Watchdog Blog

Carolyn Lewis: Boo! It’s Socialism!

Posted at 1:36 pm, October 21st, 2008
Carolyn Lewis Mug

In true Halloween spirit, the latest message from the McCain campaign to voters is this: The goblins will get you if you don’t watch out.

And the biggest goblin of all is socialism.

What in blazes is socialism, and why should we be afraid of it? In its extreme form, socialism means total government control of a society, with no free elections, free markets or free speech. Naturally, we wouldn’t fancy that. But then there is Democratic Socialism, which is a hybrid form of government. It includes free markets, free speech, free elections and all the other goodies we treasure, but it also provides an ample safety net for its citizens.

This is what they have in much of Europe. For example, I have a Norwegian niece who had a baby recently.The government provides her with a year’s leave from her job, with full pay, while she looks after the child. She plans to take only nine months of the leave, so that her husband can take the remaining three months off to bond with the baby. Furthermore, when her mother grew old and fell victim to Alzheimer’s, the mother was cared for in well-run state facilities, at no charge.

Take a look at yet another Scandinavian country, Denmark. Picture it: a free, democratic country where the government provides health care, child care, elder care, and not only pays tuition for college students but pays them to go to school. Picture a country where workers get six-week-long annual vacations, a place that lacks extremes of wealth and poverty and where the citizens consider themselves contented.

Where’s the rub? In all these countries taxes are higher than they are here. But taxes – another one of McCain’s goblins – that are used to make lives healthier and more secure are surely a wise investment. Sit down and make a list of items we pay for ourselves – health insurance (if we can afford to get it), child care, long-term care insurance, college education. Add them up, then deduct them from our total income. Suppose we taxed ourselves so that the government provided these services, and ensured that they went to all of us, not just the few. What’s so scary about that?

We are already taxed heavily to pay for a large military and for bridges that go nowhere. Might we not engage in a dialogue about the best way to employ the national treasure, and inject into the debate consideration of what kind of society we want and what we value?

We do have a few examples of programs like those in Denmark – Medicare, the GI Bill, unemployment insurance. There’s no reason why, once we get through the present economic hardship, that we can’t provide other services if only we can eliminate the fear that we would be slipping into socialism.

I have watched in disgust as television reporters and pundits toss around the “s” word as though it were a toxic pumpkin, thus providing McCain with support for his basic premise. It may be that we could learn a few things from our European brethren, as we have learned from them how better to tackle the global financial collapse. I looked for some in the media to analyze the word and its meaning and its relevance to the lives of the voters–and guess what: I found a few!

Googling “McCain socialism” yields a good number of items, including ones from the Baltimore Sun and Los Angeles Times that aren’t very sympathetic to the Republican nominee.

In a way, McCain’s use of the “s” word emphasizes how much he is a victim of old-time thinking. Republicans tossed the label at Franklin Roosevelt when he embarked on the New Deal and they never forgave him for showing how government might be employed to improve the lives of the people. Ronald Reagan revived the idea that government was the problem and offered no solutions to problems. George W. Bush has done his best to damage and defang government agencies.

But the government is OUR government, and we can vote to use it well and wisely if we so choose. November fourth is four days after Halloween, and by then I hope we can wipe away the cobwebs, un-spook the skeletons, and vote without fear on what we think is best for us and for the future.

2 Responses to “Boo! It’s Socialism!”

  1. John Steadman says:

    I think I remember having read somewhere that we, the people, formed our government in order to, among other things, “promote the general welfare.” Isn’t that a nice thought.

  2. Pamela says:

    As a Brit, I have difficulty understanding your country’s fear of socialism. It is what the UK has had since the 1930s and has been responsible for the provision of services to vulnerable sections of society. All working people pay national insurance and this finances free health care for all, free prescriptions for children, pregnant women, people over 60 and the chronically sick for certain illnesses. To date, everyone receives a State pension although there’s no guarantee that this will last much longer and won’t be replaced by privately insured, less favourable and more risky pensions.

    Canada has something similar, as has Scandinavia, France, Germany etc., as mentioned in the article. Why not try it, USA. It doesn’t eliminate choice for those who elect to “go private” and make their own arrangements.

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