Fox Business Network, that bastion of reasoned debate, hosted an hour-long “debate” on the virtues of capitalism and socialism today. On socialism’s side was Marxist economist Richard Wolff and New York City Democratic Socialists of America co-chair Bianca Cunningham, with failed presidential candidate and Federal Reserve nominee Herman Cain and a rotating cast of Fox Business clowns on the side of capitalism, aided by moderator and fellow Fox host Charles Payne.
It was exactly about as shitty as it sounds.
Throughout the hour, Cain and the Fox Business hosts—Stu Varney, Neil Cavuto, the ex-MTV VJ Kennedy, and Lou fucking Dobbs—repeatedly trotted out the same tired arguments against socialism that you can find in the comment section of any Breitbart story. These arguments included:
- Socialism has never worked in any country (Wolff pointed out the example of China, to which Varney responded by blubbering about being a refugee of “English socialism”)
- Capitalism creates “competition,” while socialism mitigates it (Wolff’s mention of the existence of monopolies, of course, mostly went ignored)
- There’s no “freedom” under socialism, according to Kennedy
- Socialists never talk about “costs,” according to Herman Cain
- Venezuela! Cuba!! The Soviet Union!!!
You get the idea.
The capitalism side—Cain and Kennedy, in particular—repeatedly went after Cunningham, voices dripping with condescension as they treated her like some naive kid. When Cunningham calmly pointed out that we shouldn’t live in a society where billionaires exist but people are still living on the street, Cain huffed and puffed, claiming people choose not to use food banks or homeless shelters in Atlanta.
Cunningham responded by relaying her experience mentoring in New York City public schools. “In the schools I mentor in, almost 65 percent of the kids are homeless,” she shot back. “When given $2,000 for a project, they’re asking for money for a community garden so they can bring food home, they’re asking for rooms that they can sleep overnight in because they’re afraid of sleeping on the streets with their parents. People are dealing with real issues, and your claim that people are not homeless or going without or not homeless is just false.”
“Well, your claim is also false!” Cain shouted in response (Got ‘em!!!) before saying he grew up eating “biscuits with no meat” and claiming people can just stop being homeless if they “go out and work for it.”
Later, Cunningham stressed that the Democratic Party is not, in fact, veering towards socialism, and explained what the DSA wants. “We’d like to bring democracy to every aspect of our lives,” she said. “Including our workplaces, unions are the thing that are going to push these people at the top to share profits with workers who are generating the wealth.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t be quiet, y’all,” Cain responded. “You are shifting the subject...you’re going at it based upon emotion.”
Later on, Kennedy mocked the idea of a “living wage” like it’s a bad, inherently socialist idea, which goes a long way toward explaining why an increasing number of Americans are coming around to socialism. “Living wage,” she scoffed. “When will you admit what that is, and why would you stop at $15 an hour? Why not go to $25 an hour or $100 an hour?” Good idea, Kennedy!
Meanwhile, Wolff exasperatedly tried to provide some perspective on the history of socialism in America to counter Kennedy’s repeated insistence that the only way to implement socialism is through “force.” Wolff recalled socialists steadily increasing their share of the vote in presidential elections in the early 20th century, culminating in the Socialist-endorsed progressive Robert LaFollette’s 17 percent popular vote showing in 1924.
“At that point the capitalists in this country got very frightened and for good reason, and came down on socialism with the same kind of hysterical denunciation that you’re seeing here,” Wolff said. “We’re the country that’s behind in that area, we have to catch up. But we don’t have to imagine it as new, it’s in our own history.”
“And World War II,” Kennedy shouted in response. “The end!” Not sure that’s the best war to use as an example of a socialist country failing, but you do you, Kennedy.
Major kudos to Wolff and especially Cunningham for somehow managing to not strangle their opponents, but the whole thing was a goddamn farce from start to finish.
This debate is a stupid one to begin with. As long as failed Republican presidential candidates and millionaire TV anchors whose entire jobs are predicated on an undying trust in capitalism are the ones allowed to define the terms of the debate and what socialism even is—all the while bypassing any concept of American history—we’re never going to get an actual debate on the merits of these systems.