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An Honest Socialist
by A. J. Matthews
Why shouldn't a person be honest about holding socialist views? Why is being termed a "democratic socialist" seen as a negative thing by politicians like Bobby Jindal? Mostly the word "socialism" suffers because of 70 year old rhetoric still being bandied about today.
Socialism got a bad name during the dark days of the Cold War when it was mistakenly equated with Soviet-style Communism. However, there are significant differences:
1. Socialism is an economic system while communism is both an economic and political system.These differences were enough to allow the United States from the end of World War II onward to cooperate fully with socialist governments around the world with few qualms since it meant having allies against the Soviet Union. Today, the four Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland can boast of the highest standards of living in the world, and they've had democratic socialist governments for the past seventy years.
2. In socialism, the resources of the economy are managed and controlled by the people themselves through communes or councils while in communism, management and control rest on a few people in a single authoritarian party.
3. Socialists distribute wealth to the people based on an individual’s productive efforts while communists farm out wealth based on an individual’s needs.
4. Socialists can own personal properties while communists can not.
5. Socialism allows capitalism to exist in its midst while communism seeks to get rid of capitalism.
Democratic socialists? Who are they?
Democratic socialism is a political ideology advocating a democratic political system alongside a socialist economic system, involving a combination of political democracy with social ownership of the means of production.
The Cold War is over, and yet there are those who'll use the same rhetoric, inspire that same old fear of "The Reds" to cow the American people into voting against their best interests. As always, follow the money. Certain people face serious problems in making vast sums of money if the American government followed democratic socialist principles. These people are the oligarchs, also known as "the 1%." These people tell us socialism is bad.
Let's face it--the odds that any of us reading this blog will become rich enough to be in that 1% are slim to none. We could work hard our whole lives, save every penny we can, and still we'll have less money at the end of our days than one of these oligarchs obtains in one month.
Think on that. While the corporate bosses, multi-millionaires and billionaires to a man (and yes, they are mostly men) quibble over paying employees a living wage of $15 an hour, most of them have an income that calculates to fifteen bucks or more per second. Most of the 1% place their profits into tax havens such as offshore accounts in the trillions of dollars. It was estimated in 2012 that these oligarchs have funneled at least $32 trillion in financial assets out of the country.
$32 trillion? Exactly how big is that? Take the digits 3 and 2 and stick twelve zeros behind them: $32,000,000, 000, 000. That's enough to give every man, woman and child currently living in the United States $96,969 each.
Is the hoarding of $32 trillion fair and equitable? No, of course not! It's obscene. Socialism offers a way to place a firm cap on the naked greed of the 1%. It's an honest form of government. To give an example from Bernie Sanders' policies, taxing Wall Street at a tiny .1% per transaction will generate enough money to give everyone who wants to attend college four years free public university tuition, which is in line with many European countries.
And you read that right--the tax is really that small: just one-tenth of one percent. Consider the kind of wealth Wall Street generates to be able to raise that much money from such a miniscule tax. It's staggering.
There are some folks, usually people who dream of being in the 1% one day, who say, "Socialism means giving someone the shirt off another person's back." This statement is downright misleading and deceptive. The 1% don't care if you have a shirt or not. If you can't afford to buy a shirt from them, the 1% are not interested in you. They've got better things to do, like demanding that their paid-for politicians give them more tax cuts and more corporate welfare subsidies, the money for which comes out of the pockets of the working poor.
"Shirts for the poor?" asks the 1%. "Who cares about shirts? Who cares about the poor?
There's a lot wrong with this country. Democratic socialism can and will fix it. If the term "Democratic Socialist" still bothers you, perhaps you can use the term "Progressive." Bernie Sanders terms his policies "progressive policies." If you do a little investigating, you'll see how the policies Sen. Sanders has proposed differ very little from those espoused by the Republican Party sixty years ago or those of the Democratic Party forty years ago.
Think about the many benefits we enjoy today, thanks to socialist-oriented policies such as the Interstate Highway System, instituted under Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Social Security and Medicare benefits for our senior citizens.
If any of this resonates with you, then you'll want to vote for Bernie Sanders!
Bio: A. J. Matthews is an author and artist who says to all his fellow Bernie supporters: #FeeltheBern