The word socialism is heard everywhere, usually associated with dire warnings that America is about to fall into the same economic and social disaster as Venezuela. This is outrageous, blatant fear-mongering and politicians pushing this idea know it. Many countries practice some sort of socialism. In a quick description of what socialism is in a democratic country like America, it is simply the notion that it is more efficient, and less costly, to band together and pay taxes to cover the expenses of services and systems necessary to operate a successful country. The democratic socialism we practice right now provides us with libraries, highways, sewer systems, Social Security, Medicare, schools, the military, fire departments, the postal service, the VA, NOAA, the weather service, prisons, parks, etc. Most developed countries like Canada, Japan, Australia and European countries add some type of socialized medicine to this list. Maybe we don’t agree on how some of these entities are run, but the good of it comes back to us all.
Pure socialism is a whole different cat. Cuba, China, North Korea, and Venezuela have systems that display both communist and socialist characteristics. Straight on socialism means that all enterprise is run by the government. It’s complicated, but a bit of what went wrong in Venezuela is that in 1989 Hugo Chávez’s government took over banks, corporations, transportation systems, dairies, businesses large and small, and vast chunks of land. With rampant incompetence and corruption, these enterprises were run right into the ground. At the same time, Chavez promised to provide housing, medical care, etc., which he based on oil income. When oil prices fell, he couldn’t follow through. Now with Nicolas Maduro in power, private property has almost been abolished.
While we are being warned that socialism is creeping in to take over, it’s capitalism that is doing the creeping. Remember, for capitalism to work, someone has to make a profit. There are moves to give over public lands to private investors, talk is going on about privatizing the VA, the postal service, and Social Security. Public schools are losing money to vouchers for private schools. Private prisons were being phased out under President Obama, but right now 75 percent of the people being held at the southern border are in private jails. A 1 billion, 4-year contract in Dilley, Texas was awarded to CoreCivic whose CEO made 2.5 million last year. He contributed $250,000 to the Trump campaign. Inmates are paid $1 a day to do housekeeping chores.
A German newspaper has described the U.S. as “capitalism on steroids.” 43 percent of the U.S. population is at the poor or low-income level. The CEO of AIG insurance made 43.1 million last year. Is democratic socialism or capitalism bad? It probably just depends on who is in charge.