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Thanks Glenn Beck – This ‘Socialism’ Sounds Great!

posted by Paul Raushenbush

It’s been 20 years since the Berlin wall fell and the Soviet Union officially collapsed. And it has been about that amount of time since socialism served as a buzz word in American political life. Now, thanks to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele, Victoria Jackson, the Tea Party brigade, and the health care forum interrupters – socialism is back in our political lexicon and boy does it sound great!

You have to wonder what the younger generation that has no memory or knowledge of socialism makes of these accusations. According to this latest definition by Beck et al, socialism = health care for all of citizens, tax structures that do not constantly benefit the very wealthy, government investment in the auto industry to avoid adding another million or so to the unemployment lines, and the regulation of business practices to safeguard American consumers and workers. Somehow Socialism even crept into the President urging young people to work hard and stay in school. See? Isn’t socialism super?

Already last April, with the GOP campaign attempting to brand the President as a socialist, almost as many Americans thought as favorably of socialism as capitalism. A Rasumussan Report asked whether capitalism or socialism is a better system and 53% of American adults cited capitalism, 20% said socialism and 27% said they weren’t sure. That seems remarkably high marks for socialism.

But perhaps these results are not so surprising when one considers the pass that capitalism has been given while it allows the foreclosure on people’s homes, laying off workers while giving executives big bonuses, and making health care decisions based on insurance company’s bottom line. When will capitalism be a word as dirty as socialism? As Arianna Huffington contended in her own column in December of 2008, laissez faire capitalism should be as dead as Soviet Union communism.

I am not a socialist in the traditional and authentic sense of the word. Nowhere close. My personal attitudes towards socialists and communist countries did an about face when I visited East Berlin for the first time and later Cuba. While I agreed with the ideals of economic equality I balked at the accompanying political oppression. Instead I turned to countries like Sweden, Norway, and Denmark which have marked out a middle way, managing to have a high standard of living for all of their citizens with a vastly smaller gap between the rich and the poor than the United states, while still maintaining a fierce commitment to political, religious, and expressive freedoms.

As a Christian, my preference for this economic and social equality has nothing to do with Marx and everything to do with Jesus. Yet according to those who are defining socialism for this next generation, I am a socialist as was FDR, JFK, Johnson, Carter, all of our allies in Europe and Canada and anyone who tries to give the poor and the middle class a fair shake. So along with God Bless America and Amazing Grace, I guess I better add The Internationale to my hymnal. Sing with me comrades!



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Colson Jones

posted September 14, 2009 at 10:12 pm


I am not right nor am I left…..I am an AMERICAN….and after reading the above comment…I can assure you that I will not be “click” onto this web site again…CJ from Pa.



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marta

posted September 15, 2009 at 2:56 am


Speaking as a twenty-something American, I can say this sentiment holds sway with me. My family lost a child to cancer last year and I have stayed in touch with the kis on the pediatric oncology ward and their family. One of them in remission, his family lost their house partly due to insufficient insurance. My response was, “‘To each, according to his need’ doesn’t seem so damned bad.” And to people like me, for whom the Cold War occupies the same place in our childhood as Disney stories… socialism or communism or whatever is more farcical than legitimately scary.



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hootie1fan

posted September 15, 2009 at 9:03 am


Is the Glenn Beck/GOP definition of socialism/communism anything that might be opposed by corporate fascists?
Just curious



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rpage

posted September 15, 2009 at 10:37 am


When shall we hear once again the prophet voice of God’s justice as the basis for shaping a just society where the powerless are protected, the outcasts are included, and enough for everyone replaces the greed of laize faire capitalism? The creators of the theory of capitalism recognized the danger of abuse and the need for oversight, which is also a faith justice issue. Lets reshape the debate along the lines of God’s justice rather than trying to engage the debate about the shape of our society on the grounds of radical right or left ideology.



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Diana Butler Bass

posted September 15, 2009 at 11:37 am


Excellent, Paul.
Count Jane Addams, Vida Scudder, William Temple, FD Maurice, Dorothy Day, and your great-grandfather among the LONG list of Christians who dreamed, worked, hoped, and prayed for a more equitable political and economic system on the basis of their faith in Jesus–a.k.a. “Christian socialism.” These are my heroes!



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Frank J Goddard

posted September 15, 2009 at 1:24 pm


Rather interestingly you say:
“Already last April, with the GOP campaign attempting to brand the President as a socialist, almost as many Americans thought as favorably of socialism as capitalism”
When I read that I thought wow, where did he get that from.
Then I read the figures (laughably the figures you give yourself!)
53% support capitalism
20% support socialism
Just a bit of mathematics advice – 20% is not almost as much as 53%
Just shows the stupidity of the post!



