DICK BAYNTON: From Riches to Refugees

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Dick Baynton

As we have all noticed some Democratic candidates for the presidency of our country are advocating a sharp turn toward socialism. Socialism is the shift from equal opportunity to equal sharing of misery (similar to comments by Sir Winston Churchill). Socialism consists of central planning, high taxes and redistribution of wealth.

Various candidates are advocating that taxpayers pay off current student debt legislated by former President Obama in 2010. Student loan debt currently stands at $1.5 trillion while there is another $119 billion of student debt owed to private lenders. Holders of the federal student loan debt are 44.7 adult students who owe an average of $33,557 that will probably end up being liquidated by innocent taxpayers many of whom have paid for their own children’s college educations. This is nothing less than government mandated transfer of assets and financial resources.

It could be instructive to learn what happens when a nation adopts deep socialist principles. Only a few years ago the population of Venezuela was over 33 million; a recent UN report indicated that the 2020 population would be a little over 28 million. The UN also estimates that more than 4 million Venezuelan citizens have sought residence in other countries to achieve a good life with health, food and employment. In 2018 Venezuelans were leaving the country at the rate of 5,000 each day.

The area known as Venezuela today was colonized by Spanish pioneers in 1522 who declared independence from Spain in 1811; full independence was achieved in 1830. There have been a plethora of national leaders over the years as the nation’s name changed as well. From 1884 to 1953 it was known as the ‘United States (23) of Venezuela when the name was changed to the Republic of Venezuela until 1999 when the national constitution was launched and the name was changed to the ‘Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.’ The nation has perhaps the world’s most prodigious petroleum reserves as a result of discovery of oil in the early part of the 20th century.

In the 1980’s the world petroleum supply depressed prices and Venezuela suffered a debt crisis. By the mid-90’s inflation hit 100% annually, poverty rose to 66% and by 1998 individual GDP fell 33% from its high in 1978.

Hugo Chavez won the presidential election in 1998, taking office in 1999. Although Chavez was challenged several times, he survived a coup d’état in 2002 after losing power for just two days. In 2002, oil prices rose in world markets and Chavez was able to introduce populist social welfare policies that boosted the economy temporarily with increased social disbursements. This spending virtually eliminated illiteracy and reduced poverty.

However, spending vast sums of money on populist issues such as ‘equality’ the economy started crumbling due to high crime rates, mismanagement, corruption and consolidation of power under Chavez. An example is the incarceration of Police Chief Iván Simonovis of the capital city of Caracas, population 2 million. Chavez imprisoned him for 16 years for what he considered a ‘lack of loyalty’ due to his conduct during a strike and demonstration at the Presidential Palace. Making a daring escape in 2014, Simonovis now lives in Florida.

In 1950, Venezuela was the fourth richest nation in the world. Since 2010 the country has been enduring economic collapse. Following the death of the late President Hugo Perez on March 5th, 2013, Nicolás Maduro was elected president by a slim margin on April 14th of the same year.  Since Maduro’s election the economy has ‘tanked’ into destabilization resulting in high unemployment, poverty, disease, child mortality and crime. In 2018 the nation suffered hyperinflation with a rate of 1,370,000 and an incredible rate of 10,000,000 by the end of 2019.

Dear Friends: this is a brief story of the introduction of social policies that sounds utopian, smells like fully digested hay (dung) and tastes like moldy chewing tobacco. Socialism comes from the rise of social promises (of equality), the consolidation of power, the corruption we have seen in many instances including New Orleans (Mayor Ray Nagin (63) fine of $82,000, 10 years federal prison) and Detroit (Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (49) 28 years federal prison).  A vote for socialism is a vote for simulated integrity, asymmetrical equality and unscrupulous political management.

Dick Baynton