Thursday, March 11, 2010

Call Me a "Socialist," I Don't Care

It dawned on me the other day just how much time the rightwing fanatics and their media puppet-masters, who'll happily feed them rhetorical red meat of any ilk in exchange for their attention when they're hawking their corporate sponsors' wares, have spent calling people names since Obama got into office. In their impotency since losing the White House, Senate, House and anything even resembling credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility or national security issues, and with no other narrative behind which they can rally, they have instead launched a campaign of name calling, especially when it comes to the president: Marxist! Socialist! Fascist!

Upon close examination of the facts, the only "evidence" for any of these (frequently contradictory) claims falls under the "he/she knew someone whose uncle's sister's neighbor's mailman had a friend who knew a communist" category. But name calling remains an action. It's one action that frustrated rightwingers can use to express their anger at having lost power, so it persists. And it's not just the fringes...the Republican Party itself sees the name calling as its ticket back into power, voting to "condemn Democrats for what it called a 'march toward socialism.'"

What's disappointing in all this isn't how infantile people become when they feel dis-empowered (I witnessed a similar meltdown on the left when Bush became president). What's disappointing is how much the leaders on the left seem to care about the names they're being called. Even the president felt compelled to tell a group of CEOs that he wasn't a "socialist." And across the Democratic Party there seems to be an anus-twitching reluctance to actually USE the power they earned through the last election for fear of being called a name (right before they run for re-election, again, that is).

Now I'm fully aware of the power of a meme in the hands of the hacks who run Fox News or the twisted f*cks we call political consultants, like Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove, who'll sell their grandmothers to win a news cycle (I lived in DC for many years and know many of these freaks...and I can tell you that many of them would barely pass as "human" should the test be based on actual compassion), but when you take the time to realize the impact of letting the fear of what a label that sticks might do to stop the Democrats from using their power, it becomes clear that they simply don't have that option. They cannot, we cannot, afford to care.

Especially when it comes to health insurance reform. None of the proposals the Republicans have put forward yet :
Investing in preventive medicine, an overhaul of Medicaid, reduction of abuse and fraud in the Medicare program, supplemental health insurance for low-income families, tax credits for health insurance, and a ban on federal funds being used for abortions.
...will stop the runaway increases the insurance companies are implementing. Bandages here and bandages there might stop some superficial bleeding, but won't help an internal hemorrhaging. And yet, the Republicans, bankrupt on ideas and having squandered their chance to effect serious change for Americans during the previous administration, vow to do everything in their power to stop the reform bill being advanced by the Democrats. And how? By calling it "socialist."

There was a time in America when people were hunted down and dragged before Congress and blacklisted and had their lives ruined because some ambitious sh*t of a politician saw that calling them "socialist" was his path to power. The impact of that period in our history was, in part, to make the idea of being a "socialist" second only to being a child molester in terms of heinousness in most people's minds. Socialism was the opposite of Americanism. It was evil. It was ungodly.

I'm not concerned here with a debate on the merits of socialism, per se. As I understand it, it's flawed in that it disregards a big chunk of human nature. I do feel it's more compassionate in theory than capitalism, but the "in theory" vs. "in practice" part is where I get a bit uncomfortable with it in its purist forms. None of that matters to me. What we need in America, right here, right now are some alternatives to the current health care system that will correct the inhumane ways the insurance industry places profits over their customers' well-being and ensure greater access to health care for more people.

In his speech on Health Insurance Reform the other day, President Obama said:
We've been talking about health care for nearly a century. I’m reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt right now. He was talking about it. Teddy Roosevelt. We have failed to meet this challenge during periods of prosperity and also during periods of decline. Some people say, well, don't do it right now because the economy is weak. When the economy was strong, we didn’t do it. We’ve talked about it during Democratic administrations and Republican administrations. I got all my Republican colleagues out there saying, well, no, no, no, we want to focus on things like cost. You had 10 years. What happened? What were you doing?
There is no rational reason for not acting now. No argument about other priorities holds water. They're all simply endorsements of the status quo. We need to act now. Why? President Obama explained:
Every year, the problem gets worse. Every year, insurance companies deny more people coverage because they’ve got preexisting conditions. Every year, they drop more people’s coverage when they get sick right when they need it most. Every year, they raise premiums higher and higher and higher.

Just last month, Anthem Blue Cross in California tried to jack up rates by nearly 40 percent -- 40 percent. Anybody’s paycheck gone up 40 percent?