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David

posted September 15, 2009 at 3:25 pm


Lol Frank…I was about to make that point.
Just for perspective I am a committed neither and don’t mind the socialist tag all that much…but I am also fresh back from the Philippines and solid capitalism is likely the hope of the country. China while it is Communist on the outside has reduced poverty greatly in their country not through communism but through capitalism.
Beyond that tea parties and health care protest are quite American. I support healthcare for all, and believe we can get it done, but the reality is that the plan proposed is awful…so lets find one that works.



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hootie1fan

posted September 15, 2009 at 4:53 pm


What the folks at Fox News fail to realize is that for this generation, communism and socialism just don’t hold the same threat as they did with our parents. Ask anyone under the age of 35 for whom socialism/communism is something they had to read about in history class or a pithy saying their political circle is using as a fundraising slogan about the impact of the Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, the Bay Of Pigs and you might get talking points but what you won’t get is any idea of any real threat.
So go ahead and holler all you want until you are red in the face and spitting mad about communism and socialism. Other that preaching to the choir, you won’t accomplish much with anyone under 30 and believe it or not, they are our future.



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Brian Griffith

posted September 15, 2009 at 5:43 pm


Well, seems to me the charge of socialism obscures the issue. We are not suffering from economic competition, but from constriction of competition by the most powerful international corporations. As the wealthiest lobby groups, these corporations have won themselves subsidies from public funds, non-competitive contracts, exemptions from taxation, etc. We need to replace “crony capitalism” with equal-playing field competition, which is the real capitalism.



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Nat Ersoz

posted September 16, 2009 at 12:44 am


I think Americans have a strong sense of fairness, both in a static historical sense and a sense that comes with a moving average as well. Contrary to someone who thinks that all truth is absolute and that the earth is flat:
Psalm 24 “…founded upon the seas and established upon the rivers…”
Americans are mostly pragmatic. Socialism, schmocialism, Capitalism, Shcapitalism. Ask those screamers “In which stage of Adam Smith’s development does the US currently find itself? or “How would Adam Smith reconcile global capital flow and labor with an affluent service based first world economy?”
I know what they would say: “COMMUNIST! SOCIALIST!” What I think they might really mean is “MUSLIM!”, “BLACK MAN!”, “JEW!”. Its all the same tribal epithet underneath. It is the anger which leads to murder. It is the anti-Christ.
Hoping to engage in some constructive criticism:
President Obama has done a “less than I had hoped for” job in managing the economy. I do not consider the auto industry bailout a positive. Sometimes well meaning compassion can be destructive. Those tens of billions of dollars could fund SO many more better and new ideas. The problems of GM are systemic. They are the result of decades worth of mis-management and neglect. The one positive of the auto mess is that Saturn is now free of GM sabotage. Free to innovate, free to develop products, free to be a competitor.
An interesting Bank of America article underlying the business as usual processing of the banking crisis: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/15/AR2009091503498.html
Still, Americans are optimistic with Obama, because they are fundamentally optimistic with themselves. Most people I know, while critical of the President on specifics, do not consider him a puppet on a string nore a fool. They do not think that he will pull an Iraq war on them. They do not think of Health Care reform as “evil” or socialism.
What they do understand is a $12K/year bill that their employers are carrying and they know that there is a cost to be paid here. This cannot go on forever, because most people know their services most not be worth quite that. This drain on payroll hurts innovation, it hurts their company’s bottom line, and is for many, unsustainable. They know that some day in the near future, or even now, the employer is going to say “enough”. While CIGNA anmd UNH Ceos walk away with hundreds of millions in bonus’s, they will be left as nothing more than Sinners in the hands of an Angry God.
Capitalism, Socialism. No. Pragmatism. Americans are and always will fundamentally be pragmatic. The right wing lunatic fringe: Beck Hannity, Coulter, etc. need to be competitively ignored. Obama laid the plan out in his speech: If you have something constructive to say, then say it. Otherwise STFU.
Now he needs to execute the plan. What people are looking for is pragmatism that yields tangible positive results. That is all.



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Jeremy O

posted September 16, 2009 at 12:24 pm


For the hootie1fan and others that think socialism and communism are ‘not so bad’- I implore you to think with your head about what you are saying and maybe even take a economics course. Who would’ve ever thought that when we were 13 small colonies, that we would ever become the world’s most prosperous nation? It is because we are a free market economy that the poorest of OUR poor, are in many ways richer than the richest of many other nations operating under socialist ideologies. If you are broke and penniless, and walk into a hospital with a gunshot wound in the USA, you will be treated and released. In many countries, you will be left outside to die. If you are cold and hungry here, you can find shelter and food and many charitable organizations. In some other countries, well, most everyone might be in the same predicament as you, so you will just have to starve. You that are here reading this on a computer, have all that you do because your ancestors had a dream of freedom and liberty and worked hard to get where we are today. I am so thankful we live in a free nation. In a socialist nation, I won’t be inclined to work hard (if at all) if everything I do is just taken from me. I’d rather be the judge of who I am charitable with and how I manage my resources.



