The Narcissism of Capital

I don’t agree with everything in this article (I don’t think capitalism is a bad thing if it’s kept under control with regulations and checks and balances), but I still really like the author’s comparison of capitalism with narcissism. He’s not wrong, especially in his observation that people with high levels of narcissism, even fullblown NPD, tend to be attracted to careers that reward with power and wealth.  This is why CEOs and top executives of multinational corporations, and politicians are so much more likely to have psychopathic or narcissistic traits than the “proles” (the rest of us).

Comments are disabled.  Please leave comments under the original post.

O Society

by Mawr Gorshin Infinite Ocean edited by O Society Mar 13, 2019

silhouette of statue near trump building at daytime
Photo by Carlos Herrero on Pexels.com

Introduction

Analysis of the 1944 film adaptation of Gaslight, leads to a recognition of ‘political gaslighting.’

In abusive interpersonal relationships, the abuser fabricates, denies, and distorts the truth to disorient the victim. The super-rich, as well as the politicians and the media who work for them, also do this lying and disorienting, but to the public as a whole.

We all know how emotional abuse can happen in families, school, the workplace, and online: psychological abuse on the ‘micro’ level. Now, let’s discuss it on the ‘macro’ level, how it exists on the geopolitical level, for this is, no doubt, a far greater problem.

Many parallels are seen in the comparison of narcissistic abuse and class conflict. Donald Trump is as obvious a narcissist as he is a…

View original post 2,803 more words

Advertisements

Postwar prosperity, socialism, and empathy: what do they have to do with each other?

worldhigheststandard

Republicans have a new tactic they’re using to turn people away from Democratic candidates who would like to see New Deal style social programs implemented or enhanced:   they’re using the scare word “socialism.”

I don’t really understand how that word became such a trigger for so many Republicans (and some Democrats).   We’re not talking about Stalin-style socialism, which was really communism: a far left form of authoritarianism.   Hitler’s “national socialist” party (Nazi Party) wasn’t socialist at all; it was fascist.   But Republicans trot out these examples  when they try to explain why socialism is so bad.

Democratic socialism and happiness.

Democratic socialism (or social democracy) is the type of government in  western and central Europe and most of the advanced industrialized countries.   The Scandinavian countries, which are the most socialist in terms of benefits to the people (and high tax rates on the rich),  also happen to have the highest happiness indices.   Finland is #1 in terms of overall happiness; Denmark is #2, and so on.

But what about freedom?   Contrary to what many people think,  people in these countries are extremely free (much more so than Americans), but there is less freedom (meaning more restrictions and laws) on corporations, which is the way things should be in a moral society.

happinessindex

All of these countries are prosperous, with little poverty, long lifespans, superior health, and high education levels.  Even the poorest working people are paid a wage they can live modestly on, and even support a family on.   People in these countries also have a lot more time to spend traveling, learning new skills, go to college or graduate school (which are free or low cost), or just enjoy life.   They have weeks’ more more vacation time than Americans do, and long maternity leaves.   Their life expectancy is higher than ours, and their infant mortality is lower.

Single payer healthcare vs. private health insurance. 

In these advanced democracies, people don’t have to worry about going bankrupt should they become sick, or dying from preventable illnesses for lack of healthcare.   And since healthcare isn’t connected to employment, losing one’s job doesn’t mean you lose your health insurance.   Private insurance companies’ motive isn’t for you to be healthy or get well; in fact, they have a vested interest in keeping you sick (Big Pharma makes more money) and denying your claims.   Your insurance company can deny a claim for a lifesaving but expensive procedure as “medically unnecessary” because a less effective procedure is cheaper for them.

Compare this to government funded (single payer) healthcare, whose motive isn’t to make a profit for some bigwig insurance company CEO, but to have a healthy and productive society.  People pay taxes and everyone benefits.  Republicans love to talk about the long wait times, but that is a myth.   They are no longer than wait times here in America, and no one is ever denied care.   Single payer aims to keep people healthy so the society is happy and productive, not rake in profits off of illness, a practice which is immoral.  Why do we have to have a middleman whose primary motive is to drive a wedge between people and their right (yes, I did say “right”) to good health?

“Oh, but I can keep my doctor!”
Really?  Maybe, but maybe not. If your doctor is “out of network,” you may be paying out of pocket to see that doctor, or your claim could be denied.  Single payer healthcare would ensure you’d be able to see any doctor you want as long as they were qualified to practice, and there would be no or very little cost to you.   So that argument is bullshit.

People should be able to live their lives without having to worry about dying or going bankrupt because they get sick.   In America, if you get sick, your life could be turned upside down or even ruined.  Too, even if you have good company health insurance, if you get a long term illness such as cancer, you could be let go from your job, and lose your insurance anyway, when you most need it.  And don’t forget about those lifetime caps (which the GOP wants to bring back, along with preexisting conditions).

So if single payer (government funded) healthcare is so much better and most countries opted for it a long time ago and aren’t exactly clamoring to have an insane, unworkable, wasteful, unaffordable, profit oriented, confusing clusterfuck of a healthcare system like ours,  why haven’t we adopted it?

Because “socialism.”

Why are we so afraid of socialism?

Many Americans (especially Republicans) are terrified of socialism.   I think they don’t understand what socialism actually is.  They think it’s communism, or Naziism, or fascism, or something to do with the old Soviet Union and the Cold War.

