Anne Notations

Monday, October 27, 2008

The ‘S’ word

The latest Republican desperation move to discredit Barack Obama is to hiss that most nerve-racking of charges against him:


Ssssssssssscary! And sssssso unAmerican. –Or is it?

This morning I came across a blog post by a homeschooling mom from Virgina in which she deconstructs this straw-man hobgoblin and points out that not only have we met the socialists, to a large extent they are us. Brilliant.

I keep hearing, "I enjoy living in a capitalist country and I want to keep it that way! Don't you take my capitalism away from me!" Sister, you don't live in a capitalist country. Sorry. That has already been taken away from you. Along with children working in mines, tenements made out of cardboard, and unregulated air pollution.

Is it just killing you that the terrible socialists with their wealth redistribution gave Medicaid to babies in poverty? After all, they didn't earn it. Their mothers couldn't afford it. In your sparkling, elegant capitalist society, they wouldn't have it. You want to be in charge of spending your own money, not giving it to the government to redistribute to the poor! Do you wish we could go back to a time when generous churches and noble private citizens were responsible for picking up the tab for those babies? Because you know what? They didn't.

The big businesses of this country did not suddenly one day wake up and say, "Hey, let's give those workers two days off a week. They've earned it!" They did not just announce, "You know, it's Tuesday, let's set a minimum wage!" They didn't establish a 9 to 5 work day just because 9 and 5 are good numbers for them. It goes against profit and the free market to be kind, safe, and fair....

Are you afraid that Obama the socialist is going to make … your food safer, give you more city parks, make your air cleaner, make your workplace safer, give more people voting rights, establish more vacation days, or something awful like that? Are you afraid he's going to keep us out of foreign wars, stop writing huge checks to big businesses, and improve our schools? Wow, yeah, that's terrifying.

For the record, I'm not against capitalism at all. Communism as Marx conceived of it runs counter to basic human nature, in my opinion, and has been shown to degrade into spirit-numbing totalitarianism when large countries attempt to put it into practice. I firmly believe in the amazing power of market competition, the vitality of the entrepreneurial spirit, and the floats-all-boats advantage of a free market. I believe hard-working citizens should have the chance to prosper and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

But unbridled capitalism can be cruel and morale-squelching, too, once the very rich begin getting exponentially richer than almost everyone else and those on the lower portion of the economic totem pole find themselves sliding deeper into debt and ill health.

So I'll take my capitalism with a leavening sprinkle of socialism, please. I'll sleep better when everyone has some basic form of health insurance at a cost that doesn't outpace their mortgage and grocery bill combined. I'll recognize that in a country this large and complex, there is no one right and pure principle that works across the board. Our society needs a leader who can tolerate ambiguity and gray areas, who can select the best of various economic and political philosophies and create policies that work in these anxious, crazy times. And by now you know just who I think that man is.


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