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Sandra

posted September 16, 2009 at 12:48 pm


What all your examples of “socialism” have in common is that they are all dictatorships or other closed societies. What about democracies today which elect and defeat democratic socialist parties into and out of governments around the world? Most of these parties were started by churches, labour unions, and farmers during the 1930′s. Many times some of the socialist changes they make are retained by successive conservative governments because (like universal healthcare in Canada and the UK) they are too popular and efficient to abolish. Crown corporations like the Post Office,or, for example, where I live, Autoplan which provides automobile insurance in BC since 1973, provides insurance more cheaply than elsewhere, and has unique advantages for its customers. No provincial government has suggested inviting in private insurance companies.
The McCarthy era still leaves scars on America, and since Americans don’t look beyond their borders, or don’t care whst works for Christians, and others, elsewhere, socialism may contine to be whatever Beck and Limbaugh wish it to mean.



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James

posted September 16, 2009 at 1:07 pm


It is because we are a free market economy that the poorest of OUR poor, are in many ways richer than the richest of many other nations operating under socialist ideologies.
Except that the major changes in the welfare of “the poorest of OUR poor” came under the administrations of FDR and LBJ – who took considerable steps to rein in laissez-faire free-marketeerism and regulate the unfettered greed of corporate interests.
If you are broke and penniless, and walk into a hospital with a gunshot wound in the USA, you will be treated and released. In many countries, you will be left outside to die.
That has nothing to do with free-market capitalism. In fact, that proves the opposite of your point – as hospital emergency rooms are required by law to treat everyone in an emergent/life-threatening situation, regardless of his/her being able to prove at the moment that he/she can pay for the treatment. In a free market, hospitals would be able to choose whose gunshot wounds to treat based on the likelihood of their getting payment for the services they render – and, based on the cost-profit calculus that underlies all for-profit business, would be all too happy to leave the poor outside to die.
If you are cold and hungry here, you can find shelter and food and many charitable organizations. In some other countries, well, most everyone might be in the same predicament as you, so you will just have to starve.
Except that there are people suffering from starvation and malnutrition in this country, and there are things we could be doing as a society to change our system so that everyone can find a job and provide for him- or herself, rather than relying on the charity of others. There are injustices here.
I’d also question the use of the word “charity” there. It isn’t charity to feed the poor and clothe the naked – it’s justice. As in, if you aren’t doing that, you’re sinning. If your church isn’t doing everything it can to make its community, its city and state, its country, and its world a more economically just place – if your church isn’t actively engaged in redistributing wealth from the rich of the church to the poor of the world – it’s sinning. Calling it “charity” makes it optional. Justice isn’t optional, it’s required.
But it would seem that many churches in the United States are more concerned about building giant projection screens and movie theatre seating – and about telling their congregations that it’s totally OK to get a plasma TV, a bigger house, and a new SUV while people in their own cities are hungry and cold – than they are about things like justice. The evangelical movement in particular needs an injection of prophetic voices and social justice to overcome the insane and quite heretical selfishness and consumerism that forms much of the American credo. It is they – not the social-justice mainline churches – who have capitulated to culture in a deeply heretical and sinful way.



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Your Name

posted September 16, 2009 at 4:38 pm


Except Jeremy O I never said that socialism and communism as officially defined aren’t that bad. Pithy slogans bought and paid for by lobbyists don’t count. Theses movements just don’t hold the same threat for the generation that is coming into power as it is for those in Glen Beck’s age group. Talk to them about Islamic radical they understand, but the red menace not so much.
As for healthcare whether you judge the standard by life expectancy, infant mortality, per capita expenditures, medical tourism to other countries, the system in the United States comes up short in ways are simply unacceptable. We have a higher infant mortality rate than Cuba, a lower life expectancy than France, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Japan all of which have some sort of nationalized healthcare and in 2008 it’s estimated that over 1 million US citizens traveled to foreign countries for medical care and they weren’t all going to Brazil for breast implants. The US does all of this while spending more, far more, per capita than any other country in the world.
I’ve been to Europe. The health care in the UK & France aren’t perfect, but then it won’t drive their citizen into banruptcy court either.



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JWAT

posted September 16, 2009 at 6:43 pm


Does the guy who wrote this article even watch the numerous conservative commentators he mentions, or did he just copy and paste from a list provided by the Huffington Press? Just wondering.



