Most people don’t realize that when they board a public bus or subway that a form of socialism is carrying them to their destination. The city government owns the means of travel for no-profit but to help build the infrastructure of the city and thus to make it prosper. No armbands, flags, lapel pins, buttons or streamers are necessary to herald the state as you ride to your destination. You pay your fare, you get your ride.
Just sit down (if there’s a seat), enjoy the show, newspaper, i-pod (to carry you away), and eyeball the faces of your fellow travelers. You are all in this together, the bus or train going where you’re going. That could be your job, your return home, a party, a shopping spree, a night on the town or just a ride around. Nobody cares as long as you pay your fare, your share to support the system. Nobody will turn you in to the Tea Party for reeducation in socialist activities, which could also include arriving at your public school to get your city-or-state-paid (subsidized) education. Or going to the state-owned airport to take a privatized (most probably subsidized) airline to Timbucktoo, that is if you get past the privatized and invasive full-body scanners.
You may get a socialized school breakfast or lunch in schools where kids from your neighborhood need them. Or a privatized lunch from a firm that runs the city or high school or state college cafeteria. It’s funny how the two work hand in hand, most of the time. Ask a New Yorker, he won’t say nice things about the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority). The last word’s the reason. It means the state has given certain folks the authority to run the trains and buses. In fact, they might all be board of directors of private corporations who never take public transportation. Their financial expertise is what’s being socialized for x-number of hours a day. Later, they return to privatized capitalism whose shadow often crosses MTA pathways.
Wiki tells us, that “Socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources.” So just think of how many things work this way. The union of states is held together by various bureaus and various departments of the federal government: treasury, agriculture, defense, on and on, designed so you have a healthier, happier, safer life; that is, you, your family, friends and community. Our socialization also extends to picking up the socialized tab, like the garbage, with our taxes for failed risk-taking in the financial industry, for debt caused by predatory lenders who sold worthless debt paper to unsuspecting investors.
It’s not difficult to see that here we have crossed a line of corruption that shouldn’t be crossed. It doesn’t benefit society to pick up this tab, especially when the offenders put a gun to our collective head to “convince us” the world economy would crumble if we don’t pay. And they gave the feeling they’d make sure it did. What’s more, they got away with it, any number of times when they absolutely should have gone to one of our privatized prisons, as Nobel economist Joseph Stieglitz has pointed out . He feels that just fining them, even large fines, is the cost of doing business with these felons. But having them do the time if they did the crime is the learning experience, as junk-bond king Michael Milken learned in the late 80’s at a Club Fed. Otherwise, white-collar criminals will think they can keep up criminal activities against us indefinitely, without real reprisal.
But let’s get back on the bus, if it’s still running and its budget’s not been bankrupted because the city or state that runs the system has lost money in the market, albeit with one too many tax-free munis to fund their activities. Yes, let’s take a walk in the zoo to forget about the mess, if the zoo is still open, if the department of parks (run by the city) is still open, and my favorites, Central and Riverside Parks, two great swaths of green, fresh air and enjoyment for the millions who live in the area, haven’t been privatized for Donald Trump to build more high-rises without supporting the socialized infrastructure, also paid by city and state. Perhaps he should fire himself for his social scamming.
But are these parks socialistic, you ask? Well, they are everybody’s parks, everybody’s zoos. And there are everybody’s streets to walk, everybody’s streetlights to keep streets safe, everybody’s stoplights to make sure cars stop when the light is red, go when the light is green, slow down when they see it yellow, so you don’t end up in a semi-socialized hospital, whose tab is picked up partially by the city and the state, some by for-profit insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.
There are some things better done with the collective clout of monies from taxes, first, like innovating products or services and delivering them, by privatized entities, corporations, for profit, to keep the wheels of society turning; first by providing jobs, i.e., taxpayers; second by paying their own corporate taxes; third by marketing wares to the public to improve our standard of life, monitored hopefully by some set of laws from some duly-elected collective body (city or state legislature, the House or Senate), that insure the products and services won’t hurt or even kill us.
Also, when some person or entity cross the lines of overconsumption, burning up too much of the planet’s materials in privatized production we’ve got trouble, generally pollution. So we need a social agency, like the EPA, to enforce downsizing consumption, as with auto emissions to clean up the air. Privatization can be very helpful here with innovations, if it cooperates; or very destructive if it denies the problems, i.e., melting solar caps, rising sea temperatures and levels.
If the balance of social good is toppled by privatization excesses, and left to continue, we have chaos, such as BP trying to go on the cheap in environmental safety and costing us billions in environmental destruction.
What’s more, if privatized institutions begin to interfere with outcomes of elections, as SCOTUS has allowed them to do, the social process of government in place to protect the many, not just a few privatizers, we have bigger trouble. We have “now” — and privatizers financially undermining socializing forces, calling them bad guys. They’ve got it backwards. They’re the bad guys.
