Feb 032010
Authors: Wade McManus

For the past year now, the conservative right has been screaming of a socialist takeover lead by President Barack Obama and his administration.

They said it would be the end of the American lifestyle, as we know it. He was going to take liberties and our guns.

But Obama has accomplished nothing socialist. Indeed, the only thing socialist about Obama has been his rhetoric. And maybe that is why our nation continues to face crisis after crisis.

Socialism has a negative connotation among most Americans who have the perception that socialism and democracy are incompatible. For many Americans, socialism sounds too much like communism, too much like Nazism and Maoism. But that’s an incorrect conclusion. The U.S. has initiated socialist programs while maintaining democracy.

I’d remind you that all taxpayers contribute to the common good through taxes, which in return are used to build and maintain roads and highways, dams and irrigation systems, elementary and high schools, unemployment benefits and food stamps. Do I have to go on?
Competitive “free market” economics could not operate without many perks provided by our government. The same capitalist economy conservatives often hail could not succeed without these socialist programs.

The problem is, I have not seen much as far as progress goes, especially toward the direction of socialism. Maybe my skepticism is premature; many of my friends have reminded me change takes time.

However, my understanding of socialism is that it provides a social safety net enjoyed by all. Obama’s administration certainly did create a safety net, but one that has failed to rescue the average working American. Instead, it doled out $700 billion to rescue Wall Street, despite its terrible business practices.

The idea must have been the old saying that “a rising tide raises all boats.” Wealth at the top of the social pyramid trickles down to those at the bottom. Unfortunately, that trickle of wealth dried up before it had reached the bottom.

The flow of wealth is dammed in the reservoir of corporate greed. Unemployment is in the double digits and pension plans have disappeared, and yet CEOs are making breathtaking bonuses.

The only initiative Obama’s administration has attempted that resembles socialism is the health care reform plan. Needless to say, it has been an utter failure so far.

Even if it had succeeded in pushing health care reform, creating a system that protected Americans from financially crippling health care bills, we would only be joining the rest of the industrialized world in universal health care. And who considers England to be a socialist nation? Instead, the powerful insurance industry influence won out. And why not when they can outspend any competing interest, deploying an army of lobbyists?
Despite everything, many Americans still squirm with the thought of socialism. Well, no fear because unemployment continues to rise, roads and bridges continue to deteriorate, dams and irrigation ditches are dangerously in need of repair and schools continue to lose funding.

Instead, we have created a corporate safety net –– a corporate socialism, if you will. Large corporations continue to make their bottom line, no matter how many jobs are lost or how many bookkeeping numbers are smudged.

We have taken a step closer to corporate authoritarianism. We have created a political atmosphere where business and government are nearly one and the same. We have created a governing body where corporations win citizens’ tax dollars, influence congressional elections, cripple executive will and apparently guide the Supreme Court.

Large corporations have a hand in nearly every aspect of American politics. It seems we Americans would allow corporate authoritarianism that serves the few rather than demand a social safety net that serves the commons.
Wade McManus is a senior political science major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com. _

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