In his State of the Union address last month, President Trump reassured us of something I never imagined would ever need to be said: “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
Such an assertion would have been unnecessary — even unthinkable — a few years ago. Yet, the response from certain members of Congress was remarkable: A shocking number of Congressional members remained glued to their seats. The seated politicians’ stubborn “resistance” included many of those symbolically dressed in white.
By contrast, just 90 miles to the south of us, a far more principled and clearly wronged group are the actual “Ladies in White.” These are the courageous wives, daughters, sisters and mothers of political prisoners who on a weekly basis stand up to Cuba’s brand of socialism by wearing white while silently marching to Mass. For their brave and justified defiance, the Damas en Blanco have been targeted with arrests, beatings and torture. Mobs have also appeared at their homes to harass and intimidate them.
Meanwhile, even more troubling than politicians sitting on their hands, are signs of the emerging support for socialism. In a recent poll, a plurality of Democrats viewed socialism favorably. A stunning survey last year showed more millennials favor socialism than capitalism.
I think of my three children, themselves millennials and descendants of Cuban immigrants on my wife’s side, and I write this to them:
It’s now more important than ever that you stand up to socialism and fight against the attacks on capitalism and our democracy.
On our recent trip to Cuba, you saw firsthand the effects of socialism. You were there when your grandmother returned to the family-owned lumber mill, which was confiscated by the Cuban government and recalled her last memory of this place: With your aunts (then 5 and 6 years old) sitting in the back seat of her car, she saw your grandfather being marched out at gunpoint and ordered never to return to the business he had built from the ground up. Through tears, she beheld a structure in shambles with murals of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Ironically, the once-thriving lumber business was now used only to make pine coffins — a fitting symbol of the death and hopelessness engendered by the Castro’s.
Your grandparents were, thankfully and graciously, taken in by America, raised a family and pursued their American dream, unflinching in their patriotism and outspoken about the freedoms America provides, and that are often taken for granted.
After more than 55 years of socialist rule, Cuba remains a shining example of the total failure of socialist policies: institutionalized poverty and despair, people living off of rationed food and supplies and total destruction of the island once known as the “Jewel of the Caribbean.”
Today, in spite of the lessons that should have been learned from Cuba, we find another country ravaged and destroyed by socialism. Venezuela, once one of South America’s wealthiest countries, rich with large oil reserves, is left plundered. Venezuelan citizens are literally starving. Like Cuba, Venezuela is now short of both food and freedom.
I want you to realize that Venezuela’s demise started with the same empty promises socialist governments always offer: “free” education. “free” healthcare. Subsidized food and fuel. Transfers of wealth and property from the “rich” to the poor. Higher minimum wages and income guarantees. Government control of important industries, and eventually, all industry.
Sound familiar? It’s the same song we’re now hearing from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and nearly all of the declared Democratic presidential candidates. And don’t let the “Green New Deal” label fool you — it’s not about climate change. It’s really about total government control over virtually every aspect of human life. The same goes for the 70 percent tax rates, wealth levies and all the “free” stuff.
Why do people buy into socialism? Because free stuff sounds great, great until you run into the harsh reality so presciently declared by the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher — “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
In less than two decades, we’ve seen the continuous transfer of wealth in Venezuela destroy their economy. Once there is no more money or property to transfer — the socialist government must start printing it, causing inflation to run wild. This in turn, devalues minimum wages and renders income guarantees meaningless. No longer incentivized to take initiative and work hard, most people have stopped creating wealth.
Meanwhile, there’s no more subsidized food. In fact, there’s no food at all, and people in Venezuela are eating from garbage trucks. There’s no more subsidized fuel — fuel isn’t available, even in an energy-rich nation. Free healthcare? It’s impossible to provide any meaningful care with no medicine or supplies and no electricity. Infants and the elderly are perishing in squalid conditions. Free education? What does it matter when there’s nowhere to use your training and skills to better your life and the life of your family?
Ronald Reagan believed that such a travesty could happen here. He told us: “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation.”
Your generation can’t inherit freedom — or the prosperity that accompanies it — from mine. Rather, I hope that like your grandmother, and so many other Cubans and Venezuelans in South Florida who know better from bitter experience, that you’ll be defenders of capitalism and our democracy.
Ed J. Pozzuoli is the CEO of Tripp Scott law firm, based in Fort Lauderdale.