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Socialism and Inequality

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An earlier column reviewed the Trump cult’s decision to campaign by calling anything proposed by Democrats “socialist.” Maybe it would help the 2020 dialogue by making more sense of the term “socialism.”

Around the time of the earlier column, as if on cue, the Conservative Political Action Conference announced its theme: “America v. Socialism.” Maybe they expected Bernie Sanders to be the nominee.

Unfortunately, the conference got more coverage for the Leader’s photograph embracing the Stars and Stripes and for the viral news of Senator Ted’s ill-advised handshake rather than an intellectual evaluation of socialism. Maybe abstract concepts like America and Socialism lack the punch of “Cowboys v. Redskins” or “Godzilla v. Mithra.”

The strategy, however, worked. Many influential Democrats urged others to forsake “that bright shiny object offering all of us the most free stuff.” The Spring primary results showed a different shiny object – electability – trumps goals of free higher education, single payer health care, and a green planet.

Democrats used to react to red-baiting/McCarthyism by listing the accomplishments like food safety, anti-monopoly and child labor laws, the New Deal or Social Security and collective bargaining. LBJ’s “Great Society” era brought voting rights, Medicare, and the right to check into any motel even if your skin is several shades darker than pale. Or the Democrats pointed to accomplishments like libraries, schools, highways, and the Center for Disease Control.

Not this year. A consensus of fear for the damages generated by the Cult leader plus the burden of bogeyman labels such as “socialism” dominated the Democratic primaries. This is despite the fact that most Americans support socialist programs such as Medicare and Social Security as well as single payer healthcare and free college tuition.

The fact is history records mind-boggling variations of socialism – kind of like Bach and his fugues.

Probably the most common misunderstanding is that socialism is only about intrusive/abusive government and regulation with one party rule such as in the former Soviet Union.

Yet, all the world’s leading economies are mixtures of public and private enterprise. All stir the mixture over time depending on changing ideas about what works best. Unhappily, in Texas, our current mixture lets pipeline companies take our land and imperil the Hill Country

Now, in a pandemic/economic collapse, we are all socialists (as we await our checks). We expect a coordinated strategy to address this crisis from our government.

Perhaps the socialism label will weaken as an election issue - presuming enough of us are left to vote after many have sacrificed their lives to a careless reopening of the economy.

Likely, the next big argument about government is - who pays the bill? Who picks up the tab for no-fault loans and ventilators and the very unbalanced balance sheets of federal, state and local governments?

Will there be more austerity and less safety net for working people? Will sales and property taxes go on steroids, while Medicare and Social Security go extinct like the million species of critters we’re losing?

Or will the super rich and their enablers finally pick up their fair share of the check?

If “Great” America doesn’t work for everybody and results in ongoing inequality and government mismanagement – it means the game is rigged, the fix is in, and the boss still has his hand on the scale.