Democratic socialism (or social democracy) is a system of government in which there is a free market and capitalism, but unlike our system, there are regulations and laws that keep corporations from exploiting the people.    People in social democracies are actually more free to start businesses of their own, because they don’t have to worry about being without healthcare while their fledgling business is first getting established.  People also earn more (and get unemployment benefits, and sometimes even a guaranteed minimum income) so they are more likely to have the capital to start a business of their own.   In America, most people are slaves to their jobs, and can’t leave because they can’t afford to lose their healthcare or paycheck.   They also have no protections from employers who want to exploit them due to “right to work” laws that  benefit the employer, not the worker; and the busting up of unions, which used to protect workers from exploitive employers and guarantee a living wage.

Postwar prosperity and socialism.

Most people would agree that America’s most prosperous years were the two decades following the end of World War II.    That postwar prosperity and optimism petered out by the 1970s (Watergate added a pervasive distrust of government to the mix that has only grown worse ever since), but in the 1980s and 1990s, America experienced somewhat of a resurgence under the optimism of Reaganism and the centrist, almost conservative fiscal policies of Bill Clinton.  But unlike the postwar years, a family was unable to live on just one income unless they were wealthy.  By the 1980s,  women had entered the workforce in large numbers and the now politically active religious right had begun to bleat and screech about “diminishing family values.”

Conservatives love to wax nostalgic about the Fifties — a time when families were strong and women stayed home and raised children while their husbands worked.   If women worked, they were usually teachers, nurses, librarians, or secretaries.  While there were always nonconformists and  outliers (such as the Beatniks), most Americans lived this cookie cutter suburban lifestyle.   Crime was generally low, and the gap between the richest and poorest was narrower than it had ever been before, or has been since.

While women didn’t have as many choices as they would later on, and people of color had few rights (that wouldn’t change until the civil rights movement), for most, life was prosperous and America became the envy of the free world and eventually the most powerful nation on earth.    Americans’ new prosperity and our national wealth would not have been possible without the new social programs the New Deal created: social security, Medicare, public schools, Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, and the GI bill, which helped young veterans and military workers purchase homes.  Although single payer healthcare never got off the ground (it was on the table from FDR through Nixon, but for various reasons never became law), healthcare wasn’t generally very expensive compared to what people earned.    Most people could easily afford to see a doctor and private health insurance was not expensive (and was provided by almost every employer, which it no longer is).

1956republican

Returning to the “Good Old Days.”

It always floors me when Republicans wax nostalgic over how great the 1950s were. They always forget one of the main reasons we were prosperous (and the reason why families were able to live on just one income, allowing women to stay home and take care of the house and kids) was because there was a lot more socialism.  In fact, capitalism works best when leavened with a little (or even more than a little) socialism.  Franklin D. Roosevelt knew this, and it was his socialist policies, including his support for unions that helped build a strong middle class, that brought us out of the Great Depression and into the prosperity of the postwar era.   Most Republicans in the 1950s and 1960s agreed these policies and programs were desirable.   The Republican Platform of 1956 (pictured above) is to the left of even the current Democratic platform.    As a nation, we have moved so far to the right we have become almost a fascist state.

Today,  Republicans refuse to acknowledge the role socialism played in the “good old days” they yearn for so much.  They seem to think that to go back to the simpler times of the 1950s, we must have laws that restrict women’s access to reproductive healthcare including access to birth control.  Four states just passed the “heartbeat bill” which effectively bans abortion after six weeks (in Ohio, it just became law), when most women don’t even know they’re pregnant.   They think that forcing women to carry every pregnancy to term (even if her life is in danger or in cases of rape and incest), and enacting “religious freedom” laws (which are actually the opposite of freedom)  that allow discrimination against groups ultraconservative evangelicals don’t like (LGBTQ or Muslims, for example) will magically bring back an era they idealize.

Oppressing women, people of color, and other marginalized groups will not bring us back to the postwar years.   Instead, it will bring us back to the Gilded Age (a time of great inequality, robber barons, and grinding poverty and early death for most people), or even earlier than that.  The bottom line is that people who think this way care only about controlling women and keeping people of color “in their place.”   They don’t care about prosperity or a good life for most.

If we are ever to get back to the kind of prosperity we enjoyed in the 1950s and 1960s, we have to get over our fear of socialism, and expand beneficial government programs such as Medicare, Social Security, the public school system, infrastructure, and other public works that benefit the common good.  We need to introduce single payer healthcare like other developed countries did decades ago.   We need to bring back unions which protect workers and their families.

Finally, we need to raise taxes on the rich.  In the 1950s, the rich were taxed at 90%!   That sounds excessive, but it really isn’t.  A wealthy person will still be rich even if most of their wealth is paid through taxes to benefit the community.  In an ethical and empathetic society, the wealthy don’t mind paying taxes for the common good.   Rich people in other countries don’t mind.   We never used to either.   When the rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes, they don’t create new jobs, as we are told they do.    Instead, they buy back their own stocks, and they can literally buy politicians and political parties whose agenda benefits them the most.  Inequality increases, and everyone else’s quality of life declines.  Fascism begins to creep in.

Our empathy deficit.

At its core, the problem with America is a severe empathy deficit.  Greed and selfishness got the upper hand due to Reagan’s policies and tax breaks for the wealthy in the 1980s. Those who benefited the most and became rich (or richer) liked their newfound wealth so much they wanted more.  And more, and more, and more.   Demonizing the poor (and later, even the middle class) became a way to rationalize their insatiable greed, and to do so, they had to sacrifice empathy.   The utter heartlessness and cruelty of Trump’s America is the end result.

