Let me explain Democratic Socialism via cheeseburgers.


Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-USF3301-011785-M3

Hi there!

Regardless of who you are voting for, maybe you’re afraid of the word “Socialism.” Maybe you hear that word and you picture waiting on a 2-hour line for your weekly allotment of really awful toilet paper. That’s not Democratic Socialism. It’s not even Communism. It’s corrupt Fascism disguised as something else. But, I digress.

Let me try to explain Democratic Socialism via cheeseburgers (if this offends you, just mentally replace “cheeseburger” with “veggie burger” every time you read it).

Below, I describe different types of people and how much cheeseburger they can buy in a day. In the given examples: a) all people work equally hard to get the money to buy their cheeseburgers b) cheeseburgers represent “a day’s worth of food” c) all of these examples represent *daily* cheeseburger purchasing power

Person 1: Person 1 has enough money to buy a slider. Person 1 eats the whole thing and is still hungry because it’s not enough food.

Person 2: Person 2 has enough money to buy a whole regular-sized cheeseburger and also eats the whole thing; it’s almost enough food.

Person 3: Person 3 has enough money to buy a double-cheeseburger and also eats the whole thing; it’s getting closer to enough food. There is definitely no cheeseburger left over.

Person 4: Person 4 has enough money to buy 2 double quarter-pounders and gives a bite to a friend; it’s enough food and Person 4 can spare a bite. While it’s enough food for the day; there’s usually no leftover cheeseburger but occasionally Person 4 isn’t all that hungry and can put a little cheeseburger aside for a rainy day.

Person 5: Person 5 has enough money to buy 20 double-quarter pounders. Person 5 eats 3 of them, gives away 3 and saves the rest for a rainy day. Person 5 doesn’t worry much about food because over time, Person 5 has built up a substantial savings of cheeseburgers if there’s a sudden and unexpected hunger spike on any given day. Person 5 could probably afford to give away 5-8 cheeseburger a day but doesn’t because only 3 are required. Sometimes Person 5 gives away extra burgers via a charity organization but it isn’t a guarantee or particularly well-organized.

Person 6: Person 6 has enough money to buy a cheeseburger the size of Rhode Island; Person 6 can easily give away 99% of that burger, have plenty to eat, and plenty to save for a rainy day. However, that’s not what happens.

Like Person 5, Person 6 eats 3 double-quarter pounders. Because Person 6 has relatively more cheeseburger, Person 6 is required to give away not 3, but 100 double-quarter pounders every day. However, Person 6 pays daily rates to an accountant of 5 double-quarter pounders to find a loophole reducing the requirement down to 50 double-quarter pounders, and also gives five elected officials 2 double-quarter pounders each (10 total double-quarter pounders) for a net gain of 35 double-quarter pounders over just following the 100 double quarter-pounder regulation as-is. (Side-bar question: Who is the “freeloader:” ONE of the 65 people who received a double-quarter pounder or the ONE person who kept 35 double-quarter pounders when they owed 100?)

Let’s estimate that a burger the size of Rhode Island = 1,000,000,000 double-quarter pounders (It’s probably more but there’s only so much time/patience I have for typing “0”).

So every day, that’s:
1,000,000,000 double-quarter pounders
– 3 to eat
– 65 as tax
– 5 to pay accountant
-10 to elected officials to motivate them to keep cheeseburger taxes low
After eating, paying staff and taxes, there is still the purchasing power of 999,999,917 double-quarter pounders left over, every single day

What happens with all that money? Well, some of it is used to buy housing, cars, pay salaries of staff (housekeepers, nannies, etc.), to go on trips, to buy clothes, to buy some really quality toilet paper. All of THAT activity creates jobs in making those items or providing those services, which then allows the people with those jobs to have more money to feed themselves. They won’t need cheeseburgers from anyone else. Excellent.

But, there’s only so much stuff and services any one person can consume. One person can only eat so much food, wear so many clothes, own so many homes. The rest of the money is re-invested to make more money. And this provides some jobs for money managers, bankers, accountants, etc. But the jobs created by re-investing the bulk of that money pale in comparison to the number of jobs created when many thousands of people spend that money on goods and services. That’s many thousands of people buying homes, cars, clothes, getting haircuts, and going to the movies.

To make a short story long, that 999,999,917 in double-quarter pounder money could generate a few money management jobs when held by one person OR it could generate thousands of jobs if it were being circulated by tens of thousands of people. Done well, it’s the best kind of vicious cycle:
people with incomes to afford stuff –> demand for stuff goes up –> more jobs making stuff to meet those demands –> more people with jobs making that stuff –> more people with incomes to afford stuff

The whole thing grinds to a screeching halt when all the double-quarter pounder money is concentrated in few stomachs.

Currently, ~20 people in the U.S. are at Person 6 level. They have more double-quarter pounders than about 50% of the rest of the country. Protecting their interests while being a Person 1-5 is like feeling pretty sure that you’ll win the lottery … someday. Everyone at Person 6 level wants you to think that because then you feel motivated to protect your hypothetical Person 6 level wealth. You wouldn’t want someone to take away YOUR double-quarter pounder Rhode Island; you get mad just thinking about someone swooping in and saying “you can keep Block Island, but we’re taking the rest.” Though if you stepped back, your logical brain would tell you that Block Island is quite beautiful and plenty large enough for one person. That’s because most of your income is tied to work or the work of your parents or grandparents. Most people at Person 6 level do not work for money. They essentially hit the lottery. They inherited money from previous generations. In most cases, the original person who made all the money in the first place did so illegally or unethically (i.e. slavery, or natural resource/utility/transportation monopolies). In the present, they make almost all of their money from the money they already have. They are not putting it back into the economy and it’s killing not just the oft-mentioned middle-class, but everyone from the working poor to the upper-middle class.

It’s OK to want a system where some people have more burger than others, to have worked hard to “earn it.” It’s OK to want a meritocracy. We don’t need everyone to have THE SAME amount of burger (Communism), we just need people to not starve while thousands of tons of burger sits in a vault somewhere. Every starving person is a person without income, who can’t afford to buy anything, which means no jobs making anything. Additionally, that starving person is more likely to be sick, or to be less productive at a job. An entire economy works better when everyone is at least not-starving. This not-starving economy is Democratic Socialism.

So, when Democratic candidates talk about programs like healthcare-as-a-right, or free college, or better programs for veterans, or comprehensive mental health care, yes you might be asked to take one pickle off your double-quarter pounder but Person 6 will be asked to pony up all of those 100 double-quarter pounders, maybe even 200, maybe 500. It’s not a personal attack on your double-quarter pounder, it’s a way to a) contain the current starvation crisis b) keep us from ever having starving people again c) keep money circulating in the economy to actually drive job growth. And meanwhile, for your one pickle you get programs like healthcare-as-a-right, or free college, or better programs for veterans, or comprehensive mental health care. And that seems like a pretty good deal to me. #takemypickle


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