Archive for the ‘democratic socialism’ category

Ideas For Democrats

February 15, 2019

Pundits are now writing that if the 2020 Presidential election is about Donald Trump, he will become a one term President.  If, on the other hand, Republicans can define Democrat challengers as too far left, like socialists or worse, then there is a chance, these pundits say, President Trump could win a second term.  Hmmm.

Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare For All” coming from an avowed “socialist” will make great copy for some Democrat candidates  The GOP, however, will link that person with Venezuela President Nicholas Maduro.  A crazy idea, one might think, but shrewd political tactics say experienced political watchers.  Don’t debate the merits of an issue, use emotive rhetoric instead. 

So Democrat candidates need to define themselves and cut off GOP attempts to link them with socialism.  Here are a couple of campaign lines Democrats might try to redefine the election.

  • “The Best Healthcare Money Can Buy”.  Democrats could signal their support for free enterprise healthcare costing twice as much per capita as anyone else pays in the modern world.  Dems could give their support to insurance companies, hospitals, and unregulated drug makers.  Maybe Dems could use the catch phrase, “if it cost a lot, it must be good”.

(The one problem with that slogan is our current healthcare delivery system is already the most expensive per capita in the world.  And even better, it is cost wise out of reach for millions of Americans.  Add to that, US healthcare, according to insurance companies should not be available to Americans with “pre-existing conditions”.  Hmmm.)

  • “Unfettered Capitalism”.  Democrats could rebrand themselves as the party of Wall Street, Big Banks, and the unconstrained Accumulation of Wealth”. Democrats could assert that a wealthy class, say the top 1/2 of 1%, who wealthy and becoming even wealthier, would spend more and the economic impact would “trickle down” to all other Americans.  In essence, the rich getting richer would be a win-win for everyone.

 

  • “Regulation-free Commerce”.  Democrats could stake out the high ground stating Dems, not Republicans, oppose regulatory constraints on businesses.  Dems could blame Republicans for any and all rules, regulations, or laws which provide limits on commerce, environmental protection, and anti-trust limits.  Dems, of course, would promise a flood of new, high paying jobs resulting from their new policies.

Silence from Democrat candidates, or worse, advocacy of vote seeking policies (such as Medicare For All) for which there is not the national or Congressional  political support is a very dangerous strategy. 

  • Our current healthcare delivery system is not a system for everyone and even with a limited audience cost twice as much as someone in Germany, France, Japan, or Canada pays should upset most Americans. 
  • Capitalism which does not share its profits and is loyal only to shareholders is a system we can make better far short of pure socialism. 
  • Commerce without some level of regulations is a situation ripe for abuse.  Look how other successful countries regulate.

The task for the Democrat candidate is to clearly articulate the center of the political spectrum.  President Trump’s record will lead to his defeat if the Democrat candidate simply expose the President’s actions and their consequences.  

Sh*t stinks, cream floats.

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Is Socialism A Real Fear?

January 20, 2019

Recently I got into a discussion with friends over what danger some of the new Democrat Congress members posed.  “Why that woman from New York wants free college education for everyone” one friend said.  “How is the country going to pay for it?”  The person added, “that woman wants to tax the rich to pay for it and that means we are going to have to pay more in taxes”.  Hmmm.

Where does one begin?

The friend making that statement probably lives in the 90th% income bracket which is about $150,000 in yearly income.  The couple probably have a pension, social security, and some income from investments.  They own a home and a vacation house.  They live comfortably but certainly not extravagantly.  Compared to average household income of $61,000, they are doing well.  So why the fear of free college?

My friend did not stop at having to pay higher taxes.  My friend quickly added, free college education would take the US to socialism.  And another friend said, “from socialism, communism was next.  And just look at Russia, Venezuela, and Cuba”  (I guess they had never visited China.)  Hmmm.

These two friends are both educated, well spoken, and otherwise reasonably charitable people.  From where could this disconnect from logic and reality come?  That’s a “foxy” question I think.

I wonder whether my two friends have thought why someone would advocate for free college education in the first place?  I wonder whether they realize that educated people are a resource just like rivers, roads, and electricity.  An educated work force drives prosperity.  In the US, unemployment, average income, and home ownership are all correlated to whether one has a college education or not.

