Cubans are protesting totalitarianism, not socialism

Whenever something bad happens in some totalitarian government, the right is the first to scream that the problem is “socialism.”

They conveniently ignore all the democratic countries that are primarily socialist and instead look at the few that are run by dictators. “Look how bad Venezuela is!” they scream. “Clearly, it’s because of their socialist policies and not at all because they have a terrible dictator running things.” The fact that most of Europe, Canada and Japan have socialist economies of varying degrees doesn’t convince them. It has to be socialism! It can’t be the evil dictators!

Now, admittedly, given right-wing support of oppressive governments like Russia and what Trump wanted to turn the U.S. into, you can sort of understand their obsession of finding another reason for a country’s failure than authoritarianism. But mostly it’s just a misunderstanding of the distinction between a government and its economy.

(Current protesters in Cuba, who have specifically said it’s the dictatorship they are protesting, not socialism. Not that facts matter to the right.)

Here’s a very short abbreviated version of the difference:

Economic

Capitalism.  This is where the market decides and government stays out of it.  No minimum wage, no health inspections, no laws against discrimination, no regulations on business at all.  This doesn’t work, because you end up with the powerful running everything, destroying the economy, and keeping people in poverty.

Communism.  This is where the government runs business.  The idea is that we should all live together in peace and harmony and share everything, and the President earns the same amount as the guy who sweeps the street.  This also doesn’t work, because it completely destroys initiative and any reason to try to improve yourself.

Socialism.  This is where most countries are, where the government regulates business to prevent the abuses capitalism can bring, and provides many services (libraries, hospitals, parks, fire departments, social security, unemployment, etc.) This is the tough balance to meet.  You don’t want to go too far in either direction, and most of the debate in the US is over how far to go.

Political

Democracy.  This is where the people decide, usually through representative democracy or republicanism.

Totalitarianism.  This is a dictatorship, whether individually controlled (North Korea) or committee controlled (China).  Once more, there are degrees here as well as various types (monarchy, fascism, oligarchy).  But the key thing they all have in common is that the decision-making power is not with the people.

So happens is that people confuse the economic with the political.  The Soviet Union was a communist country but was also a totalitarian country. Cuba has a socialist economy but is a dictatorship. It is possible to have a democracy that is communist if the people vote for it, and it’s also possible for a totalitarian capitalist country.

It’s even more confusing when countries lie about themselves.  Just because you call yourself “the Democratic Republic of Vietnam” doesn’t mean you are a democratic republic, any more than China is the “people’s republic.” The Soviet Union was indeed a communist country, but it was a corrupt one because you know perfectly well that not everyone shared equally in that society.

So whenever some right-wing fool tries to blame terrible conditions in a country on “socialism,” take it with a grain of salt. Could socialism be part of the problem? Sure, if poorly managed. So can capitalism. But when the real reason is a terrible dictatorship, you don’t have to ignore that to find a scapegoat you’re more comfortable with.

The new economy means you have to pay reasonable wages

I’ve seen plenty of right-wing talking points recently about lazy people not taking jobs because unemployment benefits are better.

Unemployment benefits don’t even get people out of poverty, so what does that say about the salary you’re offering?

“But I’m offering a decent wage,” the employer says. Well, obviously not, if you can’t find workers.

The economy has changed. Many workers (who you may have called “essential”) died in the pandemic, and many more have decided that if they’re essential, maybe they should get paid accordingly. There are more jobs than people who need them. (Hey, maybe all those “immigrants coming here for our jobs” isn’t a bad thing after all, hm?)

What makes me shake my head more is the realization that the ones complaining about it are the same ones who talk about how great capitalism is and how the “free market” should decide the economy. Well, the free market is now demanding that you pay your employees a decent wage.

While on one hand, I can feel sorry for those mom-and-pop neighborhood stores that have it harder, this is just a cost of business, like when your rent goes up or the cost of materials increases. People’s value should go up with inflation just like everything else.

But the main thing that bugs me about it is when I see huge corporations complaining about it. The WalMart family could pay every employee $25 an hour and still remain billionaires. There comes a point where you cannot feel sorry for the Bad Guys who put workers in slave-like conditions with as few benefits as possible when they’re so rich they could make a real difference in those people’s lives but choose not to for their own selfish reasons. There’s no way to make that admirable, in my book.

Unemployment, minimum wage, and employers looking for workers

Remember:

1. Your unemployment benefits come from money from your paycheck. It’s like insurance against losing your job. It’s not a gift from the government; you bought it, you paid for it.

2. If employers pay so little that your unemployment benefits are greater, that doesn’t mean the benefits YOU paid for should be lowered. It means employers are not paying enough.

3. A nationwide “strike” of minimum wage earners is the best way we can force these businesses to treat their employees with respect and with a living wage — especially since they all claimed these people were “essential workers” during a pandemic.

4. If you are upset that some worker will now make $15 an hour and that’s close to what you’re making, then the proper realization to you should be “Geez, I’M not being paid what I’m worth, either.”

The government is giving us $600!

A friend on Facebook recently posted “What’s everyone so upset about? The $600 check the government is giving us is better than zero, isn’t it?”

First thing you have to do is look at it this way: It’s our money. All the money the government has is ours. We can spend it on helping people when they need it most, or we can waste it on more giveaways to rich people and corporations who don’t need it, or to build a wall that does nothing to prevent illegal immigrants from coming here. (Those two things are in the bill, by the way. I am not making this up.)

