Monday, July 27, 2009

I'll Give You Socialism!

Glen Beck cries Socialism:
Raping the pocketbooks of the rich to give to the poor? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's socialism. The tougher question is this: What is America? Here's the One Thing: America is in a transition period — only no one knows what we are transitioning into. Are we capitalist? Are we socialist? Are we communist? Are we an oligarchy?
You want socialism? I'll give you Socialism:

Frank Llewellyn is the national director of Democratic Socialists of America. In Socialism And The Politics Of Fear, Llewellyn writes, that Republicans And Their Media Allies Never Really Define What They Mean By Socialism:

"Socialism" is now an active part of the Republican lexicon, among the litany of routine charges to be trotted out whenever they cannot come up with a substantive critique of policy initiatives they oppose. Beginning with a steady drumbeat from the far-right blogosphere during last year's Democratic primary campaign, Republicans have attacked health care reform and modest progressive tax reform proposals as somehow "un-American," "European," and, God-forbid, "socialist!"

When the Republicans lost the election and the Obama administration filled its Treasury positions with former Goldman Sachs executives, we socialists thought that was the end of these baseless charges. But when the Republicans found themselves with nothing to say about how to shore-up an economy in free-fall, they deemed the stimulus bill socialist - even though the architect of such policies, John Maynard Keynes, advocated a capitalist economic system.

Republicans and their media allies never really define what they mean by socialism ….. Whatever their definition of socialism is, the term is gaining currency among some Republicans as a form of blanket condemnation of the President and Democratic reform proposals. …..

….. Just, like the New Deal-era Roosevelt haters, these Republicans erroneously term a president who is trying to save capitalism from itself a socialist.

Contemporary democratic socialists want to mitigate the many adverse impacts that unregulated capitalist markets have on the lives of ordinary people by supporting intelligent democratic regulation of the economy (particularly the financial sector) and by using progressive taxation to finance high-quality public goods that can satisfy all citizens' basic needs for health care, education, unemployment insurance, and job training. We do not wish to destroy markets for consumer goods or to confiscate personal property. Rather, we want to establish efficient government regulation of financial markets so that ordinary citizens can secure stable financing for the purchase of such important personal property as an affordable home.

In other developed democracies, national health care systems are so popular that once they have been established it is politically impossible to eliminate them. In a recent Gallup poll, while only fifty-seven percent of United States residents said they were satisfied with their health care, over seventy-five percent of Canadians and Western Europeans said they would not trade their health care system for the current U. S. model. That is the real reason that Republicans are trying to sow doubt and prevent passage of a national health care bill: they want to protect the for-profit health care and pharmaceutical industries.

American socialists (and many more non-socialists, including 86 members of Congress) support HR 676, John Conyers' Medicare for All single-payer national health plan, which would replace the private insurance industry with a government agency but would preserve personal choice of physician and hospital care.

We socialists are deeply suspicious of the Democratic Party leadership proposals for health care. We worry that these proposals lack a sufficiently robust public insurance option to provide an effective check on the private insurers. Any comparative analysis of health care systems indicates that the greater the role of private, for-profit health insurance companies in the delivery of health care, the higher the cost. This is why the United States has the most expensive healthcare system in the world but trails well behind on crucial indicators of public health, such as infant mortality, longevity, and death of women in childbirth.

The insurance companies don't like the Democratic leadership plan because in theory they might have to face effective competition from a public insurance option. Democratic socialists don't trust the insurance companies enough to keep them in the health insurance market. But President Obama does, which makes it much more likely that the pay-or-play predominantly private insurance plan we distrust is likely to pass. So exactly how does that put the President in a "cabal," to use Michael Steele's word, to advance socialist goals?

This socialist-baiting is more than just name-calling. We are in the middle of a prolonged economic crisis brought on by unrestrained and unregulated capitalism. Since it arose from a crisis in the banking and housing sectors, this economic crisis in particular cannot be solved by normal market mechanisms. There is not sufficient private purchasing power to rejuvenate demand, and capital markets remain very tight. Financial institutions are unwilling to renegotiate under-water mortgages and are even reducing credit lines to borrowers with strong credit ratings.

