Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza said Monday that ObamaCare and other government regulatory programs pushed by progressive politicians are fascist attempts to get government to control the private economy.
In a speech on the "Moral Case for Capitalism" Monday at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, D'Souza likened the promotion of government regulations and condemnation of income inequality by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, to the speeches of German Nazi Leader Adolph Hitler, except that Hitler's condemnation of Jewish people is replaced by Sanders' criticism of the concentration of wealth for the top 1 percent of income earners.
"American progressivism since the 1930s has evolved far more into fascism, without embracing the label," D'Souza told several hundred UTC students and others gathered for the 2017 Burkett Miller Distinguished Lecture at the Roland Hayes hall. "If you look at something like ObamaCare [or the Affordable Care Act adopted in 2010], it is not socialism because we still have private hospitals, doctors and insurance companies. But the government tells them what to do — it sets the prices, it determines what health care is covered and what profit margins insurers can make. What we have is state-run capitalism, which is the economic definition of fascism."
Under the Obama administration, the government increased its regulations and direction of industries ranging from banking to energy to health care. D'Souza said progressives such as Sanders and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who he denounced as Pocahontas for her claim of native American ancestry, "are too lazy to be socialists" to actually produce goods and services demanded by consumers.
"Bernie Sanders wants the guys in Midland Texas to take the oil out of the ground and create all this wealth and then we'll tell you want you can do with it," D"Souza said. "This is what happened in Mussolini's Italy in the 1920s when the government decided to quarterback all the major industries and this is what happened in Nazi Germany when the government was creating and directing the auto industry and the energy industry, and other parts of the economy.
Entrepreneurs and Wall Street financiers who are in the top 1 percent of economic wealth are often criticized for taking a disproportionate share of wealth from the others, D' Souza acknowledged.
"This is the exactly the way Hitler talked about the Jews," he said. "If you took Hitler's speech and simply blocked out "Jews" and replaced it with "the 1 percent," you would feel like you were at the Democratic National Convention."
In response to D'Souza's comments, Dr. Russell S. Sobel of The Citadel agreed that government leaders are often unnecessarily interfering with the free market and hampering its success.
But in a rebuttal offered during Monday's lecture, Sobel insisted that Republicans and Democrats are both to blame for trying to shape the economy and direct the market in ways favorable to their supporters.
Sobel said he grew up in Democratically controlled West Virginia and now lives in South Carolina, which is governed primarily by GOP leaders.
"West Virginia had a very poor business climate and a lot of problems with its economic system, but now living in South Carolina I find the exact same problems," Sobel said. "The irony is that in states controlled by Democrats and in states controlled by Republicans, the policies are virtually identical and equally intrusive on the market system and equally tying the hands of entrepreneurs who work every day to profit by giving us the goods and services that we want."
But D'Souza, who has written books and produced films highly critical of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, insisted that Democrats are more to blame in interfering with the free market success of America. D'Souza said Republicans, in general, are more supportive of the free market than are Democrats today.
In his newest book, "The Big Lie," D"Souza describes how the Democratic Party historically argued for slavery in the 19th century and supported and included many members of the Ku Klux Klan in the 20th century, including former Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
"The "big lie" is the effort to move the blame for a party that fought for slavery and for the KKK and against the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the constitute to a party that now claims to be the party of racial healing," he said. "What we are witnessing is a kind of a scam that is diverting attention from real interests and needs of today."
D'Souza also suggested that President Obama singled him out for a heavier than normal penalty for a campaign financial violation five years ago because of his critical film about Obama.
'Forgive me for suspecting that the narcissist in the White House might have something to do with this," he said about his felony conviction for an illegal campaign donation in the 2012 New York Senate campaign. "Was it political retribution? I think so."
D'Souza entered a guilty plea in 2014 to a charge that he used straw donors to make $20,000 in illegal contributions to Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long in 2012. D'Souza said Long was a college friend of his whom he gave the maximum allowable $10,000 personal gift to his campaign and then told two others he would reimburse them for similar $10,000 contributions.
The single felony count D'Souza admitted guilt on carries a maximum prison sentence of two years, but D'Souza ultimately avoided any jail time and was given five years of probation — including eight months living under supervision in a "community confinement center" in San Diego — and a $30,000 fine.
Prosecutors dropped another charge accusing D'Souza of causing Long to file a false report with the Federal Election Commission.
D'Souza said other criminal prosecutions for illegal campaign contributions have always involved charges of corruption where the donor gives money in exchange for a political favor.
"Never in the history of the United States has there been a case of a $20,000 violation involving no evidence of any corruption," he said. "I didn't even tell Wendy what I was doing."
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., among others, has also questioned why the Obama justice department pursued the case against D'Souza so vigorously.
"Can you image the reaction if the Bush administration had went, gone and prosecuted Michael Moore and Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn?" Cruz said at the time.
D'Souza said to take what he said his a higher moral ground in defending America and its capitalist system. The moral argument against capitalism focuses on income inequality, but D'Souza said capitalism is still the best overall system for raising prosperity and reducing poverty, as history has shown.
D'Souza was born in Mumbai, India, where he says he witnessed the failures of post World War II socialism in India. He came to the United States as an exchange student and attended Dartmouth College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1983. He became a policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1991.
D'Souza's wife, Debbie, comes from Venzuela, a socialist country that D'Souza said is unable to feed many of its people.
"Free market capitalism seems to be the only economic system that has worked around the world, " D'Souza said. "It seems to have won the efficiency debate, but it still hasn't always won the moral debate."
D'Souza acknowledged that public support for socialism, especially among younger American adults, is growing and many are aligning with self-described socialists like Sen. Sanders.
But D'Souza said successful entrepreneurs in capitalist economies give consumers what they want, which he said is more beneficial and democratic than having government leaders dictate what consumers will get and what producers will make.
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6340.