Darrell Berkheimer: Why does ‘socialism is bad’ myth continue?
“Biden is a socialist,” the elderly woman said to the reporter in a news item I saw earlier this month.
Of course she was referring to Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden, who is opposing Republican President Donald J. Trump in his bid for election to a second term.
So I must ask: If she dislikes socialism so much, is she willing to live her remaining years without Medicare services and a monthly Social Security check?
And if socialism is so bad, then why do we have so much of it?
I wonder how many of our conservative citizens are willing to give up all of the socialism services that we so much rely upon.
Someone I know wrote a commentary on socialism several years ago. And I referred to what he wrote in one of my columns during the presidential campaign back in 2016. But his comments need to be repeated periodically until our citizens realize how much they enjoy the benefits of various socialist programs. He wrote:
“So, we have socialized retirement, socialized education, socialized mail, socialized trains, socialized highways, and in some places even socialized trash pickup.
“We have socialized money, socialized police, socialized military with its own socialized health care, socialized health care for the elderly, and some tender strands of socialized health care for children. …
“As far as bogeymen go, this one is awfully familiar. We get along just fine with ‘socialism,’ actually.”
And what would California be like without socialized fire-fighting services?
But many conservatives – particularly Republicans – push the idea that socialism is bad during every federal election, and especially during our presidential elections. It’s just a fear tactic without any truth.
So isn’t it time for all our citizens to finally realize that our nation operates best with both capitalism and socialism at the same time?
Many conservatives continue to claim how capitalism and the free enterprise system can provide services such as healthcare and insurance better and cheaper than our federal government. And we know that’s not true when we take a look at how some of the other free world countries provide those services.
It’s obvious to me that many folks still have not given much thought to how and why governments can provide social services cheaper. And it’s because governments do not have some of the immense expenses that corporations face. So I’m going to repeat the list I compiled back in 2016.
Number one: Governments do not need to operate at a profit. They do not need to pay exhorbitant or outrageous salaries and bonuses to CEOs and CFOs. Nor do they need to pay stockholder dividends and members of a board of directors.
Number two: Governments do not need to pay income taxes.
Number three: Governments do not need to pay millions or billions of dollars on advertising and marketing, or commissions to sales agents. Think about the billions spent by insurance and drug companies as examples.
Number four: Governments do not need to pay lobbyists.
Number five: Governments do not need to purchase liability or malpractice insurance.
And number six: Governments can borrow money at cheaper rates than businesses.
So how is it that corporations and businesses can absorb all those additional expenses and still provide equivalent services for cheaper?
The real answer is: They can’t.
When they try, they cut corners. And some people, or agencies, who should qualify for services are either denied service, or are not provided all that they should receive.
Doesn’t it make sense that if monies must go to a CEO, directors, stockholders, agents, taxes, marketing and lobbyists, then those amounts can’t go to providing services?
And finally, I don’t want to overlook the claim that government provides more opportunities for fraud and waste.
Does anyone really believe that big corporations don’t have fraud and waste?
Of course they do. But people don’t hear about it as much – partly because it’s kept private; and partly because the news media is much more engaged in serving as a watchdog over the use of taxpayers’ monies.
Yes, it’s true that government agencies will spend almost all the money in their budgets each year – even if they don’t need it all – just so they can request as much or more for the next budget year.
That’s what bureaucracies tend to do.
And why should anyone think that corporation bureaucracies don’t do the same thing?
I must emphasize, however, that I am only referring to government’s ability to provide social services cheaper.
The flip side of my analysis is that capitalism and the free market are the best systems for manufacturing and marketing of products, and for retail businesses.
Most small businesses, especially, operate more efficiently than government. And small businesses are more deserving of lower tax rates and tax incentives because they are the innovators and the top job creators. Big corporations do not deserve tax incentives when they outsource major portions of their production.
Government’s major role in businesses should be limited to regulations for safety, equality in competition, and minimum standards such as those needed for weights and measures.
But when it comes to needed social services – such as retirement, education, transportation, health care, the military, police and fire fighting – socialist programs can do the job better and cheaper than capitalism.
The bottom line, then, is this: Businesses will shine at what they can do best, but governments are the better provider for our social needs.
Think about these differences the next time you hear criticisms of socialism. We need both socialism and capitalism to provide the best society for our citizens.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He has seven books available through Amazon. His sixth, Essays from The Golden Throne, includes 60 columns published by The Union, plus a dozen western travel and photo essays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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