Of course the likely reply would be, “I had to pay for my college education, so should the kids today”.  Hmmm.  I would quickly agree to that if there were options for kids to borrow at no interest the money to pay for their college education and depending upon what profession they chose or where they applied their college education, there were “forgiveness” provisions.  

In many respects, the free college education argument is a red herring with respect to the risks posed by socialistic regulations and laws.  And the connections between socialism and communism are faint if at all.  Socialism arises invariably to counter the excesses of capitalism.     Hmmm.

Most people are surprised to see how much in our daily lives is a form of socialism.  Public roads, libraries, and utilities are starters.  Social Security, the VA hospital system, and the host of consumer protection agencies are socialistic in nature.  All our discrimination laws, rent protection, and FHA loans in some way overcome excesses of unfettered capitalism and are a bit socialistic.

The question of why unfettered capitalism is not dangerous is deceptively difficult to answer.  Unfettered capitalism opens a world of possibilities for those who seek to succeed in business and accumulate wealth.   But given time, the entrepreneur becomes very wealthy and for most everyone else, life can become a little (or a lot) less good.  

In a wealthy country, like the US with abundant natural resources and protection from enemies by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, great wealth can be amassed though hard work and intelligence. Question… if all it took was hard work and intelligence, why would these entrepreneurs not go to the Sahara Desert or the North Pole and put their skills to work?  Capitalism’s success has a lot to do with the inherent natural resources, which in some way belong to everyone, and how these natural resources are harvested by the risk taking capitalist.  A hard working, risk taking socialist should be just as successful under similar circumstances, I would think.

But, one might ask, why aren’t socialist Venezuela and communist Cuba successful countries?

Does anyone think that if Venezuela or Cuba simply said “unfettered capitalism” is the way of the future, that life would change?  IMO, history has shown that all that would change is who the rich people were.  The poor would remain poor.  

There is no simple formula for accumulating national wealth.  Clearly abundant raw materials play a big role.  So does motivated entrepreneurs and an educated and skilled work force.  And, don’t forget “guns and butter”.  A country consumed with defending itself militarily will not have the time or ability to concentrate on economic development if it is preoccupied defending its borders.

With Venezuela and Cuba there is another factor which IMO outweigh all the others.  These countries lost their way when they cast aside “democracy”, rule of law, and free speech/free press.  Graft, corruption, and incompetent leader escape the natural consequences of their decisions when free speech and free press are suppressed.

One last observation.   Countries like Japan, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, or Canada all utilize more socialistic laws and regulations than the US.  None of these countries are teetering on the edge of communism.  And all these countries offer their citizens healthcare costs roughly 1/2 or less that the US with healthcare outcomes uniformly better.  Hmmm. 

Feel The Bern – Universal Healthcare

February 3, 2016

The odds may be that Hillary Clinton will be the Democrat Presidential standard bearer come November. Never the less Bernie Sanders should be expected to give her a run for our money and perform a national good service in the process.  For America the Clinton-Sanders contest will be best chance in years (maybe ever) to “feel the bern” about Universal Healthcare.

Sanders, who calls himself a “democrat socialist”, has already begun to talk about the absurdity of our current healthcare system (costs and not everyone is covered) and in his efforts to calm fears of socialism points out in clear and unambiguous terms why the American “private enterprise” healthcare delivery system is antiquated, not to mention unaffordable

Sanders speaks of nothing new. Anyone who has read about healthcare knows that most of the developed countries around the world have healthcare outcomes as good or better than the US. In addition to excellent health outcomes, other countries offer full resident coverage and as a nation, spend one half or less than the US. These are staggering statistics.

In the past when someone raised this comparison, the public was told universal healthcare is socialism (and socialism is not the American way). Sanders presents a wise, grandfatherly image and tells Americans what they should have been able to figure out themselves, and not offend them. Hmmm.

Even if Sanders does not win the nomination, the more light he can throw upon the inherent unfairness of American healthcare and the stupidity of paying so much more than is necessary, could plant the seeds of change.

The irony might be that the GOP could propose a universal system to replace Obamacare and offer Americans a real reason to vote for them. For a party which can’t leave women alone to make their own reproductive health decisions or deal with a comprehensive immigration reform or show interest in something other than tax cuts for the wealthy, promoting universal healthcare… hmmm, not likely.