[...] I mean, why is it that we think this is normal? In my home state of Illinois, rates are going up by as much as 60 percent. You just heard Leslie, who was hit with more than a hundred percent increase -- 100 percent. One letter from her insurance company and her premiums doubled. Just like that. And because so many of these markets are so concentrated, it’s not like you can go shopping. You’re stuck. So you’ve got a choice: Either no health insurance, in which case you’re taking a chance if somebody in your family gets sick that you will go bankrupt and lose your home and lose everything you’ve had -- or you keep on ponying up money that you can’t afford.

See, these insurance companies have made a calculation. Listen to this. The other day, there was a conference call that was organized by Goldman Sachs. You know Goldman Sachs. You’ve been hearing about them, right? (Laughter.) So they organized a conference call in which an insurance broker was telling Wall Street investors how he expected things to be playing out over the next several years, and this broker said that insurance companies know they will lose customers if they keep on raising premiums, but because there’s so little competition in the insurance industry, they’re okay with people being priced out of the insurance market because, first of all, a lot of folks are going to be stuck, and even if some people drop out, they’ll still make more money by raising premiums on customers that they keep.

And they will keep on doing this for as long as they can get away with it. This is no secret. They’re telling their investors this: We are in the money; we are going to keep on making big profits even though a lot of folks are going to be put under hardship.
The current reform bill may not be everything everyone hoped it would be, but not passing it won't magically implement the perfect bill in its place. Not passing it will only ensure nothing changes for a very long time except our premiums, and I can guarantee you they're not changing for the better.

Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will never hurt us. At least no where near as much as 40-100% increases in health insurance premiums will. If the Turd Blossom Brigade or RNC sees labeling the reform bill as "socialist" as the best way to disguise their lack of real reform ideas, then the rest of us have to say "So what? Call me a 'socialist.' I don't care. Just pass the damn bill already."

Labels: politics


Anonymous an1980cyp said...

oh well,too bad i deleted my blog, ihad written a complaint about an art scene blogger who stopped publishing my comments when i 'revealed' to him (i lied) that im a marxist cause he started being uncomfortable when my commentary included words like 'elites' 'boirjois' etc. I suspicioned his intolerance for 'losers' and thought of getting some sort of verification:) It worked. WHats now wrong with such words I dont get it especially cause his blog does deal with such issues in the art scene (of wealth affecting artists and perceptions) Stay out of politics to be safe, even those with complaints dont want a loser with them ( a socialist). Why do ppl have to hide their ideology so much nowdays, it iss annoying to the extend of thinking if we really can discuss issues and facts freely or we always have to sound friendly to those 'above', grrr Even those above should want this, its part of civilization to discuss issues without fear of being turned into a black sheep by those at the top of powers. The mere effort of labeling those who appear to object or just making question 'socialist' is a sign of vicious intolerance and it is carried on by ppl who sometimes will swear in public how openminded they are, thats when it hurts most.

3/11/2010 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Well, "if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao...." :-)

3/11/2010 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

I have always contended that the Democrats do not need another party against them, because they seem to always become their own opposition party. The lock-step mindless opposition of the GOP has only exaggerated these tendencies in my opinion.

We have a real crisis in our midst, and a government that has become quite dysfunctional. It is clear there is a lot of power politics going on, and gamesmanship rather than trying to do the people's business.

Sure the bill is flawed, but it is a step towards a sustainable healthcare system. We need it to pass.

3/11/2010 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I would love to see Harry or Nancy stand before their respective houses and declare "you can call it 'socialist' or 'Marxist' or 'Buddhist' or 'nudist' all you like. We don't care. The American people sent us here to get this job done and what we intend to call it is 'the law.'"

3/11/2010 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Art O.T. Grid said...

Blue Cross discontinued the Illinois and California services of one of their subsidiaries, Unicare (which was pretty much the cheapest provider in Illinois for people who have to buy their own – don't know about California) last fall and told us all we could get Blue Cross coverage...

So far, the premiums are up about 25%, but they will be going up more soon.

Blue Cross is a subsidiary of Wellpoint.

So, I'm glad the pols are acting like a bunch of kids on the playground calling each other naughty names, while corporate interests use them, and us, like puppets.

Which doesn't mean you're not a socialist.

I'm just saying.

3/11/2010 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Mat said...

"I belong to no organized political party... I'm a Democrat." --Will Rogers

3/11/2010 02:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Socialism is great for the health system, but people abuse of it. People complain in Canada that the wait is long in urgency rooms, and that hospital beds are filling the corridors. But the amount of people who go to the urgency for problems that don't require it
is very hurting. At the moment the hospitals are filled with people who caught a gastro-flu (a relative of mine is urgentologist).
This gastro-flu just gets away within 48 hours with standard over-the-counter medication. But people are scared, and of course they all go to the urgency where it is impossible to refuse someone (not when they are vomiting on the floor).