I’ll take democratic socialism any day over the kleptocratic near-fascist state we are now living in.   But democratic socialism (and really, any kind of democracy) requires empathy and a desire to contribute to the greater good.  We need to get back to that.  The lack of empathy is anathema to life and could lead to the end of humanity, not just the end of America.

*****

Further reading:

The Benefits of Socialism

The most chilling book I have ever read (book review: Democracy in Chains)

This is a book everyone who cares about saving democracy in America needs to read, so I’m reposting this review I wrote in September 2017.

If you do read it, don’t expect to get much sleep. It’s as scary as anything Stephen King ever wrote, but is based on extensive research. I have seen some of its predictions come to pass, and so have you.

A similar book is Dark Money by Jane Meyer. I have read that too, even though I didn’t review it.

Lucky Otters Haven

democracyinchains

I just finished reading Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy McLean.    This book was as creepy as anything Stephen King ever wrote, but it isn’t a horror novel or even fiction.   It’s a well-researched expose of how America lost its way — and it started a lot earlier than you thought.   It also wasn’t an accident.  Everything up to and including public attitudes about democracy and the rightward shift of both parties was planned down to the smallest detail decades ago.

It all started innocuously enough with an ultra-conservative economist named James McGill Buchanan in the early 1950s.    Buchanan was a libertarian who believed that the New Deal, labor unions, and the social safety net were assaults on true freedom  (to him and others like him, “freedom” meant the right of property owners to keep all…

View original post 1,420 more words

The Year of Fascism: Ten Lessons We Should Learn from 2018

fascistamerica

I just finished an article that is both profoundly depressing and profoundly eye opening.    I won’t summarize it here.  Just read it.   I think the writer (Umar Haque) nailed what happened to us in a way no one else has.

Fascism came to America in 2018.  And most of us still won’t admit it.  We still think, “it can’t happen here.”  But it already has.   Until we admit we have become a fascist nation, things will continue to get even worse.

The cure for fascism is almost ridiculously simple: restore the middle class.  There’s a simple way to do this.  But will America ever admit it failed its middle class and humble itself enough to do what needs to be done to restore the middle class?  I wonder.

The Year of Fascism; 10 Lessons We Should Learn From 2018 

The Narcissism of Capital

Here is an incredibly insightful post I wish I’d written. The author explains how unregulated, uncontrolled capitalism and the societal abuse and cruelty inherent in such a political system (America is such a society) is actually an abusive, predatory relationship taken to the macro level, with the callous, corrupt, and often cruel leaders standing in for narcissistic parents and other abusers. I’ve made this same connection myself in some of my own articles about Trump, authoritarianism, and malignant narcissism/sociopathy, but this article seems to explain it even better than I could.

Before you read the article though, let me point out that I use a less broad brush to paint the politicians the author names as narcissists or sociopaths. For example, while Hillary Clinton and Obama certainly have narcissistic traits (which are probably necessary to be successful in politics or be taken seriously in such a high profile endeavor), I do not believe either of them is a sociopath or a malignant narcissist. If they are narcissists (and they may well be), they are of the more benign type. Obama in particular has shown he possesses at least normal levels of empathy, which I don’t think is faked. In my memory, the only president I can recall who was definitely not a narcissist was Jimmy Carter. Because of that, he wasn’t a very effective president, even though he was an unusually good person.

Infinite Ocean

silhouette of statue near trump building at daytime Photo by Carlos Herrero on Pexels.com

Introduction

In my analysis of the 1944 film adaptation of Gaslight, I discussed something I called ‘political gaslighting‘: in abusive interpersonal relationships, the abuser fabricates, denies, and distorts the truth to disorient the victim; I argued how the super-rich, as well as the politicians and the media who work for them, also do this lying and disorienting, but to the public. I’d like to expand on those ideas here.

We all know about how emotional abuse can happen in families, school, the workplace, and online; that’s psychological abuse on the ‘micro’ level. Now, let’s discuss it on the ‘macro’ level, how it exists on the geopolitical level, for this is, no doubt, a far greater problem.

Many parallels can be seen in the comparison of narcissistic abuse and class conflict. The fact that Donald Trump is as obvious a narcissist as…

View original post 3,053 more words

My extremely unpopular opinion.

hiding

I expect to get trolled or unfollowed for this, but so be it.

I have a very unpopular opinion.  Some may call it Marxist or un-American (but in my opinion, it’s no more un-American than what’s going on right now in our government.).

Here it is.  Capitalism run amok (without controls and regulations to keep its excesses at bay) is worse than communism.  Unfettered capitalism is purely predatory.   It always leads to fascism.

Granted, communism is a terrible way to run a government (and has fallen out of favor in the developed world) because it’s extremely authoritarian and allows no real freedoms, no private property, there’s always the risk of food and other shortages, since the government, rather than private business, supplies everything.   But at least everyone has access to a first rate secular education (including higher education) and healthcare.  Those may be its only advantages but it least it has them.   The outcomes of communism have been terrible because it’s an ideology that just doesn’t work.    But neither does unregulated capitalism (except for corporations and the very wealthy).

If you look at the reasons why each ideology exists, communism at least had origins more noble and humane than the motive of pure greed that fuels capitalism.    Its core belief is that everyone is equal.  In the real world, of course, it doesn’t work, and communist governments always become corrupt with the leaders exploiting the populace and creating massive human suffering.   But unregulated capitalism is even worse because it’s basically a neofeudal system based on pure greed and the lust for power.  Without regulations put in place to protect the populace from its excesses, it rewards only the most predatory and sociopathic people, while exploiting everyone else and destroying the environment.    It punishes the most vulnerable and those with empathy while rewarding only people who have no issues exploiting others for their own gain.

