Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Is Our System Socialist?

Socialism is an economic system characterised by social ownership and/or control of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy, and a political philosophy advocating such a system. It is a term that Republicans seek to attach to Democrats.

Conservatives constantly claim that Obama has taken over the health care system. In what way is the Affordable Healthcare Act socialist? Which hospitals, labs, clinics, insurance companies, or medical device companies have been nationalized? How many price controls are the pharmaceutical companies subject to? How is our system of health care in any way similar to any of the universal health care systems that most other industrialized western countries have?

Maybe Medicare itself is socialist, but remember all the cries of "Keep the government's hands off of my Medicare!"?

Reagan raised taxes (8 times) when he saw deficits ballooning after major tax cuts were tried. Bush took a surplus and turned it into trillion dollar deficits. Radical conservatives have prevented a return to sane fiscal policies, preferring to blame social spending rather than slashed revenues, a trashed economy and Bush's unfunded wars for continued deficits. Those radicals have opposed almost all measures to get the economy out of first gear, while blaming social spending and socialist policies. Our economy has become a Republican economy with mostly Republican fiscal policies, yet in the face of disasterous consequences the GOP cries out for even more deregulation and even less oversight, crying all the while, "It's Obama's fault!"

Grover Norquist advocates a two step solution, lowering revenues and lowering expenses, yet the GOP is pledged only to the first step. Fair trade is ignored for free trade. Fraud and unfairness characterize the financial and commodities markets. All of the gains in income go to the top, and people who would create the demand for goods and services needed by businesses have wages frozen or cut or have their jobs eliminated. Companies that would benefit by having health care decoupled from employment are forced to continue paying directly for their employees' health plans.

Wall Street is doing fine, yet Main Street continues to suffer. The conditions leading up to Bush's Great Recession have not been corrected, and will not be corrected under the radical conservatives' policies. The GOP-led House continues to pursue their misguided vision of unfettered and unregulated capitalism (environment, public and national interest, and consumer protections be damned) and Darwinian social policies. While seeking to over-regulate the behavior of individuals under their concept of morality, they pursue a vision of capitalism in which all behaviors are regarded as inherently moral, with unworkable "market forces" to be the only restraint on their pursuit of money.

Calling our economy socialist is laughable. What is not laughable is for radical conservatives to demand that we double-down on the disasterous policies that got us into the current mess. Look past their cries of freedom, morality and patriotism, and learn to recognize the politics of selfishness and greed. Don't believe the lies.

Feedback for Obama 2012

Obama-Biden 2012 questionnaire additional comments or feedback:

Better to let all tax cuts end than to give in to GOP demands for continued breaks for those who do not need them. Focus on revenue, not program cuts. The best way to reduce debt/deficits is to grow the economy by growing the spending power of the majority of Americans. Remove special tax treatment for income from capital gains and dividends. Stop compromising without concessions from intransigent radical conservatives.

Advocate single-payer (Medicare For All). Increase Medicare payroll taxes and enable negotiating of drug prices by Medicare. Advocate freedom to get healthcare, not freedom from healthcare.

Advocate removing the wage cap for Social Security taxes so that wealthy people's income is not given preferential treatment and in order to strengthen Soc Sec finances. Stop calling SocSec an entitlement and call it what it is: insurance. Reducing benefits or allowing privatization of social security and slashing funding for the agency administering Social Security is not reform. Don't let statements about Social Security increasing the debt, running in the red (has the Trust Fund all been spent?), or being bankrupt go unchallenged. Don't let Wall Street screw up the most successful federal program ever.

Advocate investment and subsidies for higher education and make education affordable again. Invest in our future. Regulate for-profit educational institutions and stop predatory practices.

Increase infrastructure spending to both stimulate the economy and to repair our severely neglected infrastructure.

Outlaw payment of dividends from cash gained through increased company debt (loans). Outlaw saddling a purchased company with the debt from the loan used to purchase that company.

Stop negotiating free-trade agreements which create tax havens. Strengthen the Volker rule or re-enable Glass-Steagall. Ban multi-national or foreign companies from putting money into politics (national security issue). Enable transparency in campaign financing. Ban tax-exempt (non-profit) status for political entities. Permanent ban on government officials becoming lobbyists. Work to ban future "off-budget emergency" spending bills for defense. Better regulation of defense contractors.

Ban banks from buying bonds with money borrowed at zero interest rates from the federal reserve; that money should not be used for personal profit. Stop foreign banks from borrowing from the federal reserve. Increase financial company capital requirements and reporting requirements. Ban too-big-to-fail banks from doing business in the U.S. (break them up). Advocate increased capital requirements in the commodities markets, and restrict commodities market participation to companies which handle or use those commodities (end speculation and the disconnect of supply and demand). Advocate minimum alternative tax on and decreased loopholes for companies, especially oil company subsidies. Stop unregulated natural gas fracking and require disclosure of chemicals used. Replace DeMarco as acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency and enable real housing-foreclosure relief.

Get rid of Goldman-Sachs executives from your staff. Hire progressives who advocate policies which benefit all Americans, especially the working middle-class which is the engine and driving force of the economy. Make it clear that capitalism is not inherently moral, that its workings are vulnerable to the sins and shortcomings of those who participate.