Monday, February 24, 2020

I had an idea strike me this morning, and while I don’t know how on the nose it is, it’s given a sense of clarity to a lot of things. I’m just getting down and will do more with it, maybe, at a later date. All of this is outside my wheelhouse and has more in common with being an interested student, like if I were writing about epistemological philosophy, Taoist thought or the Many-Worlds Theory. So be patient and hang in.

I think it’s quite evident that we’re in the midst of a heavy freakout by certain parties over the possibility that America might lean towards a more “socialist” mindset. We’re not going to dally with you’re misinterpretations of what socialism is and what it isn’t, if you consider it a pejorative or an objectively “bad thing”. Fact of the matter is, the United States government has had socialistic aspects from the get-go, and if you don’t like it, well, cry more and die mad.

And when I say “freakout”, I mean the Powers That Be and their cheerleaders are absolutely losing their shit at the very real possibility that a self-described Democratic Socialist could win not only the Democratic nomination but also a better-than-average chance of winning the presidency. Furthermore, those economic policies are so popular with a not insignificant portion of the electorate that there are decent-to-pretty-good odds of two candidates sympathetic to what we think are “socialist” ideas becoming the nominee and the president. The numbers don’t lie. Nothing is written in stone but to pretend it’s not a possibility that either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could be our president this time next year is just foolish and not worth the time.

Now, here’s the thing. Neither Sanders nor Warren are the red-eyed, America-smashing commie radicals conservatives try to paint them as. Warren, as a matter of fact, is a fairly classic JFK Democrat and Sanders would be consider “center left” in a sane political system. Everything both candidates are campaigning on are at the very furthest end slight changes in domestic policy and spending that are neither impossible nor will the taxation and spending suggestions their making going to break anyone’s bank.

Of course, conservatives freak out about this because billionaires freak out about this. Michael Bloomberg is blowing $300 million on a pathetically run campaign because he’s worried that if Sanders’ tax plan goes through, he’ll have maybe $61 billion instead of $61.9 billion. Why it matters so much, I don’t know, but that’s rich folks for you. And, of course, conservatives – including the modern Trump GOP, the so-called “Never Trump” GOP, and various and sundry scattered libertarians and other nuts – freak out about this because the only thing that connects all of them is the deeply held belief that billionaires shouldn’t have to give up a penny in taxes and damn the torpedoes.

So, that’s where we stand today and this fear of/confusion over what is and what isn’t socialism could very well decide November’s elections, candidates aside. The “Never Trumpers” have been wailing and rending their garments over the possibility of Comrade Bernie making “The International” the National Anthem and giving black people free Cadillacs that, sadly, they’ll be forced to vote for nasty ol’ Donald Trump because, well, authoritarianism is preferable to egalitarianism. They don’t want to, but Democrats and liberals not bending over backwards to make them happy will unfortunately force their hand. Shame, really, but they’re never responsible for their actions

Now, despite the big goober’s claims otherwise, the U.S. economy is on shaky ground. The long-term effects of the tax cuts and tariffs Trump championed early in his reign are starting to come around. Due in large part to his bumbling over the coronavirus scare, the stock market took a huge tumble today, the largest in over two years. Beyond all that, any claims of a “booming economy” really hasn’t trickled down past the middle class since Reagan was in office. That’s just how it is, despite what we tell ourselves.

Something like 40% of breadwinners in this country couldn’t handle an emergency of over $400 dollars. People having to run GoFundMe campaigns to care of medical emergencies, with how heartrending their story is deciding how much money they get, isn’t a sign of a healthy economy. Rent in most large towns and cities is so high for even middle-income folks that even if minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour, it still wouldn’t make the nut. And, yes, that’s what “minimum wage” was supposed to be when Franklin Roosevelt set it up.

That mention of the 32nd president brings me to my main point. After the the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and Great Depression, this country was in dire straights. What we’re rarely told is it wasn’t the first economic sinkhole in this nation’s history and we all know it wasn’t the last. Along with World War 2 putting the country on permanent war footing, thus completely changing the economy, FDR introduced the New Deal, a ton of new government programs designed to help the poor and middle class not only survive but thrive.

