FEMA is an example of socialism in action
Let’s have more socialism like FEMA.
Except, it is not really socialism to build a society where individuals come together to contribute to benefit the entire society. The term “socialism” was coined to describe societies in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange of goods and services are controlled by the community as a whole, not a society like the U.S. version, where risks and benefits are pooled for the benefit of all.
FEMA is an example of socialism in the United States, for it is funded by all of us, then reserved to help communities overwhelmed by natural disaster. And while FEMA is only part of any community response to devastating events that would otherwise destroy the lives of many, it is a reflection that all of us are in this American project together and looking out for each other.
This week as a major hurricane approaches our Southern East Coast, FEMA is hoping to be fully prepared to help those most in need throughout the next days, weeks, and months where their services will be in demand. And most of us will be glad the help was offered and used, even though we will not directly benefit at all.
It is American socialism at its finest. It is, specifically, democratic socialism. Democratic socialism is our elected representatives, acting in our behalf, to ensure that we build a society, reflected in national policies, that has compassion for those who face challenges too difficult for any community to face alone.
But democratic socialism can do even more, and it does more in many, if not most, of the other developed nations on the planet. Consider healthcare, for example. Of the top 50 highly developed nations (according to the Human Development Index) only the United States lacks a system of universal health care. And the number of uninsured is rising because of Trump administration policies, in 2017 it reached 12.2 percent. In 2016, 10.9 percent of Americans were without insurance.
Medicare-for-all could pose a solution, but our Republican friends argue the that richest nation in the history of the planet cannot afford a benefit that every other developed nation provides for its people.
The U.S. is also among the very few nations that have no laws requiring vacation days for employees. Virtually all the developed nations have legislated vacation time, and most nations’ workers take more vacation time than do U.S. workers. Our European friends average between 20-25 vacation days per year, while U.S. workers average between 10-14 days of vacation per year.
Of 193 United Nations countries, only a handful do not offer paid parental leave, and the United States is within that handful. How is it possible that U.S. workers are punished for having children by having no time off to adjust their lives to their new babies and get to know their children as they begin life?
Once, the United States led the world with its free education for all through high school. But that measurement has been widely eclipsed by low cost or free college in several nations, granting them a future advantage against the U.S. as education increases productivity and creativity. While America has flirted with college as a social contract provision paid for by all of us, it has tilted the opposite direction, making our universities and trade schools bastions for big business, and thus dedicated more to creating student debt that increasing human capital value.
We need to elect legislators who see the importance of good roads, bridges, schools, airports and ports; legislators who will invest in our people for better job skills, better healthcare access and better quality of life. FEMA reminds us of our better motives, our shared resolve, out united face against any adversity.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.