Before they succeed in making “socialism” into a dirty word again let’s pause for a minute and do the American thing: let’s call bullsh*t…
Boy, do we need an education in how governments work. Stuart Varney’s viral segment on (shudder) democratic socialism and the recent Facebook meme-storm demonizing socialism is a great example of how propaganda financed by the superrich, and manufactured by Russian meme factories, taints every meaningful discussion with aggressive, mind-cauterizing ignorance. (Go HERE to see a sample.) Now, I certainly am aware of the hazards and benefits of greater or lesser degrees of socialism, and I don’t mind having reasonable discussions about them. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow these ignorance peddlers get away with redefining a century of history by their abuse of words!
So before they succeed in making “socialism” into a dirty word again (so the 1% who finance Stuart Varney and Fox News can continue to rake all the new money generated by the tax cut) let’s pause for a minute and do the American thing: let’s call bullsh*t…
For the record, every modern country, and among them the most successful countries in the world — the Western European Democracies — have a greater or lesser degree of Socialism. In terms of the health and happiness of their populations, all these countries now rank higher than the U.S. Their so-called “lack of motivation” is a myth, made up out of the whole cloth, as their labor forces are among the most productive in the world.
And to think we started it all! In the US, socialist strategies are the backbone of FDR’s innovative and democratic response to the Great Depression: The New Deal. It was capitalism’s main defense against the rise of communism which had exploded as the dangers of unfettered capitalism had reached their zenith in 1929. The socialist strategies the FDR initiated include:
- Social Security
- VA Benefits (socialized housing, medical care, and lifetime benefits)
- Federal and State transportation systems, including roads, highways, trains, subways, buses and trolleys
- Electrification of rural areas and sustaining rural connections to the rest of the country through phone lines, airports and other infrastructure
- Small Business Administration for advice to entrepreneurs and loans for start-ups.
- FHA (mortgage loans for individuals to purchase single family homes and invest in real estate)
- Largest Military presence in the world
- Disaster relief (except recently, for brown-skinned territories, apparently)
- Food Stamps to keep down-on-their-luck families from starving
- Legal protections for the power of labor unions to negotiate better working conditions and wages with corporations and business owners
- Regulatory framework to control speculation and risk by financial institutions in exchange for federal deposit insurance protection for small depositors.
- Redistributive income taxes: taxing the well heeled to support the working/middle class and the common good. These included a 90% highest tax bracket during the Eisenhower years, part of which funded the new Interstate Highway System that propelled the US economy for the next 50 years…
- Development of the National Park system
Notice that the innovative quality at the heart of these programs is seldom direct giveaway assistance (except in emergencies), but rather providing an infrastructure of support to allow the native entrepreneurialism and can-do spirit of the American middle class to succeed! These fundamental New Deal programs have been supplemented and expanded over the years, typically with bipartisan support, because even Republicans understood at one time that these programs were not only important to individuals (who are often caught in a vise-grip of circumstance) but vital to the post war U.S. Economic miracle. Later additions included:
- HUD for housing and redevelopment of blighted urban areas
- Head Start and other support for education
- Assistance for single mothers
- Medicare to insure healthcare for senior Americans
- Protection of the Environment; clean air, clean water,
- What’s left of Obamacare, including the welfare to healthcare corporations and insurance companies who cover the most indigent
So when a dumbass like Varney makes a claim that socialism is “dangerous,” he’s just flapping his gums for his puppet-masters. Someone needs to ask him if he wants all of these programs listed above to go away, then. Or which ones???
The aim of this gum flapping — which began in the fever swamp of the ultra-dense John Birch Society, but morphed to take over the entire right wing of the Republican Party — is to make us forget, behind a fire-hose of ad hominem abuse — how integral these “socialist” programs were to the success of our country, the strength of its institutions, and its leadership in the world.
And when he lectures that socialism brings class warfare, he neglects to mention that the superrich have been purchasing a propaganda and political war on the middle class for at least 40 years, and believe me, the spoils of that war are not going to the working class. Wages are actually declining in terms of purchasing power since the ‘tax cut’ because of rapid energy, trade wars, and health care inflation. So guess who is conducting class warfare, really? And because they don’t want you to dare to mobilize and put controls on them, they’re sending their apparachiks (like Varney and the FOX News — dare I say it — bimbos) out to warn you off, and call YOU the danger to our democracy!
So, to understand the horror (the horror) of predominantly capitalist countries using socialist measures, such as trust-busting, regulation, redistributive taxation, and social safety net measures, to combat the effects of unfettered capitalism, we really don’t have to guess. A perfect, and definitive, case study is to review a before and after picture of the US in the last century.
First: The 1890’s to the 1930’s laissez-faire capitalism: a gilded age for very rich and a disaster for the poor. All those robber barons who made their money on wage slavery then spent it on high stakes speculative gambling that produced the Greatest Depression ever, and brought the US and the world to its knees…Yeah, that’s exactly how bright those guys were! And with a laissez-faire capitalist Republican President (Hoover) who unconscionably let the Depression broaden and deepen for another 2.5 years because: “no socialism!’ Well, yeah, that’s exactly how bright Stuart Varney is.
