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The Madera Tribune

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Letter: On ‘socialism’ and America

August 31, 2019

The word “socialist” is being tossed around in political discourse as if it were a badge of honor or a live grenade, depending on one’s bias.

 

Sen. Bernie Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist and progressive. President Donald Trump describes himself as a genius, as well as “The Chosen One,” and labels others as socialists, as if he were calling them rapists, white supremacist mass murders, or other “very nice people.” So, who is a socialist? 

 

All of us. 

 

Let’s start at the beginning.

 

What is a socialist?

 

The dictionary definition states that a socialist is one who believes in the political and economic theory in which the ways of making a living are owned by the workers. Worker-owners make products, distribute them, and split the profits. They make the decisions. There are no outside owners, such as shareholders. As such the disparity in pay between the bosses and the worker bees is much less and without shareholder dividends to pay, more money can be used to upgrade factories, improve distribution systems, and provide workers with benefits. 

 

Simply put, socialism requires a government that allows its people to collectively set up, maintain and control important portions of the economy. No country is purely socialist in nature. Many are simply partly socialist, including the USA. Generally, higher taxes are levied to pay for more public projects, benefits and services in the countries that are more socialist. Therefore, governmental policy is used to serve political interests.

 

That’s the key. Government policy is used to serve political interests. Sound familiar? It’s basic, down home “show me the money”. Take care of who got you there. Or, at the very least, keep telling them that that is what you are doing and hope that they are ignorant enough to keep believing you. How many coal miners has Trump put back to work in West Virginia? That wall is almost built and paid for by Mexico, right? But I’m starting to wander off into reality…

 

Socialism is not communism

 

Communism is socialism on steroids. Communism requires a totalitarian government that makes the important decisions without regard for the workers although it pretends otherwise. It’s somewhat like a president in a free market, capitalist democracy ordering companies not to do business with another huge trading partner country (let’s say China) in order to double down on a tariff war that had already cost businesses and consumers billions of dollars. (That’s a bad example because no president would be that stupid. No Congress would be so cowardly to let that president get away with it. And patriots would not stand by quietly on the sidelines doing nothing. Right?)

 

No American politician espouses total socialism. Not one wants to eliminate corporations, destroy capitalism or knowingly derail the best economic engine the world has ever seen. Politicians need the money of capitalism to get elected and then to put the government to work to serve their political interests. 

 

Let’s look for socialism in the economic history of our country since WWI. We have had ten Republican and eight Democratic presidents. Republicans have given us NASA, the federal Interstate Highway System, and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

 

Nearly every Republican president has led us into a recession: Eisenhower, Nixon-Ford, Reagan and the Bush recession of 2008. Is Trump next? Three consecutive Republicans (Harding, Coolidge, Hoover) teamed up to give us the Great Depression. Coolidge, as an older man, admitted doing so. What policies did they have in common? They cut taxes on the rich, increased tariffs, and tried to isolate America from other countries (not so much Eisenhower who maintained many FDR and Truman policies.)

 

What did Democratic presidents do to pull our country out of the Republican caused Great Depression and following recessions? They spent taxpayers’ money on Americans. That included the New Deal that put America back to work, reducing tariffs to save American consumers money, raising taxes on the rich, creating and raising the minimum wage, taking the USA out of isolationism and making America a global leader in trade.

 

Which presidents were the best at creating new jobs? Clinton (by far), FDR, Reagan, and Jimmy Carter. Yes. Jimmy Carter. Democrats who were required to clean up Republican messes excelled at creating new jobs.

 

What else did Democratic presidents do for average Americans, including the kind of people who presently support Trump? They created the 8-hour work day, supported union membership, banned child labor, backed a woman’s right to vote, created and added to Social Security, passed Medicare and Medicaid, established a program of food stamps, outlawed discrimination in hiring, passed civil rights legislation, and increased spending on education, healthcare, and research and development. Democrats created the National Endowment for the Arts and the Public Broadcasting System. Democratic presidents expanded the National Park System for all Americans, passed the Affordable Care Act, and increased opportunities for unemployment benefits.

 

These lists are not complete. And we can quibble about who did what in bipartisan efforts. But some things are clear over the past century. 

 

Democratic presidents have signed laws that benefited the average American. Republicans cut taxes for the rich. Republicans have created recessions and the Great Depression. Democrats followed and put our country back on course. Clinton left office with a $63 billion dollar surplus. Bush wasted it and Trump has already added a trillion dollars to the national debt, increased trade deficits, and has, with Mitch McConnell, publicly said that he wants to reduce Social Security benefits to address this debt. And then blamed everything on Obama.

