American Socialism

The other day, while driving home from work, I saw a window decal in a pickup truck in front of me at a stoplight. It read: Socialism is un-American. I caught a glimpse of the man behind the wheel and he was an older person: gray hair, wrinkles – you know, the over 65 type of person who gets Medicare benefits and perhaps he’s even collecting Social Security. If he isn’t he will be soon enough. I’ll bet he doesn’t think of those things as being un-American. But they sure are socialist.

Republicans would have everyone think that capitalism and socialism are diametrically opposed. That isn’t the case. American socialism is based on the idea that we all need a bit of help at times and our social programs were created to fill those needs. We have the aforementioned Medicare and Social Security: programs that are wildly popular on both sides of the aisle. There’s also Unemployment Insurance, which sure comes in handy when your job goes south. Means you get to continue eating and having a roof over your head. There’s also Medicaid for the poor. I have personal experience with Medicaid. My older sister lived with Multiple Sclerosis for over thirty years, the last thirteen of which she spent bedridden in a nursing home. There was no way our family could afford the cost of the care she needed and she was indigent. When you reach the last stages of MS, which can go on for years, you can’t work any more. She could no longer walk and near the end, couldn’t even speak coherently or feed herself. Medicaid insured that she was cared for properly and allowed her at least a shred of dignity in her last years. A dear friend of mine was going through the same thing with her brother, who died about a year after my sister left this world. I have no qualms about paying taxes to cover the cost of helping people in situations as dire as those experienced by my sister and my friend’s brother.


Those on the Right would have you believe that people who take advantage of social programs are forever a drain on our society. They paint a picture of lazy, ne’er-do-wells bereft of ambition, looking for nothing more than the next handout while picking the pockets of the hard working members of society. There are undoubtedly people who fit that description. At one time or another, we’ve all met one of them. But for the most part, people who utilize social programs are those who have fallen on hard times and are just trying to get back on their feet.

I have another picture to paint. It’s about handouts that the Right would have us all support: farm subsidies, oil subsidies, tax policies that favor the wealthy. They don’t consider those to be socialism and maybe in the truest sense they aren’t because socialism is generally accepted as something that helps all members of society, not just a select few. But they are definitely programs designed to “help” the recipients. Except the recipients don’t really need any help, as they’ve been doing just fine, thank you. They do, however, pose a huge drain on our society by taking tax dollars away from the social programs that are really needed by the average citizen.

The economic climate we’ve been made to endure these past several years is wholly the fault of misguided and greedy policies that drained our treasury, squandered our surplus and endangered the very economic foundations of this country. Newt Gingrich had the audacity to call President Obama the “Food Stamp President”, as though the situation this country finds itself in is Obama’s fault. Newt and all the others on the Right conveniently forget that the Bush administration is the one that drove this country off a cliff and left the new president holding the bag.

There is a reason why so many are on Food Stamps. There is a reason why so many are on Unemployment. There is a reason why so many are on Medicaid. The reason is that we got off track as a country and allowed greedy, crazy people to take over. And now we have to bear the burden of their misdeeds. At least we have our socialist programs to help us get by until we can rebuild what the raiders of our national treasures have stolen from us.

We have these and other programs and they stand side by side with our capitalistic roots and there is no conflict. There is no rule that capitalism and socialism are mutually exclusive. In fact, if one thinks about it, having social programs in place during times of need is a boon to capitalism because those programs are the ones that help people through difficult times and get them back on the road to financial stability. The person who collected unemployment last year just may be the inventor of this year’s hot new thing.

When you know the society in which you live has your back, you feel more secure and more able to live and work to the fullest of your potential. That’s what the USA is all about: living up to your potential. So the next time you hear the word socialist thrown as an insult, stand up, smile and embrace it, look the thrower straight in the eye and say “Damn straight. I’m a Socialist and proud of it!”

 

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