1930-through 70’s: The New Deal and hybrid socialism, including almost every “socialist” program listed above — and many more. The results: end of the depression, rural electrification, the building of an ambitious energy/hydro power infrastructure, the safety net which helped unlucky people weather the economy and the dust bowl rather than starve, built our national parks infrastructure, won a world war and went to war with the unfinished business of our democracy: racial discrimination; built an economy through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s that was the envy of the world, including the greatest middle class in history through government sponsored access to credit for: housing, business formation, education. All the while in a pitched battle with a small-but-growing caucus of rich Republicans, who would have kept their money and let the nation go to hell… Yeah, that’s how patriotic they were!
How did we do that? A kind of hybrid socialism which protected the common welfare, but made allowances for entrepreneurialism and the innovation of individuals to flourish. Go HERE for an earlier post on the building of the US Middle Class…
Now let’s look at what horrors (according to Varney) our latest look toward Democratic Socialism might bring. There’s just two that seem even remotely possible: single-payer healthcare and subsidized higher education.
Can anyone argue against reasonable health care as a right any more? Why we can’t do it when even Trump’s “s**thole” countries can? Does that mean the US is lower than s**thole? And let’s take a little detour to note why we might be considering a single-payer system: because a market-based, Republican-designed healthcare plan was introduced by Obama and passed by the Democratic Party to try to get bipartisan support. Instead, it was named “Obamacare,” and once identified with that horrible black President, did not gain a single Republican vote, and was demagogued to death by the very party that designed it! So excuse me if I don’t get all misty-eyed when you wring your hands about “socialist” health care. Your only solution is laissez-faire, or more appropriately “laissez-mourir” (Let them die…)
As for education, it’s like the government-sponsored housing opportunity which arguably built the greatest middle class ever (with the usual Southern democrat carve-outs to disable black people). Far from discouraging innovation and creativity, education is the greatest and most colorblind partner for the entrepreneurial spirit of America. We owe it to our country to unleash that creativity one way or another. If that way turns out to be a (gasp) socialist program for government assistance to higher education students, with no big payoff to the financial industry, but perhaps low-to-zero interest loans and/or a work out option for community service of one kind or another, so be it.
It is plain the Republican Party as now constituted has failed to support their own “market-based” solutions. They really wanted no solution, no investment at all! So everyone who cares must stand up and be counted: Medicare for All; Access to Education for All. Every European country has figured out a way to pay for it. We can too…
It’s discouraging to be in our own history, to see all this prejudice and ignorance unfold with such devastation on our unity, our identity, our standing in the world. (The country who brought us the Marshall Plan, come to this???) But more disturbing is the probability that the people promoting the demonization and this dumbing-down of America are perfectly aware of their slimy dishonesty. More players than Russia are hoping to keep low-information voters constantly confused and fearful enough of black people, brown people, socialism, immigration that they will be an easily pliable group to swallow all kinds of idiot propaganda and regurgitate on command, without having the slightest idea the evil, greed, and immorality behind it.
Our body politic is in the early stages of responding to this attack, yet it is still not healthy enough to have a reasonable debate about solutions to our problems that reach some of the people most affected by the outcomes. Right now, it is likely that discussions of varying degrees of socialism, capitalism, individualism, common good, will have to move to the only party of reason and reasoning left today, the Democrats. So I hope the Democrats have the sense to avoid group think, rigidity, and arrogance even in victory. It’s time to open the tent wide and bring in a whole variety of viewpoints to grapple with, as we wend our way toward solutions that balance, as well as possible, even-handed justice, individual freedom, and the common good.
And as for using worlds like liberal, global, socialism, communism, as descriptive, not demonizing, it is long past time that Democrats, Independents and responsible Republicans, stop treading in fear! Join the battle to defeat the demonization of words. Articulate and defend the remarkable history of the economic miracle of the New Deal. Stop being silent when somebody demonizes redistributive taxation. At this point, it’s not even a battle of policies — it’s a battle to regain the truth, our language, and the actual narrative of our history.
By the way, I have taken to collecting news articles in special curated magazines on the Flipboard program. These are facts and opinions that interest me and which provide some of the statistical rationale (and narrative logic) for the concerns that interest me. It’s fun, and I hope you find it informative to supplement your reading.
Metadada ‘Pocalypse Review is a catch-all magazine and media repository for articles I am writing or have written or support/disagree with my trains of thought.
OK, It’s the Trump Show is my surrender to Trump, Trump Trump all the time. A collection of articles specifically about our current President.
Radical Centrism Review is my search to recover a dynamic center to our politics
Culture: Wars and Pieces is relating books, movies, music and art to the current state of our social and political structure.
Let me know what you think!