Ken Calvert column: Capitalism and liberty are essential for prosperity

Everyone loves a rags-to-riches story. They are woven into the fabric of our nation. Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Jobs are a few of the most celebrated examples, though there are untold numbers of lesser-known Americans who have traveled that path. These stories all have one thing in common — they are made possible by the entrepreneurial spirit of the individual and the economic opportunities created by American free-market capitalism.

Socialist countries don’t produce these kinds of success stories. Instead, they often produce horror stories. Look at Venezuela and Cuba and ask yourself how many iconic brands like Ford, Disney and Apple are being established there. People there do not have the luxury of innovation when they are simply trying to stave off starvation.

America’s economy has been the biggest driver of prosperity the world has ever seen. It’s led to the greatest innovations in virtually every field imaginable, including communications, manufacturing, transportation and health care. The positive effects on the quality of life those innovations have had for Americans and people beyond our borders are incalculable.

When you empower individuals with the ability to make choices, protect and give value to intellectual property and create incentives for hard work and efficiency, you unleash an incredible force. In turn, that force rewards not only the innovator, but yields benefits throughout our society.

The Democratic Party’s embrace of socialism is quick to highlight issues under capitalism, but empowering government above the individual is not the solution. In every instance, socialism will make matters worse, while free-market principles will unlock vibrant solutions.

The one-size-fits all, DMV-style government-run health care system backed by socialists would sacrifice the quality and access to timely care most Americans benefit from today. Just look at the single-payer government-run health care system in the United Kingdom, where data indicates one in four cancer patients receive delayed treatment even with urgent referrals from a primary-care doctor. Those kinds of delays have life-and-death consequences. Today, there are more than 4 million United Kingdom patients on the waiting list for an operation under their government-run system, which is at an all-time high for missing its surgery wait time targets.

Instead of embracing the government-centered health care that strips Americans of the health care plans they earn from their employers and forces them to change doctors, we need to move toward more patient-centered health care. By giving families more choice and control to act on their health care priorities we can give them the affordability they need in a health plan. If you like your doctor, you should be able to keep them. The same goes for your insurance plan. We can and should allow for more flexibility so that your health care choices dictate where your money goes and incentivize providers to treat you like a patient rather than a number.

Socialists also want to completely rewire our economy via massive schemes like the Green New Deal and try to legislate “fairness.” As most people know, nothing in life is free, and neither is a massive expansion of government programs. Don’t let socialists fool you — we cannot pay for their programs with just a tax hike on the wealthiest Americans. To cover the costs of the government they dream of, we’d need to impose huge tax increases on everyone from middle-class families to small business owners.

Beyond that, mandating fairness in outcomes, rather than fairness of opportunity, ensures that everyone will experience a lower quality of life. On their path to “fairness,” socialists would take a wrecking ball to economic growth opportunities. Simply put, if you’re sending more money to Washington, D.C., then you have less disposable income to spend as you like. That’s a bad deal for anyone who would rather make their own spending decisions rather than surrender that power to the government.

Young people who think socialism is the answer should consider the lower quality of life they would experience if forced to live under a socialist regime. The people of Cuba only recently gained access to 3G cell service, and even that is unaffordable to most Cubans, whose median monthly income is $44. The simple luxuries we take for granted today are only possible due to the free market system under capitalism. Furthermore, capitalism has done more to lift more people out of poverty around the world than any other system.

Our great nation was not built on participation trophies. We must reject the culture of embracing entitlement and protect the traditions that reward hard work. Instead of guaranteeing outcomes, we need to remain vigilant in ensuring there’s equal economic opportunities to lift up every family.

It’s OK to celebrate when a self-made billionaire like Oprah gives away cars to everyone — but we should be very wary when socialist Democrats push our government to act with such careless generosity.

Ken Calvert represents California’s 42nd Congressional District.