They should stick their fingers in their eyes to wake themselves up. They’re in a dream world, lying to themselves for personal profit and gain. They’ve forgotten the bus or train or school or neighborhood police and firemen caring for them. Maybe they’ve been riding in a personal limo too long, living in a gated community, or sky-high in the hi-rise. They’ve lost touch with the people and think it’s all about the bubble they’re riding in. It’s not. Their bubbles pop like the ones on the stock market. They’re made of air trapped in a film of spin, lies, schemes for fleecing people, making our only real product debt, and its profit the blood, sweat and tears of the people.
Remember also how President Eisenhower in 1956 provided a Federal Highway Act with taxpayer/government money to build an incredible network of highways that spanned the country, connecting towns, cities and rural areas, making America, for better or worse, what it is today. These weren’t toll roads as privatizers would love to have, so they can gouge you on your way back and forth to work every day. These were government roads, freeways, land or skyways that moved millions of people every day to where they needed to be.
Eisenhower spent 25 billion dollars for the construction of 41,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System over a 20-year period, creating thousands of jobs to further strengthen the post-war economy. Today, that socialized infrastructure needs reworking, including work on our national rail service. It could prop up a consumer economy with jobs of all kinds. Eisenhower also warned us in his parting address about the dangers of the military-industrial complex and its excesses. Nobody listened. We’re in three wars and debt up to our necks because of them.
Think too, when you wake up, that glass of clear fresh water put in front of you, most likely was delivered by linkages of pipe from faraway reservoirs, all public works, as with New York City, socialized to civilize us, albeit with a portion of our taxes. Your alternative is to buy a plastic bottle of privatized water for a dollar or two, slug it down, and toss the bottle where — into the infinite plastic wasteland sitting in a distant corner between Hawaii and Japan in the Pacific Ocean, twice the size of Texas, a hundred feet deep in spots, a wasteland for sea life.
Other forms of socialization provide Social Security, a modest pension for senior citizens. It is paid for by the total of 6.2 percent of your previous wages matched by your employer, which earns interest in a trust (when its pocket isn’t picked by one president or another). There’s Medicare that you qualify for with your Social Security. So, for a reasonable monthly fee, you have a health plan without some corporation taking a cut, unless you need a supplemental plan as well, which can cost twice what your basic socialized Medicare costs, and will cost even more for part D for supplemental drug plan (thanks to George W. Bush). In fact, if we weren’t spending so much of our tax money blowing up other countries, those for-profit-supplemental health or drug plans might not be needed. A non-profit, Single payer, all-embracing, health plan can replace it at a lower cost. I can hear the screams and moans of “Socialism” from here, from people who take advantage of both systems and vote against their own interests because of a buzzword, socialism.
These people will tell you we’re knocking on Karl Marx’s door, but that’s baloney. The World Health Organization ranks US health care as 37th. Unfortunately, our system is also the highest in cost. Could there be a relationship with for-profit health care to the lower quality and higher costs?
So, aspects of socialism, government working for common good, the sharing of expenses via taxes, are not dirty words. They are part of our financial infrastructure that holds this country together. But that infrastructure is decaying, from roadways and bridges, education to transportation, because they are underfunded due to overfunding defense. Private defense corporations are producing arms like this cancer-producing DIME bomb. We are using mercenary armies. We are committed to an endless series of Democrat and Republican-passed wars fought by an army of “volunteers,” likely looking for a job or an education the larger society can’t provide. Ignoring Eisenhower’s warnings were not without consequences.
But, have a nice day if you can. And try not to think of Fed Chairman Bernanke’s printing press running round the clock to throw extra national debt money into the present money supply to keep us afloat. This is considered all-American yet deflates our present dollar’s value in so doing. Something called the “free-market” is supposed to lend “an invisible hand” to make it all work. Somehow, folks, they haven’t worked. The free-market and its invisible hand are broken, frozen in a cast, crippled.
Maybe we could lend a helping hand and put some real regulation into that free-market, because it comes with incredibly large price tags: for wars, bankruptcies, bailouts, neglected infrastructure, closing schools, hydro-fracking for natural gas burning up trillions of gallons of fresh water, etc. And everywhere there is loss, damage to our system, we see the real hand of privatization. From union-busting to the massive giveaway of U.S. jobs, leaving millions of people unemployed.
It will take a mass action to turn this around and get the US on a solvent track. Some people will try to demonize that common action as a socialist revolution. Others will put forth the hateful Tea Party, noxious as it is ignorant, to bully true reformers. But in fact, as the Bill of Rights and Constitution tell us, a true movement towards saving our economy and nation from private plundering is as American as apple pie, precious as life itself.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. His book State Of Shock – Poems from 9/11 on is available at www.jerrymazza.com, Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on American and world politics as an Associate Editor of Online Journal.