Eliminate Socialism in the U.S.?

Americans don’t know what it is but they don’t want it.

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Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash
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People in the U.S have been taught to fear socialism. They’re not quite sure what socialism is, but they believe it is bad and they should rebel against anything that smacks of it. They ridicule people who defend it. They vote against candidates who support socialistic programs. So, we should give them what they want. We should eliminate socialism in the U.S.

What types of socialism do Americans want to eliminate? State socialism, democratic socialism, social democracy, or all of them? To many Americans, state-socialism, democratic socialism, and social democracy are all the same thing. They don’t understand the differences, and don’t want to.

State Socialism

Socialism, sometimes called state socialism, is defined as a political/economic system in which the means of production (machinery, tools, and factories used to produce goods for society) are owned and controlled by a democratically-run state but some other private property is allowed. That doesn’t really apply to the U.S. The means-of-production are all owned by private-sector firms operated to generate profit for the owners. So, eliminating state-socialism isn’t really an issue; there is none to eliminate. The only thing that might need to be eliminated is the public’s incorrect perception of what “socialism” actually is.

There are, however, quite a few aspects of the federal government that do have elements of socialism — those involving democratic socialism and social democracy.

Democratic Socialism

In democratic socialism, government ownership is much more limited than in state socialism. Also, democratic-socialist governments aim to benefit the populace rather than the state. There are two types of corporations owned by the U.S government — Federal-government-acquired corporations and Government-sponsored enterprises.

Federal-Government-Acquired Corporations

Federal-government-acquired corporations (FGACs) are organizations that the government found itself unwillingly in possession of because they needed to maintain the operations of a critical business that was failing. Railroads are the best example, such as the Alaska Railroad and Amtrak. Americans seem to want these holdings to be privatized as was done with Conrail. Presumably, people will be able to find other modes of transportation.

Government-Sponsored Enterprises

Government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) are financial-services corporations that were created by Congress to facilitate economic investment and provide guarantees that limit the risk of capital losses to investors. Americans must believe that Fannie MaeFreddie MacGinnie Mae, and the Federal Home Loan Banks only encourage bad investments. For the same reasons, farmers shouldn’t receive the support provided by the Federal Farm Credit Banks or the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation. The private-sector could address these needs without having government protections by just increasing their prices to protect themselves. Also, TARP was a big mistake; the economy should have been allowed to fail. Americans want free-market capitalism not socialistic protections.

Social Democracy

In social democracies, ownership is mainly private but government regulates the owners. Resources accrued through taxation are used to benefit the populace. Social democracies develop by minimizing the harsher aspects of capitalism. Social democracy, on the other hand, manifests itself as government support for two beneficiaries — business and people.

Corporate Socialism

Corporate socialism (AKA corporate welfare) involves several forms of support for businesses. The most overt are direct payments to businesses as well as tax breaks and loan guarantees. This support was estimated to be $100 billion a decade ago but most of the benefits are impossible to quantify.

For example, the federal government spends billions of dollars per year on the air traffic control system and grants to commercial airports, mostly small local airports. Canada and Great Britain have made made these self-supporting. Other recipients of corporate socialism include: farm businesses ($25 billion per year); rural businesses ($6 billion per year); energy-related businesses ($4 billion per year); and small businesses ($1 billion per year).

The government manages communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable to control unfair competition. The government owns vast land holdings they use to control mineral, ecological, water, and tourism resources. It also maintains roads, waterways, and ports used by businesses. This is clearly corporate-socialism, which apparently, Americans do not want.

Despite claims to have been making a profit, the Export‐​Import Bank has been criticized for unsound accounting practices that hide their actual costs-the-taxpayers being ten times as much. The federal government also provides aid to exporters through the Department of Commerce and the Foreign Military Financing program. This doesn’t even compare to the much more significant benefits of the government’s foreign-trade agreements, tariffs, regulation of imports, and their protections for intellectual properties and foreign operations. War is expensive.

The government also supports a variety of businesses by conducting basic research and providing the results for free. Pharmaceutical and technology businesses are huge beneficiaries. The government also indirectly supports businesses’ ability to pay low wages through the $70 billion earned income tax credit, SNAP, and other individual welfare programs that enable the minimum-wage labor force to survive. Tax-exempt organizations, like non-profit businesses and religions, are also part of corporate socialism. Though unquantified, and perhaps unquantifiable, these socialistic benefits to businesses are unquestionable huge. They are everywhere. But apparently, Americans don’t want them. They’re socialism.

Finally, the 2020 federal CARES Act provided over $1.1 trillion in direct payments and loans to business — $669 billion as loans to small businesses and $500 billion for large corporations. (For comparison, $560 billion went to individual Americans as direct payments or unemployment benefits and $340 billion went to state and local governments.) This is the kind of socialism that Americans fear and want to eliminate.

People Socialism

If you believe politicians and partisan organizations, what really outrages Americans is people socialism — support provided to individuals. However, in 2018, only 10% of Americans recognized this as socialism. Unquestionably, though, there are numerous socialistic programs running in the country, each having it’s own dependents.

Older Americans say that Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid are essential. And while their support crosses political lines, Republican politicians have been working on eliminating the programs since their inceptions.

Most Americans believe public education, public transportation, and local law enforcement, emergency services, public parks, and libraries are essential. On the other hand. some Americans believe that federal anti-poverty programs are socialistic programs that have to go. They want to eliminate things like: food stamps, WIC, and school lunches; public housing; child care and educational programs; college/trade school (Pell) grants; job training and employment services; and home energy assistance.

It seems that some people define socialism as any government benefit that someone else gets that they don’t.

Fear, Hate, and Socialism

Americans may not know what socialism is — state socialism, democratic socialism, or social democracy — but they’ve been convinced by politicians that they don’t like it and don’t want it. They’ve been told they shouldn’t w ant: Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid; air-traffic control; essential railroads; publicly-owned financial institutions; support for small businesses, farms and rural businesses, energy-related businesses, exporters and U.S. corporations operating overseas; management of communication airwaves, transportation routes, and natural resources; research on technology and medicine; support for individuals in the forms of food stamps, public housing, child care, educational programs, job training, employment services, and home energy assistance; nor local public education, public transportation, law enforcement, emergency services, public parks and libraries.

It’s tragic that the public’s perception of socialism in the U.S. has been tainted by politicians and misinformed individuals. Maybe the only way to counter their misinformation is to eliminate all the benefits of socialism and to start anew as an unregulated, free-market capitalistic society. Give Americans what they think they want, like with Prohibition. What could go wrong?

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by paul.orear is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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