The downfall of Detroit. Detroit's former Lee Plaza Hotel, closed in the 90s. (photo: Yves Marchand and Romaine Meffre/TIME)
22 September 15
“This country has socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor.” – The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“A basic principle of modern state capitalism is that costs and risks are socialized to the extent possible, while profit is privatized.” – Noam Chomsky
ou are going to be hearing a lot about “Bernie Sanders, the Radical Socialist” in the coming months. So before that bandwagon rolls off down the great American highway let’s pin a little truth to its tail.
Socialism is nothing new in American politics or economics. Of course it’s not called “Socialism,” that would screw up the corporate 1% media’s branding. They call it good economic policy or bailouts or quantitative easing or free trade – but it’s Socialism.
You will also hear a great deal about “wealth redistribution.” You will be encouraged to fear that. You should. Yes, wealth redistribution is a reality and an American tradition, but it never goes from the top to the bottom, it goes from the bottom to the top. At this point the pace is rapacious. When Donald Trump talks about making America great again, he’s talking about the traditional bottom-to-top form of wealth redistribution. Yes that would make America great – for him, and those precious few who share his tax bracket.
Recent painful examples of the nation’s wealth being redistributed from working class Americans to the wealthiest include the Iraq war and the so-called housing bubble collapse.
The Iraq War transferred, by all accounts, trillions of US taxpayer dollars into the coffers of arms manufacturers and contractors. It was in all likelihood the largest and most rapid such transference in history.
The housing boom-to-bust “Recession of 2008,” arguably continuing today, turned American homes into Wall Street commodities. The result was that millions of Americans lost their homes. Wall Street investors got rich betting on the bust, and those who lost money recovered it from investment insurers, who were then bailed out by the American taxpayer. Wealth redistributed – big time.
The conflict isn’t over Socialism, it’s over who should be allowed to enjoy its benefits. The nation’s wealthiest 1% of individuals and corporations do. Everyone else does not, but certainly should.
What makes Sanders’ ideas radical is that he wants all Americans to enjoy the benefits of Socialism, not just the top 1%. So he will be labeled a “radical,” and the average American who would benefit most from his policies will be pressed to fear him. The most fertile breeding ground for that fear will be ignorance, ignorance of course being the anvil of oppression.
Wall Street cares nothing for “the economy.” Wall street is absolutely, categorically dedicated to profit, 1% profit foremost. Whoever gets hurt, gets hurt. In case you haven’t noticed, Wall Street is running the country. Sanders’ radical policies are very unpopular there.
So while your television or other corporate media outlet congers up visions of Joseph Stalin when describing Sanders’ “Socialist agenda,” remember, America has always had Socialism, working people have always paid for it, and the wealthiest Americans have always enjoyed it.
Socialism for working people, maybe not so radical. Want to really make America great again? Do it the way FDR did it in the 1930s. That is where Sanders is leading the 99%.
Marc Ash was formerly the founder and Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.