So, as bad as communism is (was?), unregulated capitalism/neofeudalism like we’re heading toward here in America under Trump and the GOP is worse because it leads to fascism.  It leads to the oppression and the removal of basic rights and freedoms every bit as bad as those associated with communism.   It thrives on predation of the vulnerable and is therefore sociopathic and more evil than communism. There, I said it.

In my opinion, democratic socialism like they have in Scandinavian countries is the most ideal way to run a government.   People living in these countries score highest on the happiness index (even in spite of the endlessly dark and cold winters, which itself leads to depression and suicide), they have the longest life expectancy and the best health, there is the least inequality, and their people are far more likely to be prosperous then elsewhere (even though these aren’t the richest or most powerful nations).  Maybe such a system can only work in small countries with relatively homogenous populations though.

Short of that, humane democratic capitalist (capitalism can be balanced with enough socialism to make it humane and respectful of the earth — it used to be that way here, too) governments like Canada’s, that at least recognize the basic humanity of all its citizens, work best for average human beings.  Western Europe and most developed countries recognize this fact.  But in America, probably due to the Cold War, people are still terrified of the “S” word.  If they educated themselves on what it actually means (some people think the Nazi Party was socialist because it had the word in its full name — but it was actually fascist and not socialist at all) and stopped associating it with communism (which it isn’t), perhaps they would stop being so afraid of it.

*****

Further reading:

The Benefits of Socialism

 

 

Does unrestrained capitalism restore feudalism?

This post is intriguing. I absolutely agree that unrestrained capitalism eventually leads to feudalism. I definitely want to read the book “Capital” now.

The benefits of socialism.

Twenty or even ten years ago, if you mentioned single payer healthcare, even to Democrats, people would look at you like you had three eyes.  Single payer healthcare, in case anyone doesn’t know, is the system the rest of the developed world enjoys — one that is more efficient, costs everyone less, covers everyone, is less complicated, and is far more humane than our profit-based system that relies on middlemen (the insurance companies) who interfere with and undermine the doctor-patient relationship (because they exist not to keep people healthy, but solely to make a profit off human misery — which is inherently immoral).  No one in the developed world envies our unnecessarily complicated, cruel, mercenary, immoral, and unfair “healthcare” system, in which the quality of care you receive (or if you receive any at all) depends on how much you can afford to pay.

But in 2017, things have changed.    Recent polls show that a majority of Americans (52%) support single payer healthcare, with 69% of Democrats, and 35% of Republicans supporting it (not a majority, but still pretty impressive).  Even CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations are beginning to wake up to how single payer would benefit them by freeing them of the obligation to provide healthcare to their employees or pay a penalty if they don’t.

As the hardline (“Freedom Caucus”) Republicans and the Trump administration double down on their efforts to repeal and replace Obama’s signature achievement (his attempt to make healthcare more affordable for more people), many people are finally waking up to the fact that single payer is really the only option we have left — and the only option that will actually work.   Obamacare is definitely an improvement over nothing at all and now more Americans are covered than were before 2010, but since it was originally a Republican plan developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation (and later used by Mitt Romney for his Massachusetts constituents), it still is based on a system of delivery where healthcare is funneled through profit-oriented insurance companies instead of the government, as it is in all other developed countries.

Now that Senator McCain has said he will vote “No” on the latest incarnation of Trumpcare (which means “no-care” to most of us), the GOP Senate is in full panic mode.  They’re so desperate for a win that they are trying to scare people into supporting their abomination of a bill.  Their latest scare tactic is to scream about “Berniecare” (a reference to Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill) being socialism and how it will destroy America.   They incorrectly insist that the ACA is a step toward socialism and a slippery slope to complete government control over our lives and everything we do.  They tell us that any kind of socialized healthcare or any socialism at all will lead to dictatorship and the removal of all our freedoms and the death of free enterprise.  They say that the only way to “freedom” is to kill the ACA and go back to the bad old days of having no healthcare plan at all where “personal responsibility” (code for ability to pay) was the only factor that decided whether you would receive care or not.

But they are gaslighting and projecting onto us.   It’s almost laughable how hypocritical these claims are.  It’s ironic that the party that is screaming about dictatorship and loss of freedom is the same one whose president is an intolerant, fearmongering demagogue who displays all the signs of being a budding dictator, who discredits and wants to silence the free press, who encourages police brutality and the militarization of police departments, who is backed by a party that is trying to roll back civil rights and freedoms, as well as consumer protections and protections for the environment. It’s laughable that the party that screams about freedom doesn’t want freedom for anyone but the rich, white, conservative, and Christian.   If you’re poor or even middle class, non-white, liberal, or don’t subscribe to a viciously authoritarian and aggressive form of Christian evangelism (Christian dominionism) that believes the “elect” have been favored by God with wealth and power (and aims to replace the Constitution with Old Testament law),  you aren’t worthy and you deserve to have all your freedoms and rights — or sometimes even your citizenship — taken away.