We already have enough of people having panic attacks which must be verified (because indeed you never know when it is muscle spasm or the heart, and heart problems are frequent), so all the extra stuff that could be covered in any local health care center are very annoying when in an urgency, doctors have constant life-and-death situations to deal with.

Anyways, that was a tiny portray of a socialist health care system for you.


3/11/2010 04:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, Have you thought about sending this piece to the NYTimes? It deserves- nay, demands!- a place on the opinion page (if not the front page).

3/11/2010 05:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Peter Andrew said...

Thanks for the link. Debate is good. We can both agree, I think, that the free sharing of ideas and opinions is part of what makes us both proud Americans.

Your portrayal of our article is not accurate however. You said, "the only "evidence" for any of these (frequently contradictory) claims falls under the "he/she knew someone who's uncle's sister's neighbor's mailman had a friend who knew a communist" category. But name calling remains an action. It's one action that frustrated rightwingers can use to express their anger at having lost power,"

To be fair, our articles on this subject clearly define what fascism is. We then ask if Obama fits the definitions. That's a bit different than a cousin's uncle's dog. Also, what do you mean we lost power? The last time conservatives had any power, Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Don't try to pass GW Bush off as a conservative, he was no such thing.

As for the name-calling, are you serious? Liberals compared Bush to Hitler constantly. Name calling is not owned by one political party or movement. Unfortunately, it seems to fall on both sides.

Anyway, thanks for the debate!

- Peter Andrew

3/11/2010 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Mr. would seem, despite your demeanor, that you're not truly interested in honest debate. You aren't even beginning with an honest recap of the post here in question.

Don't try to pass GW Bush off as a conservative, he was no such thing.

Where in my post was GWB mentioned as a "conservative"? Where in the post or the comments at all was the word "conservative" used until you joined in? I'll wait... (I do love how conservatives NOW distance themselves from GWB...where the hell were you in 2004 when the country needed you???).

As for my presentation of your article, to be fair, within a list of similar articles flinging names I did suggest yours too was limited to the "who you associate with" type of arguments. My apologies.

However, since you've called it to my attention, my actual, more thoughtful assessment of your article places it way below that type of argument in the ladder of logical analysis. You've cherry-picked your way through that definition and Obama's and his cabinet's statements, conveniently ignoring a wide range of contradictory evidence, and can't even reference your own blog accurately.

You suggest that because (as you say, but fail to cite) Hillary Clinton "recently stated that she doesn't understand the two-party system" that counts as evidence toward the notion that Obama is a Fascist. You cite item #107 your own list of Obama administration "scandals" for this statement, but the citation leads not to anything dealing with Hillary Clinton, but rather an item you title "Reid Reportedly Says No Blacks." Maybe that's just a typo (it's hard to tell, I couldn't find your Clinton citation), but your entire list of "scandals" is mostly laughable. As for your suggestion that Obama, via your vague Clinton reference, is for abolishing the two-party system, his campaigning for Democratic candidates in the last election firmly dismisses that notion for anyone actually paying attention.

Finally, and most important to me, you don't actually address the main point of the thread you're commenting in, but rather blow smoke up my *ss about us being both "good Americans" (I know I am, but do not actually know you sir, and therefore cannot attest to your good American standing) and then make the same point I make willingly in my post and act as if I had ignored it.

You write "As for the name-calling, are you serious? Liberals compared Bush to Hitler constantly. Name calling is not owned by one political party or movement. Unfortunately, it seems to fall on both sides." The exact same acknowledgment I made by writing "What's disappointing in all this isn't how infantile people become when they feel dis-empowered (I witnessed a similar meltdown on the left when Bush became president)."

All in all, your comment seems more an advertisement for your rather silly blog (e.g., when what you so offensively call "The Obama Death Count" comes even close to the death count under Bush for the wars HE started, you'll still have to answer for your lack of offering up a "Bush Death Count"). If you have a point to make about health insurance reform, well, I would happily consider it.

3/12/2010 08:09:00 AM  

If you want to know whose interest the Republicans serve, just take notice of what stocks rally on Wall Street whenever they score a victory in the health care debate.

3/12/2010 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger tony said...

For someone who has a stumbling appreciation for American values it has often struck me that immediately the word 'socialism' is used a knee-jerk response,
often adorned with the finest suggestion of a jack-boot accoutrement, takes place.

After so many years of 'reds under the beds' indoctrination it is understandable that it needs some intellectually imaginative effort to distinguish between communism & socialism but now that the C21st.has belted its first decade perhaps a more considered understanding of socialism and some of its precepts is overdue.

3/14/2010 09:51:00 AM  

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