Why is “Socialism” a dirty word?

In the United States, are we even taught what “socialism” means? Here are some examples.

It’s been a little hectic around the house lately and I haven’t been writing.  My kids were up for a while, ran a couple of races and I’ve been dealing with a blizzard.  So I thought I’d take a step back from specific stuff about current events and Trump.  Specifically, I’d go back to a bit of a debate on a word that has become supercharged with emotion-inducing meaning: socialism.

Now, I’ll be the first one to admit that I was raised with the idea that “socialism = communism” and, well, we were fighting against communism all over the word, weren’t we?  But, the older I got, it seemed that definition wasn’t quite as true as it was cracked up to be.  After all, we were supporting our NATO allies in Europe and they were freely electing Socialists and Social Democrats all over the place!  Yet, they still had the free enterprise system complete with private corporations and the governments there didn’t own everything, like they did in the Soviet Union.

This got me to looking a bit closer at examples of socialism.  And we have a lot of examples here at home (in the United States).  Former Presidential candidate and Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, came up with a line that I heard at one of his rallies that struck me…  Bernie is a self-described Democratic Socialist.  He said that socialism can be summed up in three words:

“We, The People”

It’s right there as the first three words of our Constitution.  “We, the people…”

So today we have a President who’s closest advisor (Steve Bannon) advocates the elimination of government.  Seriously, that’s what the “deconstructing of the administrative state” means.  It means getting rid of the administration or oversight of the country.  That got me to wondering what it would mean in practice.  I wanted to look at exactly where socialism has manifested itself in our government and what the consequences of eliminating that “administrative state” would be.  What follows is not a complete list, but it’s longer than what many people might immediately think of.  Much of this was inspired by a post I recently saw that claimed it’s original source as a 1917 “American government” textbook, 1948 edition

Protection: Direct

Law, police and courts.  All funded by ‘socialist’ taxes.  Without it, we have no adequate protection of life or property.

Military.  Funded the same way.  Without it, we pretty much have no country.  We wouldn’t have survived our first skirmish with the British in 1812 without a military.

Health

There are a lot of items in this category.

  • Water and sewer systems: We don’t have cholera outbreaks or other diseases spreading through our cities because of socialist water and sewer systems.
  • Food inspection.  You’ve heard of beef recalls and we just had cheese from raw milk in New York kill 2 and sicken more.  Libertarians believe that “market forces” would control this.  They’ve yet to explain how having less oversight means more safety.
  • Public health systems.  Everything from public hospitals to the Centers for Disease Control.  Remember that it was protocols developed by the CDC that kept Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever from spreading in the US and even led to a vaccine for it.  Without it?  Disease spreads unchecked.
  • The FDA can be, at times, controversial because of some of the things they’ve let on the market.  But, on the whole, the fact that we no longer have “snake oil salesmen” touring the country and preying on the public is a credit to their work.  Sure, we still have unregulated “supplements” with the “This product has not been evaluated by the FDA…” disclaimer (where they claim it’s not meant to treat any disease at the end of the commercial where they’re telling you the diseases it’s supposed to treat or cure), and it can use some reform, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Education

Public education is one of the things that has made this country great.  The idea that everyone is entitled to an education means that everyone has an opportunity to succeed.  Without it, only the wealthy can afford to send their kids to school.  Without it, we end up with child labor.  Without it, there’s a corollary with public libraries which would mean that libraries would be private and demand membership fees.

A hundred years ago, graduating high school was an accomplishment.  Today the discussion has shifted to college degrees.  50 years ago, you could get a decent paying unskilled labor job.  Automation is pretty much making that extinct.  Nowadays you need a college degree.  A free public university education is not a new idea, not even here in the United States.  It used to be a reality – but not anymore.  Bernie Sanders has a plan to place a 0.5% tax on stock proceeds to pay for public university education.  But, in order to work, that would have to be in concert with some method of controlling tuition which has far outpaced inflation for several decades.

Without it, we’ll be a second-rate nation.

Transportation

  • Private mud roads vs. the interstate system.   It was way back in 1811 when the idea came for federal funding of roads.  That was when “The National Road” was authorized.  Nowadays, we call most of what it was by it’s later name “US-40”.   The original road was built from 1811 to 1834 – so this isn’t exactly a ‘new idea’.  We passed the law authorizing the federal road system in the 1920s (giving us all those “US” roads, including the famous “US-66”) and the gas tax came soon after.  Eisenhower (a Republican) saw the need for more and better roads and created the Interstate Highway System and paid for it with a $0.04 gas tax.  Every time you hit the road, you can thank the “socialist roads” for making it possible.
  • Anarchistic air travel vs the FAA.  Imagine what the skies would be like without the FAA.  Air travel would never have ‘taken off’ like it did.  Without the “traffic cops” guiding planes through the skies, even landing a plane would be a game of ‘chicken’ as multiple planes would try to beat each other to the runway – if they didn’t collide in the air first.
  • The same holds true in other transportation areas..  Regulated railroads vs. the dangerous free-for-all we had in the 1800s.  Engineering standards for dams, bridges and tunnels.  All from people getting together and setting down some rules.

