Vernuccio’s View: Venezuela’s Failing Example of Socialist Economics

Americans are focused on the Olympics in Brazil, but it is the South American nation of Venezuela that deserves the most attention. Venezuela is a poster child for the shortcomings of socialist economics.

The Washington Post recently noted, “Venezuela is…well past the point of worrying that its economy might collapse. It already has. That’s the only way to describe an economy that the International Monetary Fund thinks is going to shrink 8 percent and have 720 percent inflation this year …This is an entirely man-made catastrophe. Venezuela, by all rights, should be rich…it has more oil than the United States or Saudi Arabia or anyone else for that matter.”

Bloomberg notes that “Catastrophe Is the New Normal for Venezuelans…The fact is, the Maduro government may have lost its way, but it’s still got an iron grip on this nation of 30 million people. And that residual clout, coupled with disarray among the president’s political foes, has given the regime the benefit of public doubt even in desperate times.

The Obama Administration’s policy choices have a number of similarities to Venezuela, where, despite reaping a fortune from its oil industry, (recent profits have declined due to lower oil prices)  the government has ruined its national economy.  An MRCTV review noted “The Venezuelan economy failed a long time ago… it failed thanks to the collectivist policies of former President Hugo Chavez and current President Nicolás Maduro. Anyone with functioning eyes could see it.”

During the almost eight years of the Obama Administration, the U.S. national debt has doubled, regulations have increased, and property rights have decreased.  The President once openly voiced his contempt for the private sector with phrases such as, when speaking of businesses, “You didn’t build that.”

Vast annual deficits continue to occur. Despite all that spending, nothing has been gained. A sixth of the economy, that portion involving health care, has come under government control. Poverty hasn’t been reduced, infrastructure remains deficient, the armed forces are dwindling due to lack of funds, and U.S. students lag behind their peers. Home ownership is down, as are middle class job opportunities. Senior citizens have received lesser cost of living increases than at any time in memory, and even the program the Administration remains proudest of, Obamacare, is beginning to sink into a fiscal crisis of its own.

The problems may not end when the Obama Administration leaves office. Potential successor Hillary Clinton has promised to continue his policies.

Since the start of the Obama Administration, Washington has, in the President’s words, been “fundamentally transformed.”  It has come to resemble nations with government-run health care, and centralized economies with more controlled markets. But in several ways, it has moved beyond economics and into the realm of a more tightly-guided political environment with agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency being used to punish those with views that differ from the White House, much as Venezuelan authorities have sought to suppress dissent in their nation.

That reality poses a threat to the future of prosperity and freedom for American citizens. Much of the media, and the usual collection of cultural commentators, appear to have missed the resemblance and the lesson that should have been learned.

In the 2016 election cycle, Senator Bernie Sanders openly advocated socialist economics as solutions to many of America’s challenges. Hillary Clinton, who initiated concepts such as Obamacare, has come very close to echoing Sanders’ policy choices. Where would those policies lead the U.S.? A look at how they fared in Venezuela is instructive.

The CATO Institute  noted that socialist economic policies destroyed the Venezuelan economy. “Milton Friedman once said that, if you put the government in charge of the Sahara desert, there’ll eventually be a shortage of sand. No wonder that, after 14 years of socialist government, Venezuela — the country with the world’s largest oil reserves — is currently importing gasoline. This fact highlights Venezuela’s painful descent into chaos, as the economy crumbles and the nation’s social fabric unravels. Socialism has turned Venezuela into an authoritarian basket case that thousands try to escape every year.… Despite receiving over $1 trillion in oil revenues since 1999, the government has run out of cash and now relies heavily on printing money to finance itself. The result is the highest inflation rate in the world: officially 56 per cent last year, although according to calculations by Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins University, the implied annual inflation rate is actually 330 per cent.

“Venezuela was once South America’s richest country, taking in immigrants from all over the world. For many years, it was also a remarkable democracy in a region where most nations were ruled by military dictatorships. Today, socialism has turned Venezuela into an authoritarian basket case that thousands try to escape every year. With millions of Venezuelans no longer willing to put up with deteriorating living conditions, and a government willing to take whatever means necessary to hold on to power, it looks like the worst is yet to come.”

Frank V. Vernuccio, Jr., J.D. is the editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy & Government and the co-host of the popular WVOX weekly radio show, “And Nothing But The Truth.”

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