The silliness and scariness of not only how mush-minded, so-called “conservatives” have been rallying around opposition to healthcare reform but also how much media attention they receive as opposed to progressive advocates for single-payer brought up that term the tea baggers liked to throw around first during the election and then during tax season: socialism!
What makes Obama, a Harvard-trained lawyer and former professor whose main campaign donors were private institutions, a socialist has never been explained. His barely left of rightwing politics hardly constitutes the charge and serious writers and publications have noted this. For some it seems that the phrase is used to mask the real source of animosity: his skin pigmentation. But we can take that as progress since fifty years ago they would not have hesitated to drop n-bombs, burn crosses in yards, stampede around in white sheets and hang people from trees. We have come a long way.
First, socialism is the social ownership and management of social goods and services. What exactly is wrong with this? Obama’s healthcare reform is anything but. His “public option” wouldn’t start for years, many wouldn’t qualify for it and it wouldn’t cover all uninsured. The CBO rightly acknowledged it would be more expensive, thus adding to the problem.
This is not socialism.
Single-payer as proposed in HR 676 is still not socialism but it at least insures all, reduces costs and creates more jobs. I can live with that and in a society ruled by the dreadful ‘Dictatorship of Capital’ it is no wonder the ruling class media doesn’t cover this or why millionaires aren’t financing single-payer advocates.
These right-wing cries of socialism has led to others pointing out how fire departments are more socialist than the public option, which led others to pointing out parks, police, the military, water utilities, roads and highways. What is being mocked in good fun is on to something more than some folks might recognize.
In the late-90s the city of Atlanta tried to privatize the water system but citizens successfully fought it off. The mayor tried to “fast track” (a deeply anti-democratic tool authoritarian politicians like former-President Bill Clinton use to rush through unpopular items) it but it ultimately failed. Similar battles have taken place in Bolivia and Ghana.
Here in Texas a neighboring city, Grand Prairie, has the Uptown Theatre. For decades this theatre deteriorated year after year. Private enterprise seemed unable to provide the citizens of downtown Grand Prairie a decent theatre in which to enjoy entertainment. The city stepped in and has quickly turned it into a success.
Where are the mobs of right-wingers decrying a socialist theatre in good ole Tejas?
Michael Albert, the market abolitionist, co-creator of participatory economics and other projects like South End Press and Z, recently commented on the inhumanness of market systems. He noted that since the Golden Age of Capitalism (1947-1971) productivity has increased yet we continue to work longer hours. The reason is the drive to accumulate more market shares compels people to overproduce and sacrifice leisure time for the benefit of firms where the generated wealth gets siphoned off to the top.
It’s true. Since 1947 productivity has more than tripled, and almost quadrupled. This means we could work 2/3 less each week and still be more productive as were during an age of unprecedented growth and high employment. The possibilities are nearly boundless though in market systems it isn’t up to us obedient ants and even if it were market values would still compel us to go against our desires. The implications for being good ecological stewards not withstanding.
But hold up one second. What is the significance of 1947?
For starters it is Post-World War Two. The Marshall Plan gave lots of aid to devastated European countries but most of that was funneled back to American companies which created more jobs – our benevolence was little more than a self-serving scheme to bring Europe under our aegis. There was also the building of the ‘Military Industrial Complex.’ The internet, satellites, cell phones, GPS and other technologies came through state intervention thanks to the Pentagon, not free markets.
So perhaps the Golden Age of Capitalism should be called the Golden Age of State Intervention. Can anyone plausibly argue that private enterprise could have invested the revenue into R&D for the technological advancements that have largely been behind the increase in productivity when private enterprise cannot even successfully run a theatre in downtown Grand Prairie? I seriously doubt that we would have the internet, laptops or cell phones today if the development were left to markets. Calculators? Probably not. Our schools would probably be using abacuses.
Okay, so what is the significance of 1971? Well it can be marked as the end of the Bretton Woods system and the beginning of neoliberalism.
So it goes without saying that the right-wing crazies foaming at the mouth about socialism and carrying guns to rallies don’t have a clue. Healthcare shouldn’t be left to private enterprise as it has shown to be disastrous already. But this doesn’t mean we should be excited about Obama’s plan. Mostly because it is not what his opponents claim it is: socialist.
Having popular ownership and control over our healthcare would be socialist and would be preferable. What right-winger doesn’t want to be in control of their lives? Right-wingers don’t want government in their lives. That is understandable but neither do I want profiteers in mine! What I want is participatory self-management. Call it Socialism, call it whatever you like, but the overall ideas and values offered up by folks like Michael Albert, Robin Hahnel, Chris Spannos, Tom Wetzel, Stephen Shalom, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Cynthia Peters, Bill Fletcher, Andrej Grubacic and many others (see the Reimagining Society Project over at www.zcomm.org for more details) are something more desirable and deserving of consideration and experimentation.