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February 20, 2024

The Real Russia vs. America Debate

Subway stations may be lovely and grocery stores cheaper, but that doesn’t make Russia superior to the U.S.

“Lining up for food” is “a good thing,” said then-Mayor Bernie Sanders of Burlington, Vermont, in 1985. When you don’t have food lines, he explained, “The rich get the food, and the poor starve to death.” He was talking about socialist-run Nicaragua, but it was spoken like a true Soviet.

Unfortunately, mindless praise for socialist utopias didn’t start or end with Bernie.

Tucker Carlson has done a lot of good in his broadcast career. He’s revealed corruption, rooted out tough stories, and pounded home tough questions. We were among those who were shocked and dismayed when Fox News summarily fired him last year.

Yet Carlson is also human, apt to do wrong or stupid things because that’s just the human condition. His moment in that ignoble pantheon came in relation to his interview with Vladimir Putin.

While in Russia, Carlson created a series of videos about conditions in the country, which he intended to draw contrasts with our own under the bumbling “leadership” of Joe Biden and Democrat mayors around the nation. He said in one of the videos that his job isn’t to make judgments but merely “to ask the question.” The problem is that was perhaps too cute by half.

Before showing footage of a subway station “built by Joseph Stalin 70 years ago,” Carlson marveled at the beautiful architecture and clean condition despite the country being “in the middle of a war” (that it started, he didn’t add). “There’s no graffiti, there’s no filth, no foul smells. There are no bums or drug addicts or rapists or people waiting to push you onto the train tracks and kill you. No, it’s perfectly clean and orderly.” He added, “It’s nicer than anything in our country.”

“That’s not an endorsement of Stalin, who was bad, obviously,” Carlson assured viewers. “Nor is it an endorsement of the current president, Vladimir Putin.” The sweeping music played with the gawking footage implied otherwise. In any case, he definitely meant it as an indictment of Democrat leaders here in the U.S., and it is that.

But Carlson also could have answered the implied question by noting that Stalin reportedly built the subway station with marble from a cathedral he destroyed or that he intended the station as a propaganda tool for his communist regime, both for residents and (ahem) foreigners. He could have explained that Putin’s regime, which is as much in the mold of Stalin’s as modern pretenses and sensibilities will allow, uses facial recognition surveillance to jail anyone and everyone — perhaps especially journalists — who run afoul of Putin’s rule.

Alexei Navalny could tell us about that if Putin’s goons hadn’t just killed him.

Keep it clean and orderly or head to the gulag can be effective, we suppose. It’s also not Liberty through the Rule of Law.

One other thing Tucker didn’t mention is that the subway station’s colorful mosaic of dutiful farm workers depicts a scene in Ukraine, where Stalin committed genocide through famine and where Putin is arguably also committing genocide during his invasion that began two years ago. Carlson doesn’t favor U.S. aid for Ukraine, so maybe he thought it best not to bring that up.

Another subject of his intrigue was grocery shopping at a Russian supermarket. As he bought what a family of four might typically buy so as to compare costs, he highlighted wine from Crimea, which for some reason he didn’t mention was formerly a part of Ukraine that Russia invaded and annexed in 2014.

Carlson intended his video to nail American leaders for causing inflation, and in one sense, he did that well. “I went from amused to legitimately angry,” he said after checking out and paying a little over $100 for his cartload instead of the expected $400. He accused our leaders of “wrecking people’s lives and their country” and said he’d been “radicalized” by the experience he just had.

We’re really not here to pick on Carlson. We even agree with some of the points he was trying to make, though his omissions are glaring.

Inflation is awful, as we’ve said a thousand times. Yet Russian groceries were cheaper than America’s long before Biden ignited inflation. And cheaper food is not proof of a stronger Russian economy or a testament to its superior system. Instead, it’s thanks to a dollar that remains relatively strong and allows American tourists to enjoy increased purchasing power in other countries.

In fact, the average American salary is nearly six times as much as in Russia, where most people spend half their salary on food, and nearly a quarter of residents don’t even have indoor plumbing. Notably, American life expectancy is four years longer for women and nearly a decade longer for men. And when was the last time Russia led the world in innovation that mattered? National Review’s Jim Geraghty made a list of recent American ingenuity to celebrate.

It’s true that totalitarian countries can do things with a lot less resistance or argument than we do here in the not-so-United States. It’s true that bureaucratic red tape hampers things here in ways that even the Soviet Politburo would find eyebrow-raising. It’s also true that Democrat urban centers are disgraceful cesspools of crime and filth.

But America is still, contrary to recent polling, the greatest country in the world. We’d take it over Russia all day, every day. Sometimes we all need that reminder.

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