Byline: Daniel Di Martino
The first time I couldn't buy food at the grocery store, I was 15 years old. It was 2014 in Caracas, Venezuela, and I had spent more than an hour in line. When I got to the register, I noticed I had forgotten my ID that day. Without it, the rationing system would not let the supermarket sell my family the full quota of food. It was four days until the government allowed me to buy more.
This was fairly normal. All my life, I lived under socialism in Venezuela until I came to the United States as a student in 2016. Because of price controls and the nationalization of important industries, production fell. I had to wait hours for goods like toothpaste or flour.
And the shortages went far beyond the supermarket. My family and I suffered from blackouts and lack of water. The regime nationalized electricity in 2007, resulting in underinvestment in the electrical grid. By 2016, my home lost power roughly once a week.
Our water situation was even worse. Initially, my family didn't have running water for about one day per month, but as the years passed we sometimes went several weeks straight without it.
For these problems, the regime has blamed an iguana, right-wing sabotage and the weather. In reality, Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, and three times more fresh water resources per person than the USA. The real reason my family went without water and electricity was the socialist economy instituted by dictators Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.
The welfare programs, minimum-wage hikes and nationalizations resulted in a colossal deficit that the central bank covered by printing money, leading to rampant inflation. Today, prices double every few weeks, and the standard of living continues to plummet.
One of the richest countries in Latin America fell apart under the weight of big government. Just look at my own family. When Chavez took office in 1999, my parents earned several thousand dollars a month. By 2016, due to inflation, they earned less than $2 a day. If my parents hadn't fled, they'd now be earning less than $1 a day, the international definition of extreme poverty. Even now, the inflation rate is expected to reach 10 million percent this year.
Venezuela has become a country where a woeful number of children suffer from malnutrition, and where working two full-time jobs will pay for only 6pounds of chicken a month.
Though so many of us fled the consequences of socialism to the USA, liberal politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., praise the kind of policies that produced famine, mass exodus and soaring inflation in Venezuela. Worse, Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ro Khanna and Tulsi Gabbard mischaracterized the protests against Maduro and condemned President Donald Trump's moves to end Maduro's dictatorship.
Additionally, many Democrats support Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, proposals that would nationalize the health insurance industry, guarantee everyone a job and massively raise taxes, drastically increasing federal intervention in the economy.
Proponents think they can give Americans everything for free. But these proposals would skyrocket the national debt, which just reached a record $22 trillion. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even endorsed paying for the Green New Deal by asking the Federal Reserve to print money -- exactly what produced Venezuela's nightmare.
Nonetheless, liberal economist Paul Krugman argued that "whenever you see someone invoking Venezuela as a reason not to consider progressive policy ideas the person in question is uninformed, dishonest, or both."
I'm neither uninformed nor dishonest. It's true that no single radical proposal would turn the United States into Venezuela overnight. But if these measures are enacted, they could have the same catastrophic consequences for America that they had for my home.
In his State of the Union address, President Trump said: "America will never be a socialist country." I hope that the president is right, and that every American can resist the lure of false promises and avoid Venezuela's fate.
Daniel Di Martino studies economics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.