(and in Our Parks and Water and On and On)
Wake up, America! Socialism is everywhere in our country!
Don’t believe it? Consider this list:
• Are you for public schools, even charter schools? They are socialist, run by the public and paid for by taxpayers.
• Do you like having paved roads and secure bridges? Again, socialist, built and maintained by the government and paid for with tax dollars.
• Do you enjoy driving across states to see grandma and to visit national parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon? Interstate highways and our national parks are socialist, all paid for and run by the government.
• Are you relieved to know that if your business catches on fire or your neighbor’s house bursts out in flames that a fire department will come? Most fire departments are public sector, funded by taxes, and therefore socialist. Even many volunteer fire departments receive government funding.
• If your neighbor, blaming you for the fire in her house, gets out of hand, are you glad to know that you have law enforcement officers to help you and courts to adjudicate any disagreements? Police and courts are socialist entities, since they are public-funded.
• Are you worried about you or a loved-one having a sudden and severe medical emergency? Maybe a car crash? Socialist EMT services will come to your aid, paid for by the government.
• Do you feel secure knowing that the United States has the best military in the world? Are you interested in keeping it strong? This is one of the world’s largest socialist entities, paid for by taxpayers and run by the government.Do you want coal, oil, and gas corporations to continue meeting our energy needs? Then you want government subsidies to those corporations to permit them to compete. That, too, is socialism.
Every business in this country, large or small, relies upon sidewalks, parking lots, indoor plumbing, sewage treatment, clean air, and electricity. Providing all of that is socialism.
When Donald Trump proclaims that the United States will never be a socialist country, he has his eyes closed. We are awash in socialism already.
Yet we don’t look like Venezuela. That is the Republican scare tactic: “Democrats are socialists. Vote for them and turn us into Venezuela. Vote for single-payer health care, and we’ll be Cuba!”
Well, in that one regard, the Republicans are right. A single-payer health system would make us like Cuba. Like Denmark. Like Canada. Like Taiwan.
All of these countries have universal, single-payer, health care. Not one of them has overturned that system.
Arriving at their single-payer systems involved a long, difficult struggle. Canada took more than a decade to achieve their universal system, including an almost month-long strike by doctors. Now, like Britain, whose own doctors spent millions fighting the National Health Service, Canada reveres their health system.
Even Australia, which instituted a universal single-payer system in 1974 and then overturned it, returned in 1984 to a single-payer system known as Medicare. That system remains today.
In the United States the VA system is public. So, too, are Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans often threaten to cut both, despite the popularity of these programs.
The popularity doesn’t stop there. A recent Fox poll found that 72 percent of voters favored a government-run health system. That, my friends, is socialism.
Yet to many Americans the very term “socialism” is alarming, even sinister. Two days after our election, on a House of Representatives Democratic Caucus call, Virginia Representative Abigail Spanberger declared to her fellow Democrats that no Democrat should “say socialism ever again.”
It seems, then, that only the terms “socialist” and “socialism” worry people, not the programs that lie behind them. Again, this is due largely to the political right’s distortions. To the right socialism can only mean centralized government control of all of our enterprises and businesses, large and small. On their view, such control will more and more intrude into our lives, depriving us of choice, freedom, and autonomy. Soon we will look like the Stalinist Soviet Union, a totalitarian system where the state controls our lives from cradle to grave. Next step: the gulag. The sole purpose of this utter mischaracterization of socialism is to scare Americans.
Simply put, socialism is the collective ownership of the means of production. Nowhere does socialism demand that the “collective” that owns the means of production must be local, state, or federal government. It doesn’t have to involve government at all.
Instead, we can think of the “collective” as any group of persons, sometimes large groups and sometimes small ones, sometimes public groups and sometimes private.
On this view, socialism is compatible with capitalism. We can imagine a “private collective” — that is, a group of workers and managers that comes to own a factory or company or business. Nothing here is government-owned or government-run. The factory, company, or business remains private, owned and operated by those who work in it. Publix Super Markets, employing over 200,000 workers, is 100 percent employee-owned. This is a form of socialism. But Publix is also private and capitalist.
So what needs to be done to straighten out for Americans what socialism is? Is the issue as simple as rebranding? It might well be. Remember that “Obamacare” did not poll well among Republicans. But the “Affordable Care Act” did.
So Democratic political leaders have got to be smart enough to embrace the popular socialism we already have and to sell the socialism our people already want.