Politics & Prejudices
Long live socialism
The great right-wing swindle has hoodwinked too many
Published: August 24, 2011
Here's the truth: I love socialism, and so do you, even though you may well neither know it, nor admit it. Matter of fact, so do most of the poseurs trying for the Republican presidential nomination.
They, however, want socialism only for the rich, and never call it that. Instead, they pretend what they call "socialism" is the problem. Well, if you want to see someone who lived a life free of socialism, go to Italy.
There, you can visit the body of the so-called "Ice Man," who was found after being frozen for 5,000 years. He was in his 40s; his teeth were decayed, his body was pretty much worn out, and, oh, yes, he had been murdered. But at least he didn't have to pay taxes.
Nor did he have police protection, schools, health care, roads or any agency in charge of seeing he wasn't sold tainted reindeer meat.
Well, he may have led a life Ron Paul would love, but the rest of us would probably prefer the sort of government intrusion that prevents someone from pissing in our drinking water.
Some of us are even so addicted to the road to serfdom that we think we should all have to pay taxes to make sure our kids are educated, our roads safe and people get at least minimal health care.
Well, enough of my subtle sarcasm. Libertarianism, the idea that you need virtually no government except perhaps for national defense, is a great philosophy for teenage boys from Bloomfield Hills. However, it doesn't work for grown-ups.
Right now, our economy is not in good shape. The national debt is not as large an immediate threat as the right-wing howlers in Congress would have you believe, but there is cause for concern. When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, it was less than $1 trillion.
That is to say, the nation had run up a trillion dollars in unpaid borrowing since Thomas Jefferson scratched out the Declaration of Independence in 1776. However, since then, that deficit has ballooned to $14 trillion, and is now increasing by more than a trillion dollars a year.
Nobody disputes that. Nor does anyone dispute that a couple trillion have been added by the Obama administration, in a narrowly successful effort to prevent the Great Recession from turning into a second Great Depression, in which you might well starve to death.
Where you are being told the big lie, mainly by the Republicans, is in what the real cause of these huge deficits are, and what ought to be done about them. From Michele Bachmann to Mitt Romney, they will tell you that "entitlements" are too high. That we can't afford health care, and may not be able to afford Social Security.
They are all itching to cut wages and benefits for public servants, and the one thing they'd all agree we must never, ever, think about is raising taxes, especially on the rich.
What is most remarkable about that is not that it is bullshit and blatant hypocrisy. It is that they have persuaded an astonishing number of us to believe this. Some years ago, I had a not-very-bright student who was also poor. She never finished her degree, largely because she couldn't afford to. The only job she could get was cleaning the bathrooms at a McDonald's. But she was a right-wing Republican who once told me she was dead set against raising taxes, even to help students like herself. Why?
"Because I intend to be rich someday," she said.
The myth that we can all be rich is another howler we've been sold. We are in our current mess, in large part, because, starting with Reagan, there has been a tremendous redistribution of wealth in the country. We've been transferring wealth from the poor to the rich — especially, the richest one-tenth of 1 percent of the population.
Essentially, what Mitt Romney and his fellow defenders of greed are doing is sitting down with a hungry worker and an unemployed person over a plate of nine hamburgers.
Romney grabs eight of the burgers, looks at the worker, and points at the jobless person. "He wants to steal your hamburger," he says. The incredible thing is that many workers buy it.
Barely a decade ago, our economy was in fine shape. When the much-reviled President Clinton left office, we were running consistent surpluses for the first time since World War II!
We were actually starting to reduce the national debt. And then along came George W. Bush, who ended the surplus and once again plunged us into the red by having a Republican Congress enact huge tax cuts, the vast majority of which went to the rich.
Again, nobody can dispute this; the numbers and analyses of what they mean are available in many places. William Gale, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, recently published an easily understandable explanation of all this in the Washington Post.
When this is pointed out to the more intelligent supporters of the great right-wing swindle, they will say, "Yes, but they use their tax cuts to create jobs," and "they spend that money and further stimulate the economy." They sometimes even use those arguments to argue in favor of even more tax cuts for the rich.
This is all nonsense. As Gale notes, "most Bush tax cut dollars go to higher-income households, and these top earners don't spend as much of their income as lower earners."
> Email Jack Lessenberry