Understanding socialism

Published 12:31 pm Friday, May 3, 2019

Give us some socialism.

No, not the nutty characterizations Republicans offer up, Venezuela-style (the country is actually, a military kleptocracy), that suggest communism is just around the corner from democratic socialism, but the kind of socialism that gave us Social Security and Medicare, the two most popular government programs in the country, and socialism like the fire and police departments, the public parks and swimming pools, that kind of socialism.

Rain some of that on us, because having the “freedom” to work for low minimum wages without benefits or insurance, and working longer annual hours with less vacation time than any developed nation is not what most of us had in mind as a virtue of being free.

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Sure, we are free to pay the highest prescription prices on the planet, free to have virtually no retirement security, free to not be able to find or afford child care and free to have income insecurity without union protections or funded job retraining.

And we are free to have our phones buried in robocalls that government ignores, and free to have underregulated payday lenders, and free to have Wells Fargo sign you up for credit cards you never possess.

Yes, we have all these freedoms, but, honestly, they are not as great as their proponents advertise when they tell us how free we are from government overreach.

And, yes, we avoid government overreach and the dreaded concept of wealth redistribution by having most of the wealth of the nation in fewer and fewer hands, choosing income inequality as a foundational freedom.

Thank goodness we have freed our largest corporations from the terrible and unfair burden of paying federal tax. General Motors has not paid a dollar in federal tax since we wrote off $10 billion in loans to them in 2008. Amazon had not only not paid taxes on the billions in profit, but they also received nearly an $11 billion tax rebate last year. We have freed them from Big Government and its evil intents.

Did you know that, in 2018, 60 of our Fortune 500 biggest companies paid zero federal tax on $79 billion, collectively, in profit? They used our highways, our airports, out ports and our law enforcement, all for free, because we are the freest nation for their businesses.

Yet every time the federal deficit grows from the latest tax cuts on business and the wealthiest Americans, we are told that Social Security and Medicare are breaking us and must be ravaged immediately, lest our economy collapse.

So pour on socialism and don’t hold back.

Denmark, one of the happiest nations year in and year old has a minimum wage double that of the U.S., legally required five weeks of paid vacation every year, Day Care that is 75 percent paid by the state, free prescriptions under 18 and cheap prescriptions for everyone, free healthcare for all, with a far higher satisfaction rate than the U.S.

Denmark has free higher education, including grad school and medical school. New mothers get four weeks predelivery paid time off work and 14 weeks after delivery paid time from work. Unemployment pays 90 percent of wages for up to two years.

Here in the U.S. we are the only developed nation that provides zero paid vacation time, and we work more hours annually than other nations. Our education costs have risen 60 percent over inflation over the last decade, and our social safety net leads millions to bankruptcy every year.

But, on the brighter side, we have more weapons than the rest of the planet. We annually spend nearly 40 percent of worldwide military expenditures every year.

If you wonder why so many Americans are convinced that things are not working so well with our “freedom” from big government, consider our priorities; military spending and tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations; virtually none of the social benefits of the far happier Danish friends.

If you want a better America, maybe it is time to shift our priorities to our families, our healthcare, and our economic security, where socialism means a stronger, better society for our families.

Bring on some socialism.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.