by Nonie Darwish
October 3, 2011 at 4:00 am
During the socialist experiment in Egypt, where I grew up, in every speech the revolutionary dictator, Gamal Abdel Nasser, would fly into a rage against what he called the corrupt rich, large owners of agricultural land and the big companies, robbing the wealth from the poor Egyptian people.
Nasser nationalized all the companies and banks; and limited ownership of the land to a few acres per family. Private enterprise was virtually gone, limited to just little stores and apartment buildings. But then even the owners of apartment buildings were demonized as greedy, and Nasser punished them by introducing severe rent control. Rents were sometimes cut by more than 400%, and stayed at that level for life. The result was that buildings were virtually abandoned by their owners, who could no longer afford to maintain them; many neighborhoods turned into slums. As no one built rental buildings any more, there was a horrific shortage of apartments for rent. In a few years, two — then three –families started living together in one apartment; some of the poor people Nasser said he loved made cemeteries their homes.
Several years after pitting the rich against the poor, everyone in Egypt became poor. Even people who had previously enjoyed money struggled to survive — Except for the political class.
The president, his family, his cronies, his cabinet and military leaders became the new rich class, as well as the major employers for everyone, as unemployment was rampant everywhere else. The sons and relatives of the Egyptian president cruised around Cairo in expensive foreign cars while 95% of Egyptians stuffed themselves uncomfortably into publicly-owned buses.
What socialism does is to remove the private sector from being the rich, and replace it with a useless political class that understands nothing about running a business for profit. When the private sector was in charge, the economy grew; when the government was in charge, the economy declined.
Moreover, the public could no longer sue the government when there were mistakes in health or rights, whereas when the private sector controlled the economy competitively, the public was free to bring lawsuits against any corrupt practices or mistakes that had caused harm to anyone.
One would have thought this basic lesson in economics had already been resolved in the American mind, and seen that socialism and communism could not work, but apparently our current administration is taking the naïve American public on a ride from which it might never recover.
Every time I listen to the president ranting against the rich millionaires and billionaires, I ask myself how educated people in America can be fooled by such rhetoric. Advocating a socialist agenda — while denying that it is socialist — is what the administration and his supporters are doing. They are being dishonest, to say the least, about what they believe.
The worst governments are those that hide and deny their true intentions, like my life in Muslim countries, where the leaders secretly guard their true intentions with their lives, while always publicly denying who they really are.
As a young journalist for the Egyptian government’s only news agency, the Middle East News Agency, I was paid a whopping 16.95 Egyptian pounds a month, equivalent to about $30 a month at the time. Because I lived in my family’s home and had other sources of income, my government salary was used for transportation to and from work, for a few trips to the hairdresser, and that was about it.
With this government’s current policy of pitting the poor against the rich, we are going down a path where eventually wealth will be taken out of the private sector and placed in the hands of politicians. We will all work for the government, and to mask national unemployment, salaries will be divided and subdivided among its employees. Yes there will be free and mediocre health care, but also terrible shortages in housing, along with high unemployment.
In Egypt, when its economy brought the government to its knees, at least it had the United Stares to come to its rescue with a few billion dollars a year that American taxpayers have been giving to Egypt to encourage it to keep the peace accords with Israel. As the Arab-Israeli conflict is rescuing Egypt from starvation, it has become the game that can never be resolved. The same economic trap holds true for the West Bank and Gaza: Why should they solve their problem? Then who would finance them?
The administration’s advocates are trying to change our culture so that we will wake up one morning and find ourselves dealing only with government employees for every need. As you cannot ever fire them, there will be government-run medical clinics, like our government-run schools; and government-run banks and car companies and stores, and services with no service, and no one smiling or saying hello or please or thank you — and there will be no competition to provide encouragement to do better. There will be no more survey cards asking “How did you find the service?” Government monopolies could not care less how satisfied you are.
With socialism, not only will our incomes decrease and our unemployment increase, but our ability to contribute to causes and religious institutions, will suddenly be impossible on small government salaries.
A socialist government will no longer allow, or will drastically reduce, tax-deductions on donations to religious institutions and other charities. Just look at Europe and see how little the public donates to any cause, and how churches have virtually become extinct. Because of the administration’s disastrous economic policies and attacks on the so-called rich, there is little left for Americans, even today, to donate to churches and other charities, leaving many pastors unable to make ends meet and struggling to survive. Four more years of Obama and we will see many churches, those symbols of American freedom – and other charities — shut their doors.
Who will rescue America?
When churches can no longer operate, and with many churches posting “for sale” signs, the Saudi Arabian government will be ready with its petro-dollars to “rescue” us. Its jihad, or holy war, has been subsidized by a poorer America. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries no longer need the sword; they will happily purchase churches, convert them to mosques and save their terrorists from the hard work of a war. All that Saudi Arabia needs is naïve and misguided American policies.
When President Barack Obama visited Turkey, he said, “America is not a Christian nation,” and, “The US is one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.” Perhaps this is the drastic change that Obama had in mind when he ran for office and when he bowed to the Saudi King. To play an economic game to destroy America’s private enterprise and create a rich political class that controls everything — and defund or attack churches: 93,000 Coptic Christians have left Egypt just since March; and last Friday, according to the Assyrian National News Agency, a church, a supermarket, an electrical supply depot and four Christian homes were torched as Muslims prevented the fire brigade from entering the village and Security forces just “stood there watching” — not even our worst enemy could have devised such a plan.
Nonie Darwish, a Middle East scholar, is Director of Former Muslims United and author of Cruel and Usual Punishment