Wow it was a meaty bone the President threw to his base and base fringe when he said in his State of the Union address, “Here in the United States, we are alarmed by the new calls to adopt socialism in our country.” Loud boos echoed across the House chamber. It was a sure winner.
In the President’s introduction to his down with socialism call, he cited Venezuela and the Maduro regime, “whose socialist politics have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair.” The President went on to define socialism as, “government domination, coercion, and control,” and declared of Americans, “We are born free and we will stay free.” To the audience’s chant of “USA! USA! USA!” he added, “Tonight we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” Followed by more “USA! USA! USA!” chants. I can hear the crowd going delirious at one of the President’s rallies.
But wait a minute. While it is true that the United State will never be a country with “government domination, coercion, and control,” is it accurate to equate that description with socialism? If you look up the term, you will find definitions of ‘socialism’ resemble observations by the four blind men describing an elephant, with each description based on the particular part of the elephant each blind man is touching.
Socialism as Communism, as was tried in the Soviet Union, was a failure. But socialism and Communism are not the same. We use the word ‘socialist’ to describe European parliamentary democracies, yet they are far from Communism. And they are far from government domination, coercion, and control. They are a balance between the freedom of democracy and the recognition that some people are not born with equal opportunity, nor do the circumstances of life treat all people equally.
Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we already have socialist elements in our national life. To wit, Medicare to help pay for the frequently large medical bills incurred by the aged in our population, Medicaid to help defray medical costs incurred by people without the means to pay them, Welfare to help the poor not be thrown out on the street to beg like those depicted in the novels by Charles Dickens. I could go on, but the point is that in order for all people to be “born free and stay free,” some must be relieved of the financial slavery of overwhelming medical costs and others given opportunity to escape the hopeless prison of poverty.
We block attempts at income equalization, sneering at them as ‘socialism.’ As a result, increasingly the rich get richer, and the poor poorer. The income gap continues to widen, even though history warns us that a widening gap inevitably leads to national instability.
But we do not sneer at another form of equalization, a type of socialism favoring the states housing most of the President’s base. I’m referring to the largely blue state--red state disparity between federal income taxes paid and federal funds returned to each state. For instance, for every federal tax dollar paid by South Carolina citizens, the state receives federal funding of $7.87. At the other end of the scale, for every dollar Delaware sends to the US Treasury, it receives fifty cents. Fourteen states receive less than they pay. Most of them are blue, while the recipients are red. We should note that many of those red states tout their low state taxes in order to lure new residents and businesses. It’s nice to brag of low taxes when you’re on the receiving end of government subsidies.
We are a social democracy. The balance between individual initiative and government support is always going to be in contention. Fully socialist in the most severe definition of that word, we are not. But our democracy must be tempered with assistance to those who need it and programs to secure our nation and help it develop in ways private initiative cannot accomplish.