Tag Archives: Europe

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Bernie Sanders is a Socialist and So Are You

http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/socialism/images/c/ce/Socialist_party_of_america_logo_.gif/revision/latest?cb=20090319232217            When it comes to politics, Americans are idiots.

Because American voters are political ignoramuses, Bernie Sanders found it necessary to take the stage at Georgetown University yesterday to explain what socialism, and democratic socialism are. The point being that too many Democratic primary voters plan to cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton, not because they like her or her ideas, but worry that a self-declared socialist (or democratic socialist) won’t be able to beat the Republican nominee in the general election.

Setting aside the rather idiotic idea of voting for a candidate because everyone else is voting for her — what’s the point of holding an election? we’d might as well turn elected office over to the candidate with an early lead in the polls — I have to wonder whether an electorate that knows nothing about socialism is qualified to vote at all.

And remember: these are Democratic primary voters. One must shiver in fear at the colossal dumbness on the Republican right, where climate change denialism is normative, Ronald Reagan was brilliant (and brought down This Wall) and Tea Party marchers famously carry signs demanding “government get out of my Medicaid.” To them, socialism means Stalin — if they know who he was.

Socialism, Marx and Engels explained, is the long transitional economic form between laissez faire capitalism and communism, an ideal utopian state that will only become possible after the rise of a New Man (and Woman) whose total commitment to communitarian ideals over individualistic concerns allows the state to wither away and people to rule themselves in small collectives. This true ideal communism, Marxists believe, is centuries away at best.

In contemporary politics, Communist Party rule in nations like the Soviet Union and China led to confusion, especially in the West, where capitalist news media was only too happy to turn a relatively simple idea into a muddle. Neither the Soviet nor the Chinese Communist Parties ever claimed to have achieved communism. With the exception of Pol Pot’s bizarre Kampuchea, communist parties governed self-declared socialist states, not communist ones. It was, after all, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

When Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist, he’s drawing upon a tradition of Western European electoral politics in which socialist principles live alongside free-market capitalist ones, rather than a fully fleshed-out transformation of the economy into one in which the workers control the means of production. For Sanders and the hundreds of millions of citizens of the nations of Europe and their post-colonial progeny (Canada, Australia, many African countries), democratic socialism is a system that looks a lot like the United States of America.

In the ur-democratic socialist nations of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, citizens’ elected representatives propose and vote on laws — just like here.

There is no state economy. There are, like here, small private businesses and giant corporations.

So what makes them socialist? Government regulations and the social safety net. Government agencies tell power companies, for example, how much they may pollute the air and sets the minimum wage. There is, as in all capitalist societies, poverty. But the government mitigates its effects. Welfare and unemployment benefits, social security for retirees, free or subsidized healthcare make things easier when times are tough.

The United States is a democratic socialist country, albeit a lame one.

Senator Sanders wants less lameness.

In his speech, The New York Times summarized, “he said he wanted an America where people could work 40 hours a week and not live in poverty, and that such a society would require new government entitlements like free public colleges, Medicare-for-all health insurance, a $15 minimum wage, $1 trillion in public works projects to create jobs, and mandatory [paid] parental leave.”

These benefits are standard in almost every other technologically advanced nation on earth, as well as many developing countries. Democratic socialism? It’s like that old dishwashing liquid ad: you’re soaking in it.

Yet here is Sanders, in what pundits are calling a do-or-die speech attempting to fix his “I like him but America won’t elect a socialist” crisis. David Axelrod, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign, says, “The issue here is, is that word [socialism] a barrier for a sufficient number of voters that it creates an electoral ceiling for him?”

As far as I know, Bernie hasn’t emphasized the quality of public education in his campaign. But something is, no pun intended, radically wrong when so few Americans understand basic political and economic terms — especially when they apply to the political and economic system under which they themselves live.

By global standards, Sanders’ campaign is calling for weak socialist tea. In most European countries, all colleges are free or charge nominal fees. Socialized medicine, in which your doctor is a government employee and there’s no such thing as a big for-profit hospital corporation, is the international norm. Paid leave? Obviously. And most governments recognize the importance of public infrastructure, and not relying on the private sector to provide every job.

There can only be one reason Americans don’t know this stuff: they’re idiots. Their schools made them that way as kids. Media propaganda keeps them stupid as adults.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Our Suicidal Ruling Class

Why Won’t the Rich and Powerful Try to Save Themselves?