Absent government efforts to strengthen the rights of working people and organized labor, we face the likelihood of another jobless recovery and declining wages. The devastating decline in value of pensions, retirement accounts and housing means that many near retirement age and even many not so near to retirement will not be able to retire on schedule - and certainly not with dignity and security.

If the United States fails to democratically restructure its economy, we face a future of increased inequality and poverty. But the constant drumbeat of right-wing "socialist-baiting" makes it less likely that this administration will consider the public initiatives - such as investments in alternative energy, education, and health care - that could engender productive jobs at good wages.

Reactionary forces have always utilized anti-socialism to oppose democratic reforms that constrain corporate power. Corporate America tried to red-bait Social Security, the GI Bill, and Medicare. But ordinary Americans rejected the politics of fear, and reforms passed that significantly improved the lives of average Americans. It will take Americans once again rejecting mindless anti-socialism to create sufficient support for the extensive reforms needed to address this deep and systemic economic crisis.

Let's have change we can believe in. If it be socialism, then make the most of it.

6 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Boris said...

Maybe Democratic/Republican "socialism" won't work

Under Obama, business tycoons are reverting to form. Bankers & barons have confessed their errors, apologized and asked for the public trust restored.

"We will police ourselves."
"Don't do too much regulation or you will kill the goose who laid the golden eggs."
"We need our bonuses."


But they are reverting to form. They are acting like drunk drivers. Having been stopped and cited they take their tickets and are trying to get back into their cars behind their wheels. The role of government is to take a longer view of what is best for society, not the banks and the bankers. Same with heath insurance for-profit.

Capital leverage was too high; it needs to be regulated. If it can't be regulated, it needs to be overturned.

7/27/2009 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

The thing we’re never supposed to talk about in this country concerns the concept of “enough.” Is there such a thing as “enough,” and if there is, should we begin to dramatically raise the taxes on incomes that far exceed such an amount?

My answer is that yes; there is such a thing as enough. And that the federal government could raise far more revenue simply by taxing those earning above two or three or five million a year at a far greater rate than has been possible during the last few decades. Do we honestly believe that there is a class of people who deserve to plate their houses with 24 karat gold while others die in the streets from lack of shelter or health care? Do we believe that a few elites deserve to use our nation’s resources in order to purchase mansions, jewelry, and large quantities of land while the average American struggles to provide their own children with the funds to gain the college degree, which is now so essential to living the middle class American lifestyle. A lifestyle that has come to define America.

Enough is enough. And it is time for us as a nation to recognize that the marginal benefit gained by the wealthy whose incomes exceed several million dollars fail to outweigh the needs of the country as a whole. It fails the average American, it fails to provide our children a solid education, and it fails the fifty million Americans who do not have access to quality health care.

I suggest we expand the number of tax brackets and drastically raise the marginal rates on incomes exceeding three or five million dollars a year.

7/27/2009 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

I approve of this message!

7/28/2009 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger Stimpson said...

To very loosely paraphrase a 1988 VP candidate: Mr. Republican, I know socialists. Some socialists are friends of mine. What you're talking about, sir, is not socialism.

This reminds me of when, last year, Chris Matthews schooled a talk-radio weasel on "appeasement".

Journalists should challenge Repubs on their understanding of socialism every time they use the word. Repubs are misusing and abusing that word.

7/28/2009 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Beach Bum said...

Heard someone the other day say the US government has been bought and paid for by the banking lobby and until that changes the business/investment/banker types are going to make the rules. I happen to agree with him.

Right now I could deal with a nice dose of socialism for the country to even the playing field.

7/28/2009 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

APB! APB! Readers of this thread are mandated to beam themselves up to see what Stimpson Writes! He has a great column on Canadian health care, a series of additional informative links and an especially great, great You Tube on Dennis Kucinich!

7/29/2009 09:16:00 AM  

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