Stop looking at this payment as a gift. It belongs to us. The government is us, not them. The money is ours.

Second thing is to realize how little this is and how this will make hardly a difference to people who are about to be evicted from their homes. We’re in a national tragedy right now, and the way to solve it (as other countries have proven) is to pay people enough so they can stay at home for a few months and not have to work. The virus only travels from person to person, and if you stay away from everyone else, it will eventually die.

This is not theoretical. Countries like New Zealand, that did this exact thing, is now open again. They’re even having public sporting events. Americans, however, have proven to be selfish (especially when the country’s leader is the most selfish man ever) and that’s why we’re worse off now than we were a year ago when we started quarantining and addressing this issue.

$600 is nothing. That won’t be enough to allow people to stay at home for months. This is a “Let them eat cake” amount.

Keep in mind that the Democrats proposed $2000 a month back in May. They’re still trying to increase that $600 to $2000, but even then it’s just a one-time payment. Republicans have lied and have claimed that it was the Democrats who passed the $600, but there is literally a Democratic bill on the floor today to increase that, and it’s up to the Republicans to do it (which they won’t).

A Matter of Priorities

When we need to go to war; when Wall Street needs a bailout; when billionaires want tax cuts that cost us trillions; when we’re buying planes and tanks the army doesn’t want or need — you never hear these people saying “But how will we pay for it? Think of the deficit!”

But whenever we want to spend money on health care or education or things that will literally improve people’s lives, suddenly it’s all “Not with MY tax dollars!”

We’re the richest country on the planet. We can afford it. Countries much poorer than us do it.

This is like having a family budget and saying “Sorry kids, we can’t afford to take you to the doctor or send you to school, because we gave all our money to our rich uncle and bought all these limousines.” It’s all a matter of priorities.

So here’s the prediction: Not once during Trump’s administration did we hear Republicans scream about the deficit, which has now grown almost to a trillion dollars. As soon as Biden takes office, that’s all the Republicans will talk about.

No conflict

Steve Sack

We know it’s not “free”

Look, when Democrats say things like “health care should be free” we mean like public education is “free.” We all know our taxes pay for it.

Conservative memes that imply that we just want “free” stuff are either stupidly or purposely missing the point. We know it’s not “free”.  We’re saying we want to spend our money — our taxpayer money — on these things instead of wasting it elsewhere.

We’re the richest damn country in the world. If every other major country can do it, we obviously can.

The whole problem is that we instead give billionaires tax breaks that don’t grow the economy as promised, give subsidies to businesses that don’t need them, and spend way too much on military hardware that even the military doesn’t want or need.

It’s not “free” health care any more than it’s “free” aircraft carriers or “free” public roads. It’s our money. We decide how to spend it.

We have the money to do this. We just need politicians who will spend the money wisely.

This is an old cartoon from the 40s from a Russian magazine. Some things never change

No, we’re not trying to take 70% of your income

Why is a graduated income tax — you know, what we’ve had for basically everyone’s life — is so hard for conservatives to understand? I mean, they pay taxes, too, right?

“If I earn $10 million, they want to take 70% of everything I earn!” they scream. No, we want 70% of any amount OVER ten million a year. It’s not that difficult of a concept, whereas the percentage changes with different income levels. If you’ve ever paid taxes before in your life, you should be aware of it.

Here’s how it works:

tax rate

The current proposal raises the rate for the extremely very wealthy, asking for 70% for income above $10 million — which would affect a very small number of Americans. And that’s even less than what the very rich paid in the 50s and 60s. You know, those terrible days when we built interstate highways, provided free college education, and went to the Moon.

Further, Democratic proposals want to reduce the amount paid for those under $50,000 (which is the majority of Americans) which can easily be done if we raise it on the very wealthy. This will help the economy tremendously, because when we non-rich people have money, we spend it on things we need!

Oh, wait. I see now. The Republicans claiming that Democrats want 70% of your income are lying to make people hate this idea. Silly me. Should have used Occam’s Razor to begin with.

My radical, socialist, 75-year old platform

It’s always amazing to me how my crazy, far-left socialist plans would fit perfectly into the 1944 Democratic platform.

Seriously.

franklin-d-roosevelt-and-the-tennessee-valley-authority-act

Besides reiterating its support for “social security, including old age pensions, unemployment insurance, security for crippled and dependent children and the blind,” it called for (and these are exact quotes): “legislation assuring equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex” as well as “a Constitutional amendment on equal rights for women.” It emphasized “that racial and religious minorities have the right to live, develop and vote equally with all citizens and share the rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution” and stated that “Congress should exert its full constitutional powers to protect those rights.” It dedicated itself to full benefits for veterans, support for small businesses, and the tax structure under President Roosevelt of 94% for income over $200,000 (or slightly more than $2 million in today’s numbers). And then, of course, there was Roosevelt’s plan for a national health care policy…

The GOP has done such a great job of moving everyone to the right that when a Democrat suggests things that were mainstream 75 years ago, they seem radical.

 

But that’s socialism!

If you’re poor and can’t afford private school, you get free public education through 12th grade.

“Makes sense.”

If you’re poor and can’t afford college, you get free public college for another four years.

“What? Are you crazy? That’s socialism!”

If you’re poor and arrested, you get a free lawyer.

“Makes sense.”

If you’re poor and sick, you get a free doctor.

“What? Are you crazy? That’s socialism!”

cleese