To these “federalists,” freedom means three things:   property rights, the right to bear arms, and “freedom of religion” (to them, this means not what the Founding Fathers — who were products of the Enlightenment and believed in the separation of church and state — meant by it, but the freedom to force your religious beliefs on others using the law to do so).   They talk about “small government” and believe the government should be responsible only for policing and the military (while closely monitoring and meting out punishment for the private behaviors of the people).   Concepts like freedom from harm, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” apply to them only.    If they had their way, they would outlaw any speech, press, or anything else that opposed their draconian, authoritarian, backwards views.  To them, freedom means if you’re wealthy, you shouldn’t have to pay taxes or contribute to the common good.   If you’re a corporation, it means you shouldn’t have to obey laws that require you to pay your employees a fair wage, not pollute the environment, or test products for safety before selling them to the public.

Capitalism works best when it’s leavened by socialism.   Uncontrolled capitalism quickly becomes tyranny.  What we have now is no longer a democracy.  It’s an oligarchy, where corporations are “people” with unlimited power, money is “free speech,” and the very wealthy and powerful are above the law and don’t have to abide by the same rules the rest of us do.  They can pollute, exploit, extort, abuse, and lie to the American people to their heart’s content.   They can infiltrate politics and buy votes.   That’s why the wealthiest .01% have so much power and we’re in the mess we’re in right now.   This sad state of affairs started insidiously with Reagan’s tax breaks for the wealthy, the war on labor unions, and removal of corporate regulations.   Now we have capitalism run amok, with our current government bought and paid for by the wealthiest corporate interests and assisted by an aggressive and powerful group of religious extremists.   Far from being a road to freedom, theirs is a culture of narcissism, entitlement, greed, and exploitation that oppresses everyone except themselves and their wealthy donors.

 

“The definition of fascism is the marriage between the corporation and the state.”

— Benito Mussolini

 

They have gaslighted us all along by convincing people the government is our real enemy, when all along it was the corporate and moneyed interests who were buying our government. Now we have all three branches of government hamstrung by the most hard right of Republicans to the point we are nearly a one-party country.

Think back to FDR and the New Deal.   After World War II, we became a world power like none before or since.  Of course, winning World War II helped our economy immensely, but had it not been for New Deal policies and labor unions that narrowed the gap between the richest and poorest, relieved people from the ravages caused by the Great Depression, and made it possible for young families to buy a home and move into the middle class (and also freed them from the burden of having to house and provide round the clock, at-home medical care to an aging parent thanks to social security and Medicare), I doubt we would have become as prosperous in the postwar years as we did and the envy of the free world.   These government programs and labor unions freed people from the burdens that kept people mired in toil, poverty, and hopelessness in the past, and allowed them to be able to move up into the middle class and even higher.    They allowed older people to live longer, which increased our collective life-span.   Hardliners rant about these programs being socialism, and they are right about that.  But these “socialist” ideas have helped millions of people live freer and healthier lives.

Do you like having a post office?  Do you like having access to libraries, parks, community pools, and museums, which are free to all?  Do you like the national parks and monuments that are the envy of the world and create a thriving tourism industry?  Do you like having bridges, tunnels,  interstate highways (instead of toll roads or dangerous makeshift dirt roads like they have in third world countries), police departments, fire departments, efficient air traffic control, and the assurance that your aging parent won’t have to move in with you and force you to quit your job so you can provide them round the clock care?   Do you like knowing that if your house is on fire, you don’t have to pay a private company to come put it out or watch it burn down and spread to other houses if you lack the money?  If you’re a person of limited or modest means, do you like knowing your child has access to a free public education?   Do you like knowing that the air you breathe and water you drink is safe, and that the food you eat is free of toxins that could kill or sicken you or your loved ones?   Do you like knowing if your area was affected by a natural disaster, that you and your family would receive help from the federal government to get back on your feet? Do you feel secure knowing that there are scientists doing research on deadly contagious diseases that could become plagues without their efforts to combat their spread?  Do you like the fact there are laws that keep factories from dumping toxic waste into your drinking water?  Do you like the fact that companies by law can’t make you work for whatever they want to pay, which might be a dollar a day?

“The test of our progress is not how much we add to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

–Franklin D. Roosevelt 

 

All these things are socialism.  Now try to imagine what things would be like if these services and protections didn’t exist, or if you had to pay a private company or individual to get any of these things.    Not very pleasant to contemplate, is it?  You’d be looking at a country with a quality of life more closely resembling countries like Cambodia, dictatorships in central Africa, or banana republics in South America than to any developed western nation.

Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland are the four happiest countries in the developed world.    They are also countries that are social democracies — which means they combine capitalism and socialism.  There is nothing wrong with capitalism as long as regulations to keep it contained exist, there is progressive taxation (the rich pay more), and there is a general recognition that not everything can or should be privatized.  Some things simply work better and are more morally sound when they’re not privatized and are administered by the government instead.  Things like police departments, fire departments, prisons, interstate roads, air traffic control, and the military  should never be privatized.  Some services (like long-term care for the elderly, treatment for serious chronic illnesses like cancer, and safety and environmental regulations) cannot be adequately administered by private charities either.

Healthcare and education should always have a public option, even if a private option is also available.  In America, we have both public and private education.   The right wing complaint about “school choice” is bogus, since no one is forced to send their child to a public school, if they’d prefer to pay for a private one, but the public option is available for those who choose it or cannot afford to pay for the private option.  And that is as it should be, even though our current government is actively trying to dismantle public education.  As for healthcare, in Germany, you can buy your health insurance on the private market if you wish, but most people opt for single payer.  Socialist policies keep countries humane and civilized, and they counteract the negative, oppressive, malignant effects of unbridled capitalism which eventually lead to fascism and tyranny, as it is right now in the United States.