Running Without The Lights On

November 2, 2015

Congress’ single digit approval rating did not just happen. It has been earned. The reasons for this dishonor, however, are not always clear or as simple as a few bad Senators or Representatives. The malaise of Congress reflects underlying changes in America itself.

Congress has always been about conflict followed by compromise and “horse trading”. These are the keys to avoiding outright fighting and ultimately dissolution of the Union. And special interests are not a new phenomena and probably are as old as time itself. In fact the American political process, including the Constitution, is built upon respecting minority views against the tyranny of the majority. So what’s so wrong with today’s Congress?

IMO, one cannot determine what is wrong if one only looks at Congress. The Congressional malaise runs far wider and deeper in the overall American fabric than one might quickly imagine. Here’s an opinion.

Around the 1960’s or 70’s, following the building of “oh so many” Levittowns, the American growth engine began to slow down. There were simply too few new frontiers which needed to be settled, bridges to build, and other infrastructure to established. And there were many other countries who wanted to settle their frontiers by themselves. This made it more and more difficult for American industry, broadly speaking, to “export US know-how, goods, and services for profit. With less total profit flowing into America, the growth of US per capita wealth slowed.

A shining plus for the US is its free and open society built upon a wild west mentality. Under this psyche, shared growth and shared wealth was scoffed at in favor of the “best and brightest” garnering as much as they could manage. Never the less, wages and productivity gains were shared far more fairly than today.

The American social change process has taken place slowly and much of it out of the public eye. For example, the average family income has stagnated while productivity gains have flowed mainly to the wealthy and higher levels of management.
Institutions of higher learning have forgotten (despite their claims otherwise) their main task of “educating the whole person” in favor of attracting students (read tuition income). Slowly America produced more and more bright engineers and scientist who could invent and build but thought little about any social fallout. Business graduates learned to run businesses well but when confronted with profit at any cost, chose the options which benefited themselves the most. Lawyers and too many doctors put themselves in the light of personal profit rather than justice or medical “do no harm”. And just as sad graduates from community colleges and general university degrees entered the outside world with few skills and little or no appreciation of what has occurred before.

Elected officials (who were also products of these same educational institutions) began to envy their private sector counter parts who were earning eye popping remunerations and wondered, “why not me”?

Lobbyist filled the need when legislators began to expect larger contributions “for their campaigns”. The private sector saw an opportunity to make even more wealth by spending more through lobbyists and direct campaign contributions. Life was good.

The media also evolved. While there was plenty of demand for entertainment and sports, media companies suddenly discovered they could market and make money from news shows. Major media enterprises quickly began to appreciate the money politicians and political parties were willing to spend on advertisements aired or printed by these media companies. Hmmm.

The country has slowly moved to a rudderless (morally and ethically) educated class leading the private and public sectors. Chief Executives have become comfortable earning 300 or more times as much as their average employee increasing this ratio by a factor of 10 from the past. Is this so wrong?

If one is honest and realistic, one realizes the problems we see today have existed before and today simply differ by matters of degree. Wealth accumulations has always driven American leaders and American leaders have always tried to set up rules (laws and regulations) so that their interests were favored. Legislators write the laws and the special interests have always tried to gain their favor. But there is a difference.

Higher education, business leaders, mid-level executives, professionals, Wall Street types, and the holders of old money all are operating with a defective internal compass. Too many see the world as a zero sum game and see their mission as to accumulate personally as much as possible. Rather than look at the long term or what historic events teach about today’s decisions, this broad cross section instead chooses to take first and ask about consequences later.

Congress’ pendulum has certainly drifted to far from center, this is true. So have so many other American institutions. For Americans it is difficult to look at other mature, slower growing countries and examine what they have done to ensure life is better for everyone. Democratic socialism is the term used to describe most of Europe, Canada, and Japan. In these countries, the national wealth is shared in a way that the bottom groups can live with dignity.

Democratic socialism is not a cure for what ails America today. Rather, when our citizens say no to “me first” American society and bring the balance of wealth distribution back to models like the 50’s and 60’s, the utility of Democratic Socialism to lock in these gain will become clear. And then, America will choose Universal Health Care, National Retirement Plans, and Universal public education through college.

The only question in my mind is how much worse things have to become (like a dysfunctional government, wide scale bankruptcy over college loans, unaffordable medical care, a broken infrastructure, and an even starker separation of the haves and have nots before change begins.