I spent last week at Occupy Miami and Occupy Fort Lauderdale. One question came up several times: What if the system responds—or pretends to respond—to our demands? What if the political class agrees to create more jobs, help the unemployed, let distressed homeowners keep their houses?

Then the Occupy movement (and American progressivism) will be out of business. “President Obama could finish us off over night,” I said. “A speech would be enough. He wouldn’t even have to do anything.”

Obama could announce a big jobs bill, knowing full well that Congressional Republicans would kill it. It would probably increase his reelection prospects.

But don’t worry.

He won’t.

He can’t.

America’s corporate rulers and their pet politicians know that people are furious. They understand that their actions and policies are accelerating the pace of income inequality and creating a growing, permanently alienated underclass.

They know history. Sooner or later, the downtrodden rise up, overthrow and kill their oppressors.

It’s not a nice way to rule. Nor is it smart. So—if all it would take for America’s masters to save themselves from the raging mobs of the not-so-distant future are a few empty words, why not try?

There’s no doubt about the nature or scale of the problem. Economists from left to right agree that the United States suffers from high structural inequality. “At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations,” reported The New York Times on January 5th. According to a Swedish study 42 percent of American boys raised by parents whose incomes fall in the bottom 40 percent of wage earners remain in the bottom 40 percent as adults—a much higher rate than such nations as Denmark (25 percent) and England (30 percent), “a country famous for its class constraints.”

To be poor in the United States is not unusual. Half of Americans live under two times the poverty line. But the depth and persistence of poverty in America is unique among developed industrialized nations. The gap between the poor and the rich is bigger. Mobility—access to the American Dream—is less.

Born rich? You’ll more likely to die rich in the U.S. than in other countries. Born poor? You’re likelier to die poor.

“Miles Corak, an economist at the University of Ottawa, found that just 16 percent of Canadian men raised in the bottom tenth of incomes stayed there as adults, compared with 22 percent of Americans. Similarly, 26 percent of American men raised at the top tenth stayed there, but just 18 percent of Canadians.”

When family background determines your fate you look for other options. Like getting rid of the system that makes things that way for your kids and their kids. That’s what happened in France in 1789 and Russia in 1917 and China in 1949.

There is no better predictor of revolution than an absence of economic mobility.

Right-wing extremists dismiss empirical data with anecdotal evidence. “If America is so poor in economic mobility, maybe someone should tell all these people who still want to come to the U.S.,” Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation told the Times.

Someone should.

Most Americans are poor. They don’t need to read these studies. They’re living them. Which is why they want politicians to create big jobs programs, raise wages, establish permanent unemployment benefits (standard in Europe) and impose a moratorium on foreclosures. The polls are clear.

No one cares about Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons program.

Yet here we are in the heat of a presidential election year, and no candidate—not “liberal” Obama, not the weird Republican, Ron Paul, no one—is talking about the issues Americans care about.

During the 1930s and 1960s liberal leaders ended street protests by promising change. Why not now? Why isn’t anyone promising to address income inequality? They could lie and break their promises later.

First, the rich are feeling squeezed. The global capitalist system no longer has much room to expand. Emerging markets have emerged. Globalization is not only nearly out of steam, it’s allowing the weakest trading partners to drag down their healthier partners. Feeling squeezed, our rulers aren’t in the mood to be generous. They’d rather loot the scraps of the pending collapse than expand the social safety net.

Second, the ruling classes have fooled themselves into believing that they no longer need to exploit workers in order extract surplus value. They make their profits without us in massive arbitrage transactions that collect spreads from borrowed money. To be sure, it’s a bubble. It’ll burst. But it feels good now.

Third, the rich think they can insulate themselves from the roiling masses of the dispossessed, safe behind high-tech alarm systems inside their gated communities. Arrogance rules.

Louis XVI had good security too.

Finally, there has always been a division within the elites between enlightened liberals and hardass thieves. The liberals don’t like us; they fear us. So they try to keep us satisfied enough not to revolt. The thieves count on brute force—cops, pepper spray, camps—to keep the barbarians at bay. The balance of power has shifted decisively to the thieves—which is why figures like Obama can’t even pretend to care about the issues most important to the great majority of people.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2012 TED RALL

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