I think the problem so many people have with socialism is they equate it with communism. The Cold War led many of us to take a dim view of communism, which was an extreme form of socialism in which people were not allowed to own private property and all services were centralized and run by the government.  So, instead of being able to choose a doctor and have the government pay the claim (as it works in social democracies who have single payer insurance), you’d actually see a “government doctor” in a clinic-like setting and receive less than ideal care.   You could only watch State TV or listen to state-run radio or read state-run newspapers.  You had to stand on long lines to obtain government issued food, and of course there were always shortages.  None of these things are the case with European-style socialism.

Some extremists on the far right argue that countries such as Canada with “socialized medicine” require long wait times and that people die before they get to see a doctor.  But this is a lie.     Most Canadians (and people in other countries with single payer healthcare) are happy with the care they receive and knowing they won’t go bankrupt or risk reaching a “lifetime cap” or be denied care at all because they have a “pre-existing condition.”    In fact, they laugh at us for being so backwards that we refuse to recognize that good health is a human right, and not a luxury that only the rich should be able to afford.   If there are “wait times” in social democracies, it’s for services like cosmetic plastic surgery, gastric bypass surgery, or hip replacements — procedures that aren’t life and death emergencies and where there may be less invasive options that can be explored.  In America, of course, there are long wait times too — even for medically necessary procedures in which you are forced to wait for a health insurance company that cares only about profit to “authorize” a procedure and possibly deny it.

Authoritarianism has no ideology.  It can arise on the left or the right.  Communism is on the extreme left; fascism is on the extreme right.  Socialism (or social democracy, if you prefer) is more in the middle of the scale, although more to the left than capitalism.  Extremes of any ideology lead to tyranny and oppression.   Socialism taken to its extreme becomes communism; capitalism taken to its extreme becomes fascism. Both are caused by (and lead to) government corruption and both lead to the same terrible outcome:  short and brutal lives dominated by oppression, hopelessness, fear, illness, violence, and widespread poverty.   Balance is necessary for a system to work, and for a capitalist society to work for all its people, it must be balanced with socialism.   Other developed countries recognize this, and until the Reagan years changed everything, so did we.

Supporters of unbridled, unregulated capitalism like to tell us “the markets” will fix everything, but this is not true.  It has only led to disaster in the past, the most recent one being the housing crisis of 2008.   The markets are not God, and leaving the markets alone to fix themselves only leads to both economic and social ruin.

When people scream about socialism, I wonder if they’ve ever been to western Europe, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand — countries which may not be world powers, and where people may have to pay higher taxes (but not as high as you might think), but where there is more equality, more tolerance of diversity, and where people enjoy better health, live longer lives, get paid a living wage, and are never burdened with the possibility of bankruptcy or being denied coverage should they or a loved one become seriously ill.   Countries where people are generally happier, have more peace of mind, and where there is less hatred, violence, sickness, poverty, and selfishness. Countries where the common good is still valued more highly than power and greed.  Countries that don’t deny scientific fact or the right of its people to have a free education, clean air and drinking water, and basic no-cost healthcare from cradle to grave.

People in these countries can start companies and engage in free enterprise and with a lot more ease too because they’re not burdened with the fear of losing their insurance if they quit a job to start their own business.  They can leave a job they hate for a better one without fearing a “gap in coverage.”   They are still just as “free” as we are, if not more so (and now they are leaving us behind as they move ahead in the global economy because they recognize that sustainable industry that respects the planet and all life is the wave of the future).  The difference is they recognize what real freedom and real morality is — not the fake version of “freedom” that has come to mean “I got mine, so screw you,” and the fake version of “morality” that condescendingly tells us, “I’m better than you, so the rules I impose on you don’t apply to me.”

The most chilling book I have ever read (book review: Democracy in Chains)

democracyinchains

I just finished reading Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy McLean.    This book was as creepy as anything Stephen King ever wrote, but it isn’t a horror novel or even fiction.   It’s a well-researched expose of how America lost its way — and it started a lot earlier than you thought.   It also wasn’t an accident.  Everything up to and including public attitudes about democracy and the rightward shift of both parties was planned down to the smallest detail decades ago.

It all started innocuously enough with an ultra-conservative economist named James McGill Buchanan in the early 1950s.    Buchanan was a libertarian who believed that the New Deal, labor unions, and the social safety net were assaults on true freedom  (to him and others like him, “freedom” meant the right of property owners to keep all their wealth) and who also believed the Gilded Age — a time of terrible inequality and suffering harrowingly described in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle) — was the last time America was on the right track.

Buchanan was relentless in his pursuit of the freedom of the wealthy and property-owning minority (who he saw as more deserving) over the masses of poor and middle class people who benefited from the social safety net, public education, labor unions, social security, and other programs put into place under the New Deal to alleviate the ravages of the Great Depression and improve life for almost everyone.   He also didn’t believe that people who didn’t own property should have the right to vote, because they would tend to favor democracy over true “freedom”  and therefore stood in the way of the growth of an unfettered free market.

james-m-buchanan-2-sized

James McGill Buchanan

 

The cancer on democracy began, like all cancers, with a tiny cell (and a lot longer ago than I ever imagined):  Buchanan set off what would become a wholesale assault on democracy in his home state of Virginia in the early 1950s by attacking public education in his state.  He wanted it to be abolished and replaced with private schools and vouchers (sound familiar?)   But at the time, his ideas were so unpopular they had no chance of influencing the public and were dismissed as fringe or even crazy by both major political parties.  Buchanan, unfazed, realized that stealth measures would be necessary for his ideas to see the light of day.