 

This is a matter of historical record. Look it up yourself. Read. Yes. It’s still legal in this country to read and think for yourself. (Spoiler Alert: Twitter and social media are not reliable news sources. Glancing at a bumper sticker or a homemade roadway sign is not intelligent reading. And watching Fox News talk to Trump in the morning is a self-serving feedback loop.)

 

So why do I say that we are all socialists? Politicians use the word “socialism” to serve their own purposes. They do so without defining it. Ambiguity can be a beautiful thing. The word fits on a bumper sticker for ignorant and lazy voters. The bottom line is that the word “socialism” has become the bone of contention for those who refuse to have an honest discussion regarding what used to be called the government’s redistribution of wealth. Tea Party folks, I’ve haven’t forgotten you. Your hypocrisy won’t let me.

 

Today’s “socialism” is a dumb-it-down argument about money. It all gets back to money, doesn’t it? In this ignorant gotcha labeling game of politics (with real consequences as to peoples’ lives), if you want government money and policies to benefit you, then you are a socialist. And, yes, Republicans are socialists, too. Of the people, by the people, for the people. And corporations are people.

 

How do we redistribute wealth?

 

Are you receiving Medicare and Social Security from Uncle Sam? If so, then you are a socialist. If that offends you, will you stop your benefits and give back what you have already received? Where do your veteran benefits come from? Do you receive welfare subsidies, food stamps, or low cost housing protections?

 

Do you choose to pay homeowner association fees? Country club dues? Do you own stock in a publicly traded company? Sounds like a collective to me, pooling resources for the benefit of its members.

 

Are we dependent on redistributing wealth in other ways? Public education, law enforcement, military, public transportation, roads and highways, parks, environmental protection, jails and prisons, courts, city water to your taps, garbage collection, sewage, and border protection.

 

Do you watch pro football and baseball? They have had revenue sharing, a feature of socialism. Do you pay a tithe or make donations to the collective known as your church? Do you support charities to support others, including many whom you do not know?

 

Our tax policy is clearly a choice we make in our democratic socialistic capitalist republic. 

 

Why did Trump pay no federal taxes for nearly two decades after reporting a $916 million loss in 1995? In 2010 our country’s then largest corporation, General Electric, reported a worldwide profit of $14.2 billion, including $5.1 in the USA, and paid no income taxes. It even claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. Amazon pays no taxes on earnings of $11.2 billion. Let’s make America great, again, shall we? It’s a socialist economic choice. (This also begs the question: if truly smart American business people can make billions of dollars and pay no taxes, then why did Trump lose millions and avoid supporting America?) 

 

The number of Americans living in poverty increased by 15 percent from 2000-2006 while the most recent Bush was cutting taxes for the rich. Nearly 33 million workers earned less than $10 an hour, below the federal level of poverty for a family of four. Many had no health insurance, pension plans or sick days. The cost of the American social safety net increases for all of us, financially and morally, when we choose to fail our fellow Americans in favor of others who can’t take their wealth with them. Our taxpayer and insurance dollars pay for welfare, social services, emergency room visits, domestic violence, and other related costs when we don’t properly address poverty.

 

What would Jesus do?

 

What should a good Christian Trump supporter do?

 

American worker productivity increased by 15 percent from 1979-2007. Corporate profits increased by 13 percent per year. Even when one adds Social Security benefits, welfare and other “wealth redistribution” payments to Americans at the low end of the economic scale, their household economic value increased by only 18 percent during that time. The upper twenty percent saw increases totaling 65 percent. Let’s make America GAG again, shall we?

 

Republicans are suing to eliminate the Affordable Care Act with no replacement waiting in the wings. Republicans gave farmers hurt by Trump’s tariffs $16 billion, including $2.5 million in Madera County. If Republican trickle down (voodoo) economics works, then why are farmers on welfare? (We could talk about the Agricultural Adjustment Act that for years has paid farmers to not grow certain crops in order to stabilize farm product prices. Socialism.) 

 

And if it’s appropriate to put farmers on welfare, then why is it not appropriate to help people who are actually poor?  Why do self-proclaimed “good Christian” Republicans support the economic policies of the anti-Christ against the sick and the poor? Why do Republican working folks continually vote against their own economic self-interests? Did I mention that it is still legal to read in our democratic socialist republic?

 

There is no ‘American Dream’

 

The poor cannot move on up into the middle class. The shrinking middle class cannot become rich. Trump is right. The system is rigged. It’s rigged by and for people like him. 

 

There needs to be a revolution at the polls in 2020. The revolution must be televised. It’s time for 2020 hindsight. We need to cure stupid. And Republicans who know better need to join the revolution, vote against Trump, and vote for America. That’s one American’s opinion.

 

— Charles A. Wieland,

 

Madera County Superior Court Judge,

 

Retired

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