OMG! I think I’m a Socialist!

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It’s hard to tell what the guiding principles of the Tea Party Protesters and Republicans are because what they proclaim in one state they oppose in the next. Apparently Social Security is evil and needs to be repealed or it’s a working program that needs minor reform.

But I do know one thing, one word that unites all Tea Partiers and Republicans, brings fire to their eyes and steam from their nostrils.

That word is…socialism.

If you check online there are easily twenty definitions. This from InvestorWords.com seems fair: Economic system which is based on cooperation rather than competition and which utilizes centralized planning and distribution.

Of course, the tea sipping protesters have a somewhat wider definition.

Still, the fact that I might be a socialist leaves me as shocked as you. I was 23 when I got my first management position. Later I started a company that grew to a respectable size (and payroll) and I ran it for 16 years. More recently, I incorporated my publishing company, the family business I work at these days, back in 2002.

So forgive me if I always assumed I was a capitalist.

And now I’m a socialist?

I got an email the other day that used the “s” word as if it could reach out from the screen to begin Armageddon. You know, be afraid, be very afraid.

But I wasn’t afraid; most of the ideas and programs presented as terrifying examples didn’t seem all that threatening to me.

Here’s the way I see it. The Bush economy ravaged the middle class. Median income was stagnant from 1997 to 2008 although American productivity increased 2.6%.

Were there any winners? How about from 2001 to 2006 the richest 0.1% of us saw their income increase 364%.

So if the 90% of us on the bottom of the pile (the 90% who got 50% of America’s payroll) would like to see the playing field leveled, I suggest allowing the Bush tax cuts (which mostly benefited the rich) to expire as a great place to start. The added tax money will not only cut the deficit by over $300 billion per year, but it will cap the $379 billion interest paid on the $2.1 trillion cost of the tax breaks.

The tax breaks as an economic stimulus were clearly an economic bust viewed with the benefit of hind sight. Bush and Cheney were warned by over 450 economists (ten with Nobel prizes) that the tax breaks would be dangerous, not beneficial, to the economy. Then little Dick Cheney uttered those famous words, “Everyone knows… that deficits don’t matter.

Boy, did the Tea Party Protesters howl when he said that, right?

Errr, maybe not.

If I’m a socialist because I’m appalled that the richest 5% of American workers enjoy 52.5% of the windfall from Bush’s tax breaks, then apparently Allen Greenspan, who was the Federal Reserve chairman during the Bush regime, is a socialist too, since he agrees the tax cuts should be allowed to Rest In Peace.

Health care costs rose 55% from 2000 to 2008 and the cost of a family’s health insurance nearly doubled from 2000 to 2008. And during the Bush years the number of uninsured Americans grew to more than 46.3 million, an increase of 20.6 percent from when he took office.

And even though nearly 60% of the voters listed health care reform as one of their major concerns in the 2008 Presidential campaign, the insurance industry bought enough ads and politicians to confuse and obfuscate the real issues (remember death panels?), so even though those who still want reform are in the majority, an astounding 53% say they’re confused by what was passed.

And while only 26% of Americans want the reform repealed, Michigan’s Republicans are suing to repeal it. Like stem cell research and medical marijuana, the Party of No doesn’t really care that much about what the people want as long as they can cozy up with the tea drinkers and lobbyists.

In an effort to shock us, they breathlessly point out that health care reform will add 9% to health care costs next year. So? According to the Kaiser Foundation, “Since 1970, health care spending has grown at an average annual rate of 9.6 percent...”.

So if they repeal what they call Obamacare, health care costs will be capped at 2010 levels?

I don’t think so.

So if I’m a socialist because of my support of health care reform it’s kind of strange that President George W’s daughter agrees with me.

Another popular twist to the tea drinking arm of the GOP is the argument that the federal minimum wage is unconstitutional and needs to be repealed. First enacted during the FDR administration, the goal was to ensure that all working Americans received what might be called a living wage. But in a global economy that recognizes no minimum wage, tea drinkers want unskilled Americans to compete for jobs with people who earn pennies per day, a competitive race to the bottom.

But of course those richest 0.1% of Americans don’t seem to worry about the world economy hurting their incomes. Although CEO pay dropped more than 10% in 2009 and 2010, their salaries had grown 298% between 1995 and 2005 while the average American worker gained less than 5% in the same period. And in that world economy that the GOP is so desperate to dump the middle and lower class into, American CEOs still earned more than twice as much as their counterparts around the world. So globalization American style rewards the rich and punishes everyone else?

I know, I know. The theory is to reward the most productive and hardest working employees in America. Like those captains of industry who fiddled while Lehman Bros., Bear Stearns, Washington Mutual (WaMu), AIG, and Countryside Mortgage burned? In the end, the leaders of these once enormous institutions not only enjoyed enormous tax breaks on their personal income, they then managed to prosper in defeat with their severance packages.

Apparently, working for a level playing field scares the hell out of some people. Fox News celebrity Glenn Beck said churches that preach social justice are taught by Communists and Nazis.

Maybe his isn’t a Christian Church.

I recall the stories of Christ, his call for compassion for all people because all people are your neighbors in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He promises that the merciful will be shown mercy and the peacemakers will be called the Sons of God during the Sermon on the Mount. We are told that whatever we do for the the poor and hungry is as if we do so directly for God.

Not that I don’t take Tea Party Protesters seriously, but I’m comfortable wearing their slur. It saddens me that Americans have become so afraid and hateful of one another.

The Right likes to make grand proclamations about how this or that will mean the end of America as we know it.

If we’re going to continue to hate each other it will be the end of all that was good and right about America. Whatever remains won’t be worth saving.

About Wayne Johnson 69 Articles

I’ve worked in book manufacturing for over 30 years, closing my company Baker Johnson, Inc. in 2005. Currently I work freelance with a large group of publishers, advising them on the printing options available to them as the book industry endures major restructuring.
My wife Cathy is a retired psychologist and spent most of her career working with the youth at Maxey Boys Training School. She is a small mammal rehabilitator with Friends of Wildlife.
Our daughter Whitney is a PharmD working in the Denver area evaluating the pharmaceutical requirements of nursing homes. Our son Eliot lives in Waterloo and is an editor at Mathematical Reviews in Ann Arbor.