Over time, he and others like him (such as the Koch Brothers, libertarian billionaires who have funded many right wing causes and played an important role in our march toward fascism) set up right wing think tanks and found insidious ways to infiltrate the economics departments of colleges and universities, thus influencing those who studied economics and the students who graduated from these schools.

In a seemingly unrelated chapter, McLean describes the hostile 1973 takeover of Chile’s formerly socialist and democratic government by a far right wing dictator who destroyed all social programs, gutted public education and healthcare, abolished free and fair elections, ended the free press, and made dissent illegal.   And not just illegal:  many dissenters were tortured horribly before being killed, or mysteriously “disappeared.”   The end justified the means — the end being total power of the few (the oligarchs) at the expense of the many.  McLean’s inclusion of this chapter about a little-known South American country is relevant because not only did the situation in Chile (which lasted for 16 years — democracy has been restored) closely mirror the regime that is trying to do the same here in America,  the Chilean coup was aided and abetted by Buchanan and his cronies — and funded by our government.

Realizing that his ideas would never be popular with the public, Buchanan (and later, the Koch Brothers and others) deliberately planned a stealth takeover, which included deliberate lying to the public,  manipulation of the press, the gradual demonization of democratic values and the social safety net, and normalization of the callous and unthinkable.   Although they hated Vladimir Lenin’s Marxist ideology, they loved his methods, and studied them to find out how they could use the same methods to destroy democracy and install an authoritarian oligarchy in its place (Steve Bannon is also a big fan of Lenin for the same reasons).

These men and their right wing think tanks came up with new ideas for indoctrinating the public through deceptive, incredibly Machiavellian measures that resulted in getting both parties to shift rightward, until eventually, their goals that would benefit the few and hurt many no longer seemed so unthinkable.   They were able, through their machinations and manipulations, to deceive people into voting against their own best interests and erroneously believing government and regulations (laws that protect people and the environment from corporate excess) were the greatest evil we faced.

These men were not stupid.  They were well aware how much human misery and suffering extreme unregulated capitalism and privatization, removal of the safety net, voter suppression, and oppression of dissenters would create.  They saw what happened in Chile — and approved in spite of the vast human misery the extreme capitalist regime caused there.   But to them, the end always justifies the means.   If people suffer, they are necessary casualties of a system they believe is the only one that would reward and benefit only the deserving.   Those who suffer deserve to suffer.

The changes, which had already been going on for over two decades, finally became noticeable in the late 1970s, as evangelical Christianity was co-opted by the far right, which began to infiltrate its theology.  Using religion as a tool to reach the middle and lower classes, most of the South and Midwest could be duped into voting against democratic values and for those that benefited only the oligarchs.    Shortly thereafter, Reagan was elected and the era of deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations began — and is still going on to this day.   But even Reagan proved to be a traitor to the cause when he refused to privatize Social Security, which is a long dreamed of goal and frighteningly close to success.     His refusal to cooperate caused a deep rift in the Republican party between the moderates and the hardline conservatives.  Reagan would be too liberal for today’s far right.

The most horrifying thing about Democracy in Chains is the last chapter, which describes our future if these sociopathic leaders have their way.   I won’t go into too much detail here, but prepare to be shocked by these “liberty first” hardliners’ callousness for human and for all life.   Such a future would make today’s seem like a paradise.   Conditions would rival developing countries (and they are aware they would be but they don’t care). There would be no funds for public health or sanitation, which would cause pandemics only seen in the third world.  The rich would live in gated palaces while the masses would be forced to try to survive in shantytowns and makeshift shelter, since housing would be priced out of their reach. No access to public education, transportation (roads would be privatized also), healthcare, or any basic services at all would create early death, brutality, despair and suffering, violent crime beyond anything we can imagine in America.   Naturally, the lack of access to public schooling (and the need for cheap and slave labor) would lead to the dismantling of child labor laws (which they see as anathema to “freedom”).   Private prisons with no laws against brutality would be the lot of many.    There’s also a reason for their climate change denial. It’s not because they are ignorant (they aren’t) and it’s not solely about greed either.  They actually see natural disasters as a way to weed out the “takers” (those who would not be able to prepare or escape) from the “makers.”  

We are almost there.  This coup is deliberate and well-organized and evil to the core — and is being carried out in the darkness and secrecy because there is no other way for them to force their diabolical plan on the rest of us.   It didn’t begin with Trump, or Bush, or Clinton, or even Reagan.  It’s been the stealth plan of the far right for almost 70 years.   These people do their evil work in darkness and secrecy and the intent is to rewrite our Constitution to suit only themselves.  They are determined to have their way no matter how antisocial or oppressive the means to get there might be.   They are no longer even trying to hide their nefarious (if not outright evil) motives.  This was evident during the recent healthcare bill fiasco, in which the GOP worked in secrecy, without input from any Democrats or progressives, and never even denied their lack of transparency.   Trump is a late stage symptom of this coup and this book is a last minute call to action before it’s too late and we lose even our right to vote or protest.    This is an unsettling but necessary book.

Democracy in Chains is incredibly well researched, with 60 pages of footnotes.  It’s not an easy read, but I recommend it to anyone who cares about democracy and wonders why America lost its soul.