Despite what deceitful hacks like Amity Shales will tell you, it more or less worked. Sure, the reformatting of how the government taxed and spent money because of WW2 played a role and not everything FDR put in motion worked, but any legit historian of the Great Depression/New Deal era will tell you that it did way more good than harm. The ’50s were a time of incredible economic growth, to the point where we were able to put a man on the Moon and launch an almost decades-long unnecessary war that we had no chance of winning.

Hey, speaking of that war, it brings us to our next point. By the end of the ’60s, conservative policies and the sinkhole that was the Vietnam Conflict put America on course for another major economic foul up. Plus, ongoing racial tensions were literally setting the country in flames. For all his foreign policy disasters, then-president Lyndon Johnson gets credit for staving off that crash for a bit with the Great Society. Poverty over all dropped from 20% to 12%. In the African American community, it went from 55% in 1960 to 27% in 1968. That is success, y’all, despite what conservatives want to claim.

Now we all know about the fire and passion of the late ’60s, even beyond the Civil Rights movement. The Free Speech movement, the anti-war movement, the Sexual Revolution, that’s all been pounded in our heads by the Baby Boomers who lived and have controlled the media since. But what many of us don’t realize is that the lead-up to the Great Depression and the New Deal was a time of serious social unrest. The protests by World War One vets, the rise of unions and the companies’ brutal crackdowns, the Palmer raids and the anarchist movement, an earlier Red Scare, and so on and so forth.

One thing that connects the issues of the ’30s with those of the ’60s, and I really think it makes a connection to now. That is the popularity of socialism. Before we all learned what sort of awful rat bastard Joe Stalin was, the USSR’s form of government had a lot of popularity among those who weren’t down with fascism. In the ’60s, the Viet Cong got a lot of sympathy because they were making their own rules than allowing themselves to be ruled by colonial powers. Indeed, the U.S. government told Ho Chi Minh to be a good boy and let the French back in power after he’d helped us run the Japanese out of Southeast Asia and it sort of stuck in his craw.

We’ve had a number of recessions since LBJ. Inflation in the ’70s or the malaise of the ’80s. When the banks crashed in 2008 or the dot com bubble burst in the late ’90s. All of those had a deleterious effect on the economy, not only shaking the Dow Jones but kicking the shit out of what the late Molly Ivins called “the Doug Jones Average“. It became harder and harder for normal, non-wealthy people to not only get by, but also enjoy themselves and maybe leave a little something for their kids. My generation is possibly the last that will live better than our parents, and that’s by the skin of our teeth.

And here we are. People are starting their lives in debt because of college prices and we all hope we don’t have to go into the hospital because even the health insurance we can barely afford won’t cover the cost. Private equity firms are bleeding corporations dry, so they’re sending jobs overseas as they’d rather exploit the desperate than pay a decent wage. A lot of Millennials and Generation Z kids have flat given up on what we all once thought was “The American Dream” because, frankly, it’s priced out of their range. The gig economy is about the only way you can eat nowadays and people working multiple jobs or living two families to a property is just a fact of existence.

So, to bring it all back around, we find ourselves in a precarious position economically with authoritarian government enjoying serious popularity. The people who are vested in more than pithy bromides that don’t put food on the table are giving different variations of socialism to maybe keep us all from starving in the street. And that’s what FDR and LBJ did, and to a great extent what Sanders and Warren are suggesting. It’s not a radical change in the paradigm; it’s an attempt to not get ground into cat food.

A little bit of socialism to keep the lower classes from rising up, hoisting the black flag and start slitting the throats of the 1%. That’s why Bloomberg’s running. That’s why so many people who claim to be disgusted by Trump will vote for him come November. And that’s why socialism – or what we see as socialism because we don’t know better – is gaining such popularity with the young and young at heart. It’s sink-or-swim time, and they may have the cops but there’s still more of us than there is of them. It go one of two ways; billionaires could loosen their purse strings a bit or it could get real bloody real quick.

Okay for that. Again, I am neither a historian nor an economist, so I might be talking bullshit. That being said, I do think there is something to this stroke and something we can learn from past instances that were awfully similar. If Trump gets re-elected and Trumpism remains the go-to governmental philosophy, though, I really don’t see it happening any other way. People are getting desperate and crazy shit happens when people get desperate.

Maybe hoisting the black flag won’t be such a wild idea four years from now.

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