By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — Good morning, students.
I’ll be your professor for this class.
The only prerequisite here is to leave your preconceived notions at the door.
First, before we begin our lecture, some questions.
Raise your hand if, in your lifetime, you have done any of the following:
1) Driven on a highway?
2) Crossed a bridge and paid a toll?
3) Received mail from the postal service?
4) Worked a 40-hour work week, and were then eligible for overtime beyond that?
5) Had your street plowed by a public entity after a snowstorm?
6) Received electricity from a local dam?
7) Been to a hospital?
8) Attended public school (or taken a public school bus to a private school)?
Congratulations, you can now be accused of being a socialist – unless you want to give these amenities up, you can’t let it become the dirty word some would like you to think it is.
In actuality, it is the blood in our veins. It is as American as fantasy football, junk food and tribalism.
No way, you say?
Angry student in the back, you have something to add?
“Yeah, uh, I am no (expletive deleted) Socialist,” he says. “I was in the military and served this country to preserve the American way, and now I’m going to school to earn a degree and work for a corporation. We should have started this class with the pledge of allegiance or maybe sang “America The Beautiful.” How dare you call me a socialist?”
Sorry to have offended you.
And thank you for your service.
However, the military is one of our largest forms of ongoing socialism. The armed services are propped up on the shoulders of the American taxpayer, as it is funded by approximately 27 percent of our tax dollars to run a war machine of $600 billion per year.
By comparison, that dwarfs supposed “socialist” evils – Social Security/Unemployment ($29 billion), education ($70 billion), science (around $30 billion) and infrastructure ($96 billion).
As for the pledge of allegiance and “America The Beautiful,” both were penned by avowed socialists – Francis Bellamy and Katherine Lee Bates, respectively.
Other American icons who were self-labeled as socialists include Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Helen Keller and Harry Houdini.
And good luck finding a job in corporate America, sir. Hope you get your six-figure salary and live the good life.
There, as you did in the military, you will be the beneficiary of another form of socialism: Corporate Welfare.
While Corporate America fingers welfare as the source of all evil, corporate welfare runs amok. In the new Millennium, the government has gifted $70 billion in grants and tax credits to business. Despite lip service to the contrary, it is really not for smaller mom-and-pop businesses, as about two-thirds of the bounty lines the deep pockets of big corporations to feed the same beasts that jack up our pill bills and pollute our air.
Any other questions?
“Yes, weren’t the Nazis socialists?” she says, after looking it up on her iPhone. “Wasn’t that a noble cause?”
Thank you for bringing that up.
The Nazi party called itself the National Socialist party, but its ideals were anything but socialist. We are talking about the poster children for fascism, which is far right and militaristic in nature.
I would suggest you take a hardcore history class to learn the details, but you can trust me on this.
Back to the point of this lecture.
The scare tactics being used by your president (not mine) – and his millions of minions that equal a vocal minority of roughly 30 percent of the population – is that socialism is an evil that must be stopped in its tracks in the 2020 election.
What is being misrepresented as socialism are progressive ideas and ideals now entering into the Democratic Party’s platform.
If it sounds familiar, it’s the same way right-wing tendencies once seeped into the veins Republican party before Barack Obama even took the oath of office.
What they don’t touch on is the vast difference between Democratic Socialism – which really needs a new name (Compassionate Capitalism is my idea) – and old-school socialism in the Lenin and Marx sense.
At face value, without going any further, Democratic Socialism – by definition – means the leaders are elected in a wholly democratic system that provides more in the way of social services.
And no, it is not “free stuff” that you have to pay for in the end. It is just a more equitable redistribution of funds, all while capitalism is alive and well.
Countries that feature universal health care, free daycare, better primary education, gun control laws, free college, less hours worked and more of the restorative power of a free and rested mind do quite well on the economic front, too.
Why can’t we have some of that? We gorge on international food, guzzle imported beer and consider a sign of capitalistic success being able to drive a foreign car.
You don’t have to stop being a flag-waving American who misunderstands the meaning of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.” to beg, borrow and steal from what other countries that raise their quality of life standard and their average life span are able to achieve.
This column originally ran in The Times Herald on May 5.