina; Suarez in Portugal; Stroessner in Paraguay; Mobutu in Zaire; Rhee in South Korea; Chiang in Taiwan; Banzer in Bolivia; Batista in Cuba; Mubarak in Egypt; the apartheid regime in South Africa; the dynastic dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; brutal military regimes in El Salvador, Greece, Brazil, Honduras, South Vietnam, Uruguay, Pakistan, and elsewhere; and numerous others.
To be fair, the modern American left does have some flaws, and Rubio nails one of the central ones when he asked, “And who is the oppressor? The oppressor…is anyone who is a white male heterosexual. And everybody else…is a victim…and [oppressors] need to apologize for it…”
In the race/gender hierarchy central to American leftist ideology since the 1960s, white males, regardless of economic class, are placed on top. But while race is important, and gender matters, what matters most is social class. An educated middle-class black gay female is still far better off than an impoverished white male. Yes, most of the powerful people in our society are white heterosexual males, but this hardly means that most white heterosexual males are powerful.
By falsely portraying white males as having it all, the American left opens itself up to right-wing populism, including Rubio’s, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’, and, of course, former President Donald Trump’s. There are some exceptions on the left, but in general the left’s disregard and disrespect of working-class and middle-class white males has the exact result that any thinking person could easily predict—it drives white men into the arms of the right.
Rubio and conservatives hope their war on “Marxism”, Critical Race Theory, and “wokeism” will carry Republicans to victory in the 2022 and 2024 elections. An effective political tactic this may well be. A realistic understanding of the world it isn’t.
Glenn Sacks teaches social studies at James Monroe High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. His columns have been published in dozens of America’s largest publications.
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