Discussing “Socialism” Beyond Simplistic Conservative Memes

Here is a short list of just a few things “socialist,” many of which already make up our nation’s fabric. Because as we near the midterm election, the efforts by these right-wing sites and commentators to falsely define in their own terms what a social democracy is, has become more and more asinine by the day.

I’m certain that anyone reading this list would answer “yes” to at least a few of the questions below. Some would answer “yes” to maybe all of them.

Reasonable minds can disagree as to how many of those questions should have a “yes” answer. And you can probably guess my positions from the brief commentary I’ve added to some of these on the list.

But this is what the conversation that should revolve around: Where do we draw the line between the programs, services, and rights we should be entitled to just by being born an American citizen vs. what are we not entitled to and best left to private industry?

One cannot have a conversation if the word is defined by the right in inaccurate, simplistic terms, like a phrase off a bumper sticker – void of any truthful depth or analysis (“Socialism Takes, Capitalism Makes. It’s just that simple” says a Prager U Facebook meme).

Conservatives are continuously presenting the argument as if we need to make a choice between capitalism and socialism. That is completely inaccurate, as neither is mutually exclusive. We live in a country in which both are integrated. In fact, the United States has been a capitalistic country with socialist elements since the very beginning.

– Do you support public financing of state universities? This is socialism. We actually had this up until Reagan, with the vast majority of public tuition funded by the states. Bernie Sanders proposed that we go back to this model using a larger-scale national tax, and he’s viewed as a crazy radical. The main reason why prices have increased is not because of increased pay of university professors and deans, rather the decades-long phasing out of public funding.

– Do you support public funding for parks and forest preserves? This is socialism. Or maybe we should pay a fee to a private company with a profit motive every time we take our kids to the playground down the street.

– Do you support public libraries? These are socialist. Maybe instead we get a private corporation to take over, who will now charge us when we check out books, as a profit now must be made. Education for only those who can afford it.

– Do you support Pell Grants? This is money given to capable poor students to help pay for college when they otherwise couldn’t afford to do so, and is also a socialist program. Would we rather just offer higher-education to those who can afford it?

– Do you think tax-dollars should pay for police and fire protection? This is socialism. Or what we can do make this protection available just to certain individuals who have paid for it. If you couldn’t afford this protection and your house is on fire or being broken into, neither department will be responsive.

– Do you support the Veterans Administration? Not only is this a socialist program, it’s an example of pure socialized medicine as the doctors are actual employees of the government itself.

– Do you like the idea of Medicaid – a program that helps the very poorest with their healthcare needs? This is a socialist program.

– Do you like Medicare – a program that helps aging Americans with their medical needs? This is a socialist program.

– Do you support Social Security disability? This is a socialist program that makes up one-third of Social Security payments. If you fall and break your back and become paralyzed, should you be made to suffer even greater without treatment or care because you can’t afford the lifelong care needed?

– Do you support Social Security old-age insurance? This is socialism. Do you think that a supplemental income source that immensely reduces poverty for seniors should be eliminated? Perhaps Social Security funds instead be invested in the market, with private investment managers handling it for you. Things might be great when the market is booming. But if a crash like in 2008 hits in your golden years, your retirement is now greatly diminished or wiped out with no Social Security check to help. Investing in the actual Social Security Trust fund is the safest investment there is, as it has never failed to pay out.

– Do you support public education? This is socialism. The alternative charter school model gives private companies our tax dollars who pay teachers less to compensate their CEO’s/upper management/investors. Teachers who struggle financially is not part of that formula for success, as charter schools have shown to be no better than public schools, and oftentimes worse. A far greater determining factor of a schools quality is the level of funding and location.

– Do you support public funding of roads and sidewalks? This is socialism. The alternative could be maybe carry a sensor with us from which a private company can detect us and charge us every time we use their owned road/sidewalk.

– Do you support tax-payer funding for the U.S. Military? This is socialism.

– Do you support public financing for bridges? This is socialism. Instead, maybe sell off all the bridges to private companies to which now there is a toll on every bridge in America.

– Should courthouses and judges be funded by taxpayer dollars? This is socialism. An obvious conflict of interest would emerge with private entities involved.

– Should those accused of a crime who are unable to afford an attorney simply be forced to represent themselves? Providing an attorney to one who cannot afford one is socialism.

– Should we have state prosecutors and attorney generals looking out for the best interest of the citizens they represent? This is socialism.

– Should we fund research dealing with curing diseases and medical advancements? Should have we provided the lion’s share of funding to develop the internet? Provided the financial support to develop the microchip, and GPS systems? All socialist endeavors.

– Should we use taxpayer dollars to help rebuild infrastructure when a natural disaster wreaks havoc on an entire coastal region? This would be socialism.

– Should we fund the EPA? This is a socialist organization. Operating your business in a way that is environmentally friendly does cost money. Instead maybe we can look forward to the Cuyahoga River catching on fire again.

Regardless of your answers, examining a list like this at least allows one to approach the issue in an honest and forthright manor with a larger picture presented, rather than absorbing simple, one-lined platitudes on the shallow end of conservative theology.

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