Socialism: What’s in a Word?

Americans suffer from collective amnesia and geopolitical ignorance. Because presidential candidate Bernie Sanders calls himself a social democrat, his political enemies and detractors pluck the word social and implant it in the minds of, well, empty-minded people. These manipulators seek to conflate and confuse with “social” such volatile words as communism, Nazism, fascism, and despotism.

Remember when there was virtually only one phone company in the country, AT&T? One company, no competition, little regulation, in bed with the government. In exchange for a noble concept called universal service (every citizen, regardless of location got connected to the network) and the willingness to offer various government agencies all kinds of services in the name of national defense, the government allowed AT&T to set their own rates. That was the bargain. Stockholders never lost, profits were always up. AT&T was a blue chip corporation. Everyone was happy.

Now, AT&T was not a communist company because it was not run by the state, per se. It was not a socialist company because it was not owned by the workers. It was a capitalist monopoly which, in my view, is the aim of all plutocrats. We hear all the time about how competition–in all aspects of our lives, but, for present purposes, in business–is a great thing. It brings out the best. Why, then, are huge companies always trying to buy out “the competition”? Billionaires at the top of the capitalist ladder don’t want communism, they don’t want socialism, and they surely don’t want level competition for their products. Their greed drives them harder and harder toward monopoly.

(The political and megalomaniacal horrors of Nazism, fascism, and despotism need no more mention in this discussion.)

So a candidate for president claims to be a social democrat. Throw in “liberal” and “progressive,” he does. I do not ask my conservative kith and kin to abandon their conservative principles; I respect you too much. But at least consider the merits of Sanders’ declaration.

The noun “democrat” links him to liberal and progressive ideas for moving the country, even if it means changing the mode of taxation and increasing the role of government in our collective lives. On the other hand, in short, the republican (noun) disagrees with this philosophy.

The adjective social modifies what type of democrat Sanders purports to be. Social (adjective) programs for him are those that purport to help society in some way. They may be aimed at helping the poor, the veteran, the student, the ill, the elderly. He believes that government assistance is absolutely necessary for any of his programs to take hold and for the country to progress. The conservative (adjective) person prefers the status quo and also believes that government should take a lesser role in citizens’ lives, not a greater one. Fair enough. Those are grounds for legitimate, healthy debate. Why can’t we have one?

I respect the conservative point of view, I just don’t agree with it. Here’s why.

As a veteran, I get most of my medication through the VA. No matter what the pill, a month’s supply is $9. If I were to get aspirin (which would be silly) it would be $9, same price for heart medication, opioids, and diabetes drugs. Socialized medicine. I know in my heart that the pharmaceutical industry is not charging the VA this affordable price out of a sense of generosity or patriotism. At $9 a pop they still make money.

I benefit greatly from the VA drug program. For the life of me I cannot understand why it is not available to all Americans. Oops, that would be socialized medicine.

As I was about to turn 66, my internist remarked in his examining room that I was about to become a “burden on society” because of Medicare. He has never poked a camera into any of my body parts since. Although I paid into the system all my working life, receiving my share was part of pushing the country down that slippery slope toward socialized medicine. Whatever method of payment I may have used, he lost a patient and now gets none.

Social Security. This is all I have to say bout social security, which I also paid into my entire working life. It is not enough to live on, but I couldn’t live without it.

You bet I am for socialized medicine.

One thought on “Socialism: What’s in a Word?”

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