The New USSR: The Union of Socialist States of Red | Opinion

The nation's foreign policy focus has turned to how to contain Russian President Vladimir Putin's ambitions toward Ukraine, and his underlying goal of finding ways to reconstitute Russia's control over neighboring states, as he pines for the old days of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Whether Putin will use military force or other forms of continued intimidation tactics, there is little doubt he is haunted by the dissolution of the USSR and is looking for some way to reconstitute Russian influence and control over Ukraine and other key former Soviet republics.

In the United States, while it goes unrecognized, we have our own USSR—a collective of red states that are bound together in our union benefitting from the very socialism they claim to disdain, but which is so apparent they must be termed "The Union of Socialist States of Red."

What do I mean by that? Well, let's turn to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his quite ridiculous but repeatedly used term to attack Democratic policies as "socialist." McConnell and the Republican chorus have lambasted the Biden Build Back Better bill and its components by stating that if adopted, the United States would devolve into a state of "permanent socialism." Their critique is that the redistribution of wealth through renewing child credits, increasing access to child care, providing for pre-kindergarten education, or broadening Medicare coverage, are not vitally important policy initiatives but rather tenets of Democratic plans to create a socialist republic.

However, the real champions of redistributing wealth in a way that takes money from those who pay a much bigger share of the federal tax burden and channels it to those who shoulder considerably less in federal taxes are Mitch McConnell and his Republican red state "comrades." It is the blue states like New York, California, Connecticut and Massachusetts which pay into the federal government far greater amounts of federal tax revenue than what they get back from the federal government. Moreover, it is states like McConnell's home state of Kentucky that pay far less in taxes to the federal government than what they actually get back.

According to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, which measures so called state balance of tax payments—how much each state pays in taxes to the federal government versus what the federal government grants and spends in each state—over a 5-year period New York taxpayers, for instance, have paid in $142.6 billion more to the federal government than they have gotten back from the feds in money distributed to the state. In 2019, alone New York's balance of payments with the federal government was that it received almost $23 billion less in federal expenditures relative to what it paid in.

On the other hand, taking Mitch McConnell's Kentucky, that state received $63 billion more in payments from the federal government than its citizens paid in taxes to Washington. To break that down on an individual citizen basis, on average a New Yorker is paying $1,172 more to the federal government than is being spent by the federal government per person in the state; whereas, in Kentucky on a per capita basis they are getting $14,153 more per capita returned to the state than they are paying in federal taxes. This red state favorable balance of payments redistribution whereby the state gets more back than it pays in, benefits big and small red states alike—from the biggest one like Texas, to midsize states like Louisiana, to smaller ones like North and South Dakota and Wyoming.

There is nothing new about this data. It has been true for a long time. What is remarkable is that even states like Texas with a huge economy get back more than they send to the federal coffers. Yet, Texas Senator Ted Cruz throws around the "socialist" attack on blue state Democrats as much as anybody. So, one can surmise the way Republicans see it, as long as you are redistributing income back to their state disproportionally it is not wealth redistribution socialism, but if it is money going to lower and middle-class citizens as part of a social safety net then it is.

 A detailed view of the American flag
A detailed view of the American flag. Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

This also raises the question why Democratic response to the use of the socialist attack has not been squarely aimed at pointing this out. That if Republicans were truly anti-socialist—using their own concept of socialism that redistribution of significant wealth subsidizing those who pay in far less to the government—then Republicans should be willing to readjust all kinds of federal expenditures, and become advocates for far more money being spent in states like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Minnesota and Colorado, the blue states that are on the short end of the balance of payments stick.

Democrats ought to be far better deflecting the all too often used "socialist" attack with the compelling argument that their party stands for fairness for working families, while red state Republicans are advocates of diverting federal funds under a socialist game plan. However, given that key swing states Democrats need are beneficiaries of how income tax revenue is currently redistributed, the argument would need to be put forward in a way which simply points out Republicans in fact support the very "socialist" practices they criticize. This disproportionate levying of taxes on blue states relative to what they get back is one of the key policy arguments in favor of allowing high tax blue states to get a federal tax deduction on their state and local taxes, though at this point that seems like a dead issue.

Red used to be a descriptor referring to communist states like Russia. Now, of course, red is a descriptor for that part of the country that supports Donald Trump, himself a great devotee of the Russian president. Red also represents the embarrassment Republicans should feel for their hypocrisy in actually being unabashed partisans for socialist redistribution.

If the "socialism" label is going to be thrown around in such a silly fashion and applied to federal policies that are intended to benefit those who need the most help, let's make sure socialism is called out everywhere it applies; and, that McConnell is clearly understood as being the biggest socialism advocate of all, and his state of Kentucky the number one balance of payments welfare recipient in the Union of Socialist States of Red.

While Democrats and Republicans appear largely united in expressing resistance to Putin in his attempts to bring Ukraine back into some USSR era zone of influence—how about Republicans also joining Democrats in tearing down the USSR in the USA, and abolishing this Union of Socialist States of Red, by advocating blue states getting back from the federal government as much as they pay in?

Tom Rogers is an editor-at-large for Newsweek, the founder of CNBC and a CNBC contributor. He also established MSNBC, is the former CEO of TiVo, currently executive chair of Engine Media and is former senior counsel to a congressional committee.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.