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Red Flags


Red Flags

At some point “socialist” became a dirty word in this country. You get tarred with it and you’re regarded with some suspicion and downright hostility. I suppose there are some mitigating circumstances for this; after all, it was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It was the National Socialist German Workers Party whose German name became shortened to Nazi. Neither one of them distinguished themselves for their humanitarianism.

A lot of Americans think of socialism as being the next step to communism in the same way marijuana leads to, in their minds, harder drugs. Yes, it’s a gateway economic philosophy. The next thing you’re calling everyone comrade and abolishing religion.

The truth is that there are all sorts of types of socialism just like there are many different types of capitalism. There’s hardcore socialism in which the state owns all businesses (which is essentially the last step before full-blown communism) and then there’s social democracy in which the state provides social services (i.e. health care, postal and phone services, television networks and so on) while business remains privatized. This seems to be the most successful socialist system to my mind with Sweden and Canada both practicing it and having robust economies. It is also the direction China is trying to move in to a large degree albeit without the democracy portion.

I have rapidly begun to move in that direction myself. And yes I was like a lot of you who grew up thinking socialism was a bad thing. My father preached it to me. As a refugee from Cuba, he had particular reason not to have any love for a system that to his mind had betrayed his homeland and exchanged one dictatorship for another. He married a woman whose grandfather had fled Russia (or more accurately, the Ukraine which was part of Russia at the time) because of a communist takeover there. I grew up in a household in which there was personal experience with countries that had suffered through a conversion from capitalism to communism (or more to the point from a despotic monarchy to something more despotic). Needless to say my attitude towards anything socialistic was to say the least hostile.

But as I grew up, it soon became apparent that capitalism is far from perfect. There are far too many opportunities for abuse. While I agree it is the least objectionable to most economic philosophies, I don’t worship at its altar the way some do. I also don’t believe it can’t be improved upon.

I have come to change my philosophy about government as well. My dad had always had tendencies towards anarchy – no government whatsoever. He also understood that there were certain basic services that only a government could provide – an infrastructure for business to be conducted, education so that the country could remain competitive and innovative, a military to protect the citizenry from foreign and domestic threats – and that those services needed to be paid for through taxation. My father didn’t object to paying taxes, but he thought taxes should be lower because the services a government should provide should be less. My father didn’t believe in safety nets.

It wasn’t until after he passed away that I began to question my long-held beliefs. I’d always felt that there had been a discrepancy in them. I’d always felt vaguely uncomfortable that backing conservative precepts and the Republican party was potentially wrong. I always wondered if it was the liberals and the Democrats who weren’t exercising the compassion I longed to see in government.

It was the second Bush administration that finally woke me up. I saw a conservative government that was trampling on the constitutional rights of its people willy-nilly and using terrorism as an excuse to do that very thing. I saw an administration that believed in torture as a legitimate means of fighting its war on terror. I saw a government whose allegiance was to the wealthy and whose attitude towards the poor was that they existed to provide cheap labor for businesses whose sole existence was to provide wealth for their owners. I watched business, whose watchdogs were systematically dismantled and deregulated, take an economy that had been leading the world and bring it down into the worst crisis since the Great Depression.

I realized then that government had different responsibilities than I had always believed. While yes, I still believe that government should interfere in the lives of its citizens as little as possible, it has the responsibility to provide its citizens with the opportunities to pursue success as well. It has always been our common belief that in America, anyone can achieve success if they are willing to work hard and be innovative. The truth is that success now is mostly inherited; small companies face a terrible uphill climb to become successful and the people who create and invent are rarely the people who profit from their creations and inventions no matter how hard they work – often it is the financiers who reap the benefits. Legal recourse shouldn’t be the sole domain of the wealthy.

Neither should health care be. We define the basic rights of every individual of this country as those quoted in the Declaration of Independence – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But what defines those things? To me, good health is a necessary component. Nobody should be forced to endure sickness and disease because they can’t afford to see a doctor.

That doesn’t mean I believe in Obamacare. Actually I believe in something far more radical – socialized medicine. I believe America should have a system like France, Canada, Denmark – heck what most of the world enjoys. There are those who point at long waits for physician visits in those countries to which I say that they are no longer than those who wait for months to see a specialist here. I also don’t think medicine should be a for-profit business and that medical insurance should be rendered unnecessary.

There are those who will disagree. There are those who think that medicine like everything else should be on the free market system. You’re wrong. Your health care should not be based on how profitable your care is or is not. You deserve better than the lowest common denominator of health care. If you’re going to pay your entire life into a system, that system should not then deny you the care your physician prescribes based on expense.

I find it ludicrous that the people who complain that government is too inept and bureaucratic to administrate your health care don’t seem to find it too inept and bureaucratic to administer your defense. I also find it that those people who complain about social welfare programs aren’t above obtaining government grants to help them go to college, or start a business or aid their business when it needs it. Apparently the government should only give aid to those who deserve it.

I believe the government should give aid to those who need it. Are there abuses in the social welfare system? You bet. There are also abuses in the military, in religious institutions, educational facilities basically anywhere you find humans. That’s what we do. We find loopholes and take advantage of them.

That doesn’t mean we should deny the millions of people who need help – the single moms, the disabled who are unable to work, the children who have been abandoned by their parents – and who don’t take undue advantage of the system. Those who take advantage should be punished on an individual basis. An entire social strata shouldn’t be punished because they need help.

Yes, I am a socialist in many respects. I believe that a government should behave with compassion towards the less fortunate. I believe that a government should encourage innovation and excellence and give those people the opportunity through low-interest small business loans to grow their businesses which can then become economic engines for that country – investments into that government’s own future prosperity, you might say. I believe that the role of government is to defend its people but not just from foreign governments and terrorists – but from rapacious businesses who choose to use their wealth to intimidate and defraud those who can’t afford to fight back. From health crises that would incapacitate a productive member of society. From hunger and want. Nobody in a country as prosperous as ours should ever go hungry.

I no longer care if I’m labeled a radical for believing in those things. So be it. I am tired of people being more concerned with their wallets than the welfare of others. I am tired of greed trumping compassion. It’s time to raise the red flag and say there’s something wrong here. It needs to change. We need to change. We deserve to have the best lives possible. We deserve opportunity and safety. In short, we deserve the American dream that the founding fathers always saw this country providing. And it’s time to stop saying we believe in Christian values and start acting on them. IF Jesus were alive today, he’d be a socialist. Don’t think so? He shared everything among his disciples. They lived in a socialist system, one far more extreme than the one I’m advocating. He healed the sick without requiring them to pay anything. He fed the hungry and helped the poor. Quite the radical, this Jesus.

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2 Responses

  1. a great deal of information,sorely needed and and seldom provided.Keep the people happy with circuses as you steal their very life.

  2. I found this blog very cool and I just wanna thanks for that. I hope you keep up the good work!

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