When President Donald Trump delivered his state of the union address, he said that America would never be a socialist country. To the contrary, America has always had elements of socialism layered with capitalism. Yes, our country fosters free markets, but the wheels of the economy wouldn’t spin as efficiently as they do without government regulation, which is governed by socialist ideology.
First, let’s define socialism. According to the dictionary definition, socialism is, “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”
If you’ve ever paid into and lived off social security or received Medicare, Medicaid, or any other health or social service, you’ve been a participant of socialism. And let’s not forget our public education system. Regardless of whether they have children who benefit from public education or not, all property owners pay taxes to support public schools. As a society, we have collectively decided that it’s best to entrust the government to distribute some services, and consequently, we pay taxes so that the government can fund these services for all of us.
There is no private corporation that we pay to protect us from a foreign enemy. Our taxpayer-funded, socialist-oriented military defends us, and we are proud of our military! What incentive would private corporations have to maintain and rebuild our infrastructure if they have no stake in profiting from investing? I don’t see many businesses complaining about the government paving highways, roads, interstates, and other fundamental infrastructure that they benefit from.
Would you trust private corporations, who are in the business of maximizing shareholder wealth, to provide us with the best air and water quality?
What’s so ironic about this adamant rejection of socialist ideology is the very same people who reject any form of socialism that benefits working class and poor Americans are dismissive when it comes to corporate socialism. Collectively, as a society, we are ok with subsidizing Walmart by allowing their employees to make just below a certain amount to remain eligible for food stamps and other social benefits. Walmart wisely factors this into their decision to pay subpar wages and offer little to no benefits for part-time employment. What about the subsidies that we provide for Big Pharma and Big Oil? What about the subsidies we approve for wealthy farmers?
What about the now $8 billion border wall subsidized by taxpayers? The whole idea that taxpaying Americans would support funding a border wall is, in fact, the epitome of a socialist program. When discussing socialism, we must consider corporate socialism as much as we consider socialism that benefits average working-class Americans. We must recognize that when we subsidize big businesses with taxpayer money, we are doing so at the expense of the working class and poor Americans, who get little to no money from the government. America cannot claim that all players have a fair playing field when it comes to competing in our society when these subsidies lend an unfair advantage to certain corporations to compete. That is not capitalism. It’s corporate welfare and corporate socialism.
Let’s concede that at times we can overdo it with labels and stigmatizing political theories and philosophies. How about a healthy dose of pragmatism and reality? We don’t live in a purely capitalist society, nor do we live in a pure socialist society, but indeed, America has employed many elements of socialism to account for a magnitude of essential government services we all benefit from.
Over the last century, America has implemented socialist reforms, and at the same time we have witnessed remarkable economic growth and achieved an increased standard of living. Let’s not forget that the American Socialist Party helped pioneer child labor laws and the 8 hour work day. FDR’s New Deal ushered in a new era of workplace protections and jobs programs that provided Americans security and prosperity for decades.
However, since the 70s, the Reagamaniacs have instilled fear that socialist ideology will threaten our free society. With deregulation of markets, a loss of government revenue due to massive tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans, we stand at a crossroads. If we are going to aspire to greatness and tackle issues such as climate change, a first-class defense, a green new deal, world-class infrastructure, and healthcare, we must collectively agree there are some things that government can do better than the free market, and we must be willing to come to terms with certain socialist aspects of our society. With a healthy pragmatic formula consisting of free markets with government aid, assistance and regulation when necessary, we can create and sustain an economy that is functional and fair for all Americans, not just the top one percent; and doing so does not require sacrificing one iota of our freedom.