Environment

I’m old enough to remember the environment back in the 1960s.  Thanks to the EPA, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, we don’t have rivers burning anymore.  We don’t have cities shrouded in toxic smog.  Are you too young to remember that?  Take a look at China and what a day in Beijing looks like.

I’m old enough to remember clear-cutting forests vs. forestry management.

You don’t have to be as old as I am to know about overfishing.  I’ve watched, over the years, as fisherman have complained about catch quotas AND reduced fishing stocks.  Someone has to protect the oceans because private industry certainly won’t.

Business and Labor laws

  • Monopolies – Does anyone remember when the Republicans broke up monopolies?  That would be way back in Teddy Roosevelt’s day.  He knew what unchecked monopolistic power did.  Today, we’re actually restoring those monopolies.  The last big monopoly that was broken up was AT&T.  The explosion of new services and reduction in prices was legendary.  Now the “Baby Bells” have been buying each other (and their cellular companies) and getting dangerously close to monopolies again.  We’re down to 4 real cellular companies (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile).
  • Securities markets – How about insider trading?  Our socialistic laws now prevent people from trading stocks based on “inside information” that the public does not have access to.  Take a look at all the rules companies have to follow now in order to “go public” – so that they’re not just scamming investors.
  • Banks?  Remember them?  Remember 2008 and the banking crisis when we got rid of the laws preventing the mixing of commercial and investment banking?  What happened?  The commercial banks gambled in the investment markets and we all know what happened.  Who could have predicted that?  Anyone who was alive in the 1980s when the S&L (Savings & Loan) crisis hit.  From 1986 to 1995 fully 1/3 of all the savings and loan institution in the US failed.  Money lost by depositors: $0.  Cost to the government to bail them out: $132 billion.  Surely they’d learned their lesson so as not to invest in bad properties anymore, right?  Cost of 2008 bank bailout: $700 billion for TARP.  Total cost?  Try nearly 17 TRILLION dollarsOr maybe it was *29* TRILLIONOr was it $13 trillion?  Truly staggering numbers.
  • Minimum wage.  “Socialism” brought us that.  Before that we had child labor and slave wages.  And if you think it was never supposed to be a living wage, well, history and FDR say otherwise.
  • Dangerous working conditions vs. OSHA.  People today are too young to remember how it used to be.  Look at documentaries on old railroads.  Crawling around on top of a boxcar on a moving train in a storm isn’t exactly safe.  Look at the labor movement in the auto industry in the 1930s and how many people died on the line.  Early surveys suggest that only half of all workplace deaths resulted in any compensation for the families.  Corporations just figured fatalities into the cost of their business.  (Is it any different today – look at GM and the decision on their ignition switches.  Ten years, 124 deaths, countless injuries before they were forced to recall a part that would have cost pennies to fix before the fact.

Relief

Back in 2007, now President Trump said he LIKED the housing crash because it gave him opporunities to buy properties on the cheap – capitalizing on someone else’s misery. Imagine the “opportunities” the wealthy could have if we cut back or eliminated:

  • Unemployment – lose your job, lose your house!
  • Social security – Get old, lose your life savings and your house when you can no longer work!
  • Medicare / Medicaid – Get sick, lose your house!

And don’t think I’ve failed to notice how pensions can now be balanced by nuking pensioner benefits instead of fixing the funding – and Congress now allows it.  Of course, the fact that Wall Street lavishes bonuses on their bosses while cutting pensions is almost considered “normal” these days.

Liberty

Trump’s call to beat up protestors, his opinions on women are well chronicled, to say nothing of Muslims (because of terrorism while being silent if the terrorist is white).

Trump may end up being the worst thing to happen to civil rights as his ludicrous, unsupported claims about 3-5 million illegal votes may result in laws to further disenfranchise legal voters.

Civilization

The very definition of civilization is rooted in socialism.  Humans are social creatures and we are far better together than separated.  There’s nothing wrong with having a debate on just how much socialism to incorporate into a government.  But Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief aide made a very famous quote saying Trump’s appointments were to deconstruct the administrative state.  Think about that for a minute.

Trump is actively working to destroy the government.

1 thought on “Why is “Socialism” a dirty word?”

  1. “REG: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

    Like

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