Trump’s budget, repealing the ACA, the triumph of evil, and the rebirth of community spirit.

bigstock-Phoenix-56031092

I absolutely hate Trump’s projected budget, as well as Trump’s Obamacare replacement, which although is nearly universally hated  not only on the left but on the right too (albeit for different reasons), is likely to pass this Thursday when Congress votes on it.

This administration not only wants to repeal Obamacare and take from the poor and middle class to give more tax breaks to the rich, they also want to eliminate (not just cut) the EPA, as well as Meals on Wheels (which help many disabled elderly and half a million disabled VETERANS), after school programs that help single moms, free legal services that help the poor in civil cases, federal grant programs for colleges, the NEH and NEA (both which promote arts and culture to the masses for free or nearly free), NPR (the only place on the radio where I can get the factual news while I’m driving), PBS (how can anyone hate Sesame Street? Really?), and many,many other programs that help families, and the poor and middle class.  Not only that, but they want to privatize public education, making it impossible for the poor or those who live in rural areas to send their children to school at all.  A voucher just isn’t going to cut it for these people, many of whom voted for Trump.   Next I expect they’ll try to repeal the child labor laws.  “Send those kids whose parents can’t afford to send them to school to work to teach them about the value of hard labor,” they’ll say.   “Let’s make America great again — like it was in 1900.”

Let’s stop kidding ourselves by making excuses like “more jobs will be created” and “taking away entitlements will force people to be self reliant.”   Nearly 40 years of trickle down economics has shown it does not work.  It doesn’t create more jobs and the money funneled to the top doesn’t trickle down to the most vulnerable Americans whose poverty, illness, or advanced age is almost never their own fault.   It’s become popular to blame them though for all the nation’s ills, instead of the greedy corporations and billionaires who keep taking and taking and taking and seem to be voracious in their need for more and more tax breaks and perks.     This is typical “blame the victim” mentality on a national scale.  Their greed and narcissism is off the charts and is destroying our country. The destruction or privating of everything good about America, and destroying its people and the environment we live in is exactly what they plan to do.

It’s time to face the ugly truth about this presidency.  I believe this budget (and the repeal and “replacement” of Obamacare) is actually an intentional death sentence for the so called “nonproducers” — the most vulnerable members of society — the poor, old, disabled, and sick.   Remove their only hope for healthcare, then take away all the popular programs that fill in the gaps and help many of these vulnerable people have better lives, keep them alive, and keep them from becoming totally ignorant. Many will die.  Those who don’t die  or suffer with chronic medical or mental conditions will be faced with lives so difficult and painful they may be forced to suicide.  But this administration doesn’t care.   In fact, letting the vulnerable people kill themselves off is probably what they want.   They are evil.   They want people to suffer. They want “the little people” to have nothing.  They don’t even want us to have clean air or drinking water.  They don’t care.

Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will be next.   What will happen to all the elderly, disabled, and sick who rely on these programs? What will happen to the nursing home residents who rely on Medicaid to cover their expenses?  Guess they’ll all be tossed out in the streets and be forced to move in with their adult children, whether those children have the means to take care of them or not.   If they don’t have adult children to care for them, they will die lonely, painful deaths with no one to care.

Yet these same far right conservatives wring their hands and shed tears over the unborn.  Once you’re born though, it’s “bootstraps, baby!”  Your child is sick?  You shouldn’t have gotten pregnant.   Don’t have the money to buy health insurance for your child?   It’s not our problem!

stephencolbert

It’s all because they want to keep everything for themselves.  They decry socialism as the ultimate evil and tell lies about long wait times in European countries who have universal healthcare and other social programs that help their people.  But I don’t know one European or Canadian who complains about having to pay higher taxes in exchange for having decent healthcare.   In fact, every one I know is very happy with their single payer healthcare, and feel very sorry for us that we don’t have it.   They wonder what is wrong with us that we still think healthcare should be for profit and don’t share their philosophy that “wer’re all in this together.”

I would be more than happy to pay higher taxes for single payer healthcare.  I sure as heck would rather pay taxes for programs that help people and cultural enrichment programs like the NEH and PBS and NPR  than I would for a ridiculous, unnecessary wall or for even further buildup of the military and nuclear weapons than we already have.

They say socialism is evil, but they are hypocrites.   They believe in socialism alright — socialism and welfare for the wealthy and for corporations (remember, corporations are people!); but rugged individualism for everyone else.   These people have no empathy.  They have no conscience.  They are morally bankrupt.  Their hearts are black and shriveled like prunes.  You can see it in their hard, cold, dead eyes and cruel smiles.

What they really are trying to do is thin the herd and create a banana republic that cares only about the wealthy 1% and f*ck you if you aren’t one of them.

But there’s a plus side to this.  People will be so outraged if this budget (and the ACA replacement) goes through and these programs are abolished that charitable giving and community spirit will increase to levels we have never seen. Many corporations, celebrities (almost all who are liberals), and other compassionate wealthy people (they do exist!) will set up funds to fill the vast hole left by the Republicans or to fund the dying programs so they stay in existence — or create new ones. Grass roots organizations and community organizations will spring up to help their neighbors and fellow citizens. There will also be backlash from the left the likes of which has never been seen before, and Republicans are nearly guaranteed not to win another election.

Within the ruins these hardline conservatives leave in their wake, emerging from the ashes they leave behind of a once great nation that cared about the common people both here and around the world–the proverbial phoenix will rise again.  People will start to take care of each other again, because we will have no other choice.