Saturday, July 28, 2012

Raise Your Hand

The four programs listed above are a good example of government programs that work exactly as they were designed to work. They are also socialist programs. Since the Republicans (especially the teabaggers) seem to hate socialism so much, I'm sure they will refuse to take any benefits from these programs -- because accepting the benefits of these programs would be hypocritical.


  1. You've been watching Lawrence O'Donnell. Unfortunately, he's wrong. While these programs have some elements of socialism, they are minor elements and the programs are far from being "socialist programs."

    Social Security benefits are available only to people who have paid in to the system, and are prorated based on the amount paid in, which is almost the antithesis of socialism. It is a pretty straightforward insurance program, although the government operation of it and the fact that it is mandatory lend it an element of socialism.

    Medicare is an even farther miss in that participants, again, pay into it for membership, and contintue to pay a fee even after beginning to receive benefits from the program. The service is provided, on a fee basis, by private enterprise. That's about as far from socialism as you can get. Again, the involvement of government and the mandatory nature lend an element of socialism, but...

    Unemployment benefits we could go with, but they are at least supposed to be temporary, which is hardly the definition of socialism.

    And pensions accrued in the course of a person's work history? Seriously? That one's not even in the same ball park as socialism.

    The argument to make when Republicans are screaming that Obama is promoting Socialism is not that they are receiving socialism, because then you are admitting they are right, but to say that they are idiots and that what Obama is promoting is not even in the most remote sense socialism.

    Lawrence O'Donnell likes to think that he is countering arguments by bludgeoning them with his superior logic, but he is merely making himself look like an idiot.

  2. We'll have to agree to disagree on this issue. Medicare and Social Security are definitely socialist programs. Just because you pay into a program (with a fee or tax) doesn't disqualify it from being socialist. Look at the British health care system. Citizens must pay into it, but everyone admits it is a socialist program.

  3. Ted, you need to look up the definition of socialism. It's not really a matter of opinion, it's a matter of definition.

    1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
    a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
    b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

    I just don't see how you can contort a) paying into a trust fund for pensions, or b) paying into a trust fund for services to be provided by private enterprise into any of those definitions.

    I'm not sure that "everyone admits that British NHS is a socialist program" is an altogether convincing argument because, a) I'm not sure you can prove it's true and b) even if they did it would mean it was accurate. Everyone calls all brands of tissue Kleenex, too, but that doesn't mean it is.

    Further, you casually lump "fee or tax" as undifferentiated, but if Social Security or Medicare were funded from general tax revenue and available to all they would much more closely approach socialism than in their present form of being funded by a dedicated fee with benefits being limited to those paying that fee.

    Yes, our economy does have elements of socialism in it and is quite properly called a "mixed economy," but it seems wierd to me to confirm Republican accusations of Democrats promoting socialism by saying, "Yes, these programs are socialism." They have some elements of socialism, but they have other elements which make them definitely not, and we should pointing out that Republicans are liars, not confirming their lies.

  4. I don't know where you got those definitions, but they don't fit what I was taught in college. They sound much more like a definition of communism (and the two are not the same at all). The Scandanavian countries are socialist countries, but the government does not own or control the means of production. While socialism does advocate in many instances that government control industries vital to the welfare of the nation, it never has demanded government control all industry. That would defeat to purpose of socialism, which is to put people back in charge of their own lives (called the "socialist intent"). Also, socialism has a social safety net to protect the people who fall through the cracks of society (the elderly, the poor, the disabled, etc.), and this is where Medicare, medicaid, Social Security, unemployment compensation, et. fit in the socialist scheme. Capitalism and communism are opposite ends of the economic scale. Socialism is in the middle of that scale, and has some aspects from both.

  5. Where did you get your definition, and what is that definition? I got that one from Meriam Webster, but other dictionioaries that I checked use the same wording, so I suspect it comes from Oxford, to which I don't have ready access at the moment.

    There is a third definition I omitted but which may be the one you are actually thinking of. It was part of the teaching of Karl Marx and was a stage of progression between capitalism and communism, where the means of production and distribution were state owned but benefits were distributed based on amount of work performed rather than equally. I didn't think that one applied in this discussion at all.

    The "socialist intent" to which you refer was the idea that if your needs (i.e. wages) were not dependnent on the work you performed, then your life was not controlled by an employer and you were then "in charge" of your life because you could do whatever you wanted to in the way of contributing to society rather than what someone else wanted you to do, including doing nothing.

    You say "the Scandanavian countries are socialist countries" but that is an oversimplification and is no more accurate than saying that the US is a capitalist country. Like the US, their economies have elements of socialism, but they also have elements of capitalism. They are mixed economies, with somewhat more elements of socialism than is the case for the US.

    Here's my larger point, Ted, and I am, b the way, very much enjoying a discussion held in good faith with a thinking person rather than a name-calling idealogue.

    Republicans say that, "Obama is advoctaing socialism." Now we have two choices on responding to that.

    Lawrence O'Donnell, like most "journalists" has a primary intent of making the opponent look bad (or to make himself look good), preferably showing them up as hypocrites. So he says, "Yes, indeed he is, and you are benefiting from his socialist programs." Good for him, He made them blush, but because he admitted that Republicans are right independents are left with, "Gee, I'm not sure what socialism is but I don't want it so I'm not going to vote for Obama."

    The other one is to say that Republicans don't know what they are talking about. That when you pay money into a trust fund which will eventually pay that money back to you as retirement income, that is LIFE INSURANCE, not socialism. When medical services are provided by privately owned companies, and paid for with money that you paid into a trust fund for that purpose, that is not socialism. And to say when Republicans call those programs socialism, they are lying.

    Which approach is more likely to cause an independent to vote for Obama? And that should be the purpose of public discussion. Not to make ourselves feel good, but to persuade others that our cause is the one they should support.

  6. I got my definition from an economics textbook I had in college (sorry, but I don't remember the name of it). I explain more fully what I think socialism is in a post I did back on June 24th, so I won;t try to go into another long explanation here. Do I think the U.S. is a socialist nation? No. But I still think many European nations are, because socialism doesn't require the complete absence of all capitalism (just a capitalism that is well-regulated).

    I also enjoyed the discussion. I don't mind people disagreeing with me as long as they use their brain and present a good argument -- and you do that quite well. I also like your own blog very much (and I've added it to my blogroll.

    As for whether to use the word socialism or the word insurance, you are probably right. I have never been afraid of the "s" word, but after many years of right-wing propaganda many other Americans are afraid of it (and many think socialism and communism are the same thing). When trying to get votes, it is undoubtably better to avoid the "s" word.

  7. I will agree with you, Ted, that socialism is one of those things that is difficult to nail down, and there are a million shades of grey. I'm not really convinced that Merriam Wenster has really nailed it, actually. To add to the problem is that a "socialized program" is yet another way to cloud the issue, because such a program might be a capitalistic program, a libertarian one or a socialist one, and when you socialize it you do not change the nature of the program, you merely make it a matter of national policy. The English language often lacks precision.

    My bigger point, which you are taking, is that too often we argue merely to make ourselves feel good or to secure acclaim from members of our side, which my father referred to as "preaching to the choir,", instead of arguing to convince those who are not within our own tribe.

    I'm glad you enjoy my blog. You are on my daily reading list, and when I update my blogroll you will be on it.


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