Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On Socialism

I really intended to write a post about this before now, but better late than never, I suppose. In the late stages of the McCain-Palin campaign, they have started flinging around the word "socialism" and "socialist" along with the phrase "redistribution of wealth" with regards to Obama-Biden. From the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, the definition of Socialism is as follows:
  1. An economic system in which the production and distribution of goods are controlled substantially by the government rather than by private enterprise, and in which cooperation rather than competition guides economic activity. There are many varieties of socialism. Some socialists tolerate capitalism, as long as the government maintains the dominant influence over the economy; others insist on an abolition of private enterprise. All communists are socialists, but not all socialists are communists.
I realize that the connotations of the word are negative because of those governments who have abused their socialist policies, but because these governments abused their power, I don't think they meet the true definition of socialism. So, what I want to know, given the above definition, is why is it so horrible to call Obama a socialist? Even if it were, true, which it's not, the clear motive behind socialism is not control, but concern for the common good of man. Why is it so horrible for us to care about one another? In America, selfishness has become the number one virtue. As I see it, that's the main appeal of being a Republican for those who claim that they are Republicans because of their economic policies as opposed to the social policies. The Republicans' appeal to the selfishness of the public is their only last stronghold. And it has worked at least somewhat. It has worked for many of those who are rich because they are too greedy to give any of their money to the government for the greater good. They think, "I made this money, I want to keep it all". Unfortunately, this appeal works for the working and middle classes as well because of the American Dream. All of us are going to get rich someday and when we do, we want to keep all of our money, too. Screw all of those people who are struggling to make their own American Dream. Granted, I understand that our welfare system has been vastly abused. I've seen it in action working as a Pharmacy Technician in college. I've seen people come through the drive through pharmacy window (which, by the way, was installed for those people who may have trouble walking, not those that are just too lazy to get out of the car and walk inside) in their Cadillac Escalades and Lincoln Navigators and hand me a Medicaid card and not have to pay a damn thing for their prescriptions, or if they were on more than 3 medicines, they had to pay $3 per prescription. I've seen it. It annoys me, too. But that doesn't mean that there aren't people who are in real need of help. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't try our hardest to reform our education system to try to give everyone an equal opportunity to succeed. If all those Republicans could just stop being selfish for a moment and think about what we could all do for one another if we work hard at reforming the government and our education systems, I think the world would be a better place.

And now that I've graduated college and work for the government, I've gotten a new perspective on the selfishness. So many people dislike government employees and complain about high taxes and the money that is used to pay these employees. This is especially common in the Republican party. Yet when something goes wrong, they complain that the government agencies didn't do enough in response or just that they aren't doing a good enough job in general. But what they fail to realize is that the government employees are paid much much less than their privatized counterparts and therefore the government can't compete for the best and brightest employees. Employee retention is worse and half the time, the agencies are understaffed and overworked. But no, we can't pay higher taxes and give the agencies that we depend on on a daily basis any more money because we're selfish and we made that money and we want to keep it all. By the way, government employees pay all the same taxes as everyone else.

As for the phrase "redistribution of wealth", do McCain and Palin really not see that wealth has been being redistributed upward for quite some time now? The oil industry has been making record profits for several years now. Increasing their profits from year to year several hundred percent. This is just one example. But I'm sure that they see it because both of their backgrounds mean that they are benefactors of it. So what they really mean is, "Obama could redistribute the wealth back downward, and we just don't want that, and neither do you" using that same appeal to selfishness, the new American virtue. When are they going to realize that the selfishness is what got us into this financial mess in the first place?

So in conclusion, I'm a "bleeding heart liberal" and I care about other people, even the ones who have abused the system because without everyone working together and without a positive outlook and attitude, we'll never get anywhere. It's time to make caring a virtue instead of selfishness.


Jonathan said...

For the past few weeks there has been a republican atheist posting on RD.net, who has been slinging mud about Obama's socialist "credentials" and "redistribution of wealth". He doesn't like the fact, as has been pointed out to him many times by myself and others, that technically taxation qualifies as redistribution of wealth.

One thing you missed out when musing on why Americans might have a problem with socialism is that, to many, it is seen as being synonymous with communism. That's a big can of worms, and probably why the Republicans have been pushing this angle so hard.

Good post. You should write them more often!

Jonathan said...

"It's time to make caring a virtue instead of selfishness".

Have you ever considered running for office? :)

Anna Banana said...

I guess I was aiming for the connection to communism when I talked about people abusing socialist policies and the connotations of the word, but I suppose I didn't make it clear enough, but it's definitely a valid point.

Sounds like that particular atheist republican is just kind of person who exemplifies that selfish quality I talk about in the post. It's some sort of weird fad or something.

I can only write well about things when they make me angry enough. This particular thing crossed the anger threshold so I wrote about it. I guess I just haven't been angry enough about anything else lately.

Hahaha! I have considered running for office and then I think back to all the drunken nights I only remember bits of in college and decide that there's entirely too much dirt on me and probably too many facebook pictures up of me for me to run for office!

Jonathan said...


In fairness when I reread the post I did realise that you had kind of said that- lack of attention on my part I think.

This mention of drunken nights is intriguing- I shall have to pay more attention to your Facebook pictures! In any case, I'm sure it's nothing that a good lawyer and spin doctor couldn't solve.

Jonathan said...

I assume your plans to flee America will now be cancelled!

Laurie said...

Great post, and great thoughts, Anna. I AM a socialist, and do not try to hide my beliefs. They have come from a long life of looking at the world and carefully analysing the fortunes of capitalism. It is true that some countries which flew the banner of socialism were nothing but corrupt dictatorships. Nothwithstanding these, socialism has some claim to be a fairer system of government and economy.

BTW - I Have run for office (failed). It's not all that it's cracked up to be.

Stig Martyr said...

Hey there Anna. Your post reminded me of a little something I wrote before our Australian Federal election in November last year. It's here if you're interested. From the other side of the world, I can assure you there was a collective sigh of relief when Obama won. Let's just hope he sticks to his ideals and election platforms and doesn't fuck it up.

Great post, by the way.

Stig Martyr said...

Oh, in case you weren't aware, Australia, up until quite recently, was most certainly a socialist democracy. All our utilities were government run and owned, most of our hospitals, public transport and even our second largest bank. Over the last decade and a bit, they've slowly been selling off their assets to private companies as well as outsourcing the maintenance of its infrastructure. We also once had free health care until the (inappropriately named) Liberal Party (Republican equivalent) won power 12 years ago and promptly set about developing a system similar to America's health care system. Methinks the days of Australia being a socialist democracy are well and truly over. Thank you, Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Packer, all you other stinking rich fucks with your own vested interests at heart.

Sorry. I get angry seeing this once great country slowly being raped by capitalist greed.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm late to the discussion but I just read this post. On your point about general attitudes toward public employees, My Mrs. is a professional public administrator and she likes to point out that she herself pays taxes and is just as concerned about government waste as any other tax payers. I think most people forget that.

-- Gregg

Anna Banana said...

They do indeed forget that quite often. My mom had (until she got a new car) a bumper sticker that says "state employees vote and pay taxes". I think they should have added the word "still" in there, but all the same, the sentiment is there.