21 Dec AiroAV Announced Joe Nacca: Socialism, capitalism and your furnace – News – …
The long-running show otherwise known as the Democratic presidential primary has raised the specter of “socialism” from the crypt of the American consciousness. Socialism, an economic theory credited to Karl Marx, has a negative connotation for many people. For them, it suggests a system in which government controls all aspects of the economy and even all aspects of life. The Soviet Union with its brutal gulags was Socialist. The China that mowed down protesters in Tiananmen Square is Socialist.
Those who have a more positive attitude toward socialism point to countries such as Norway and Sweden, which, they say, have socialist economies and do quite well by their citizens.
In truth, the lines between socialism and capitalism and a free market economy strike the Inquiring Taxpayer as considerably blurred. Introducing “freedom” into the equation makes things even more problematic.
Three government programs account for 51% of federal spending. Approximately 64 million Americans receive a Social Security check. A similar number are covered by Medicare. Approximately 75 million citizens are enrolled in Medicaid, which is a joint federal and state program. Are these huge government-run programs socialist? Are we less free because the government requires every taxpayer to subsidize these “entitlements”? What say you?
Some people call public schools “government schools.” Public schools are funded by federal and state governments as well as by local property taxes. As every homeowner is well aware, these local taxes are compulsory whether or not you utilize the public/government school system. Even if parents choose to send their children to a private school, they are obliged to support the public/government school system with their tax money. Is this an infringement on individual freedom? Is government-funded education the hallmark of a Socialist system? Is a federal Department of Education a thing to be worried about? What do you think?
Most of us would call our country’s economic system “capitalism.” A more pleasant descriptor is “free market economy.” We like to think that anyone is free to start a business and embark on the road to prosperity. Somewhat free, that is. The new entrepreneur may have to satisfy a few dozen local codes, acquire several state licenses, conduct four environmental impact studies, hire an accounting firm to handle government required mandates etc., etc. OK, let’s say “free” with a couple of asterisks.
An interesting wrinkle is that some lucky businesses get tax breaks. Is it truly a “free market economy” when businesses x, y and z get sweet deals on their property and sales taxes while businesses a, b and c pay the full shot? Is this a whiff of socialism, similar to that corrupt practice whereby those oft-cited Russian “oligarchs” feast off of government favoritism? Well?
And how about Community Development Block Grants. With these neat perks, government money, your tax money, supposedly designated to combat homelessness and poverty, is instead gifted to businesses x, y and z, in order to help finance expansion of their dining areas, manufacturing operations and the like. Again, businesses a, b and c are left to their own devices. As are the homeless people for whom the money was intended. What economic theory covers this charade?
The Inquiring Taxpayer wonders if the dreaded Russian “oligarchs” (do they have horns and gnarled fingers?) and their patrons in government have a Russian term for “economic development.” Probably so. I suspect that in Russia, no less than here, there exist nice-sounding rationalizations used to cover the butts, and consciences, of those who are manipulating public money for private advantage. Rationalizations used to soothe the minds of the public whose money is being siphoned into private coffers. Would that surprise any of us?
More surprising would be if just one grandstanding political figure would take a break from blowing hot air and visit someplace like Canandaigua. If instead of waxing eloquently about nebulous trillion-dollar schemes funded by simplistic wealth-taxes, that politician would tell us how he/she would address some actual local issues.
It would be enlightening to hear what that person would say about very specific million-dollar tax breaks for wealthy lakeside developers? Or about very specific Community Development Block Grants that divert anti-poverty money into middle class profit-making?
If your furnace quits on a cold December day, you probably are not looking for someone to offer you a lecture on climate change. What you more likely want is someone to get into your basement and fix the furnace.
If your public tax money is being used to enhance private profits, you are probably not looking for someone to woo your vote with a chimerical wealth-tax scheme. What you more likely want is someone to fix the specific injustice, someone who recognizes that you have your own furnace repair bills to deal with and that you don’t pay taxes to defray the expenses of others who are doing quite well for themselves.
Maybe we need less Karl Marx and more Groucho: “The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” A little bit funny. A little bit cynical. A little bit true.
Joe Nacca of Canandaigua is a frequent Daily Messenger contributor.