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DJ

posted September 17, 2009 at 2:02 am


Oh, so communism and socialism just are not so threatening to the younger generation. Therefore bring it on? I always knew “Progressive” was code for socialist. But when the truth gets out about Progressive that term will also need a substitute.
For those of you who think the most Christian thing we can do is confiscate from the “wealthy” and give it to the poor,well, do you think the wealthy are stupid? Why would you or I work if 85% of our earnings are confiscated by government(like Sweden, Norway etc.) in the name of equality and given away to those defined as poor by that same government. I strongly suggest you read “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. The entrepreneurs, inventors, earners, will not be enslaved. They will become takers or flee. And as a Christian (who actually believes in the deity of Christ) I do not see a biblical call for government mandated economic equality. I see a call for individual acts of charity and caring. But liberation theology has such a romantic hold on the progressives, I waste my breathe.



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Marlene

posted September 18, 2009 at 10:15 am


I am new to this site and I would encourage all of the readers to pray for the president and the USA. “Call things that be not as though they are”. There is so much negativity and hate in the name of “…” against this man. We are Christians not Jesus ourselves and neither is the president. How about Father in the name of your precious Son, Jesus Christ we ask that you fill our hearts with the right motives and remove the wrong motives. We ask that you order the steps of President Obama to do what You would have him to do. His job is not easy and he is facing adversity only You Lord can calm and turn into something that will give You the glory. Help us to remember as Christians that we must put You first in all that we do. You are an Awesome God and help us to remember that and put our trust in YOU not man, politicians, or fear. For You did not give us a spirit of fear. President Obama is a Christian and is fully aware of the power of Your might. Your will be done! Use him as a vessel to do Your Will. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!!!!!



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Monk21

posted September 19, 2009 at 9:40 am


Why are Americans so hung up on words?
Socialism???
You already have it in your police, fire dept., schools, libraries.
As Canadians, we look at the news and commentaries abt health care in the USA and we can only think dumb, dumb, and dumber.
My perscriptions cost me $1.22 each
A ride in the ambulance in the middle of the night cost me $45.00
Hospital stay, no charge, xrays, no charge.
I chose my doctor, I phone for an appointment and I am in the same week.
Stress test with nuclear imagining, no charge.
Drug companies, Fox news and the rich are trying to scuttle Obama’s plan and Americans let them do it.
The only way my government is involved in my health care is they set fees for doctors and they pay the bills.
Did G. bush really spread his nonsense that far?



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DJ

posted September 20, 2009 at 7:33 pm


Marlene:
Thank you! Your suggested prayer is a breathe of fresh air, and struck a note deep inside me. I feel very strongly about many issues that I feel are critical at this time in our nation’s history, put you are correct. Who is the King? Who is in charge? Who knows the way that truly works? I will take your advise to heart and seek to turn to the Lord first and be patient with my brothers and sisters with whom I may disagree.
Monk21
With all respect, I am glad things are working out well for you. But one curious thing to me is that thousands of Canadians go to hospitals and clinics south of the border in the US. I know Buffalo, NY quite well. It has medical service facilities to serve more than the area population because the business from Ontario is so profitable. I am not questioning what you said, only citing additional realities.



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Monk21

posted September 20, 2009 at 8:35 pm


DJ;
You are right that Canadians go to Buffalo for treatment..paid by OHIP, not by them. Our problem is greedy graduates who go to the states to make more money after they become doctors thus leaving some areas of Canada with a doc. shortage.
It is not thousands that go to Buffalo, but some do and the Canadian system pays their way.
Our system is not perfect, but you have 45,000 people dying every year because they do not have med insurance. That is a Yale study.



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Richard

posted September 22, 2009 at 12:34 am


DJ stated that we should read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” which glorifies greed and self centeredness. (Rand was very much against altruism too by the way.) So do you think that Jesus would approve of Ms Rand’s philosophy? I think not. So why would you DJ, as a Christian, promote it?
I get irritated with conservatives who say that nowhere in the Bible does it say that government should supply health care. That’s true. It also doesn’t say we should have public education or fire depts but we all think those are good things to have. So your point is moot. Some conservatives say that it should be churches and individuals that help those less fortunate and that is true but they don’t have the resources to do what needs to be done. Only government can do that. And please don’t whine about how taxed you are. Taxation proides us with essential government services.
The Bible is just full of passages that say we should care for the poor. So giving health care to those who can’t afford it seems like the Christian thing to do. And frankly I WOULD like to see our country more like Sweden and Denmark. It would be a lot more just.



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DJ

posted September 27, 2009 at 7:16 pm


Richard:
I won’t change your mind, you won’t change mine, so let’s just agree to disagree. I want to respect you, not hate you.
I suggested Atlas Shrugged only regarding the topic of taxing the rich. I think it accurately portrays what happens. The wealthy will shelter their money, ship it oversees, or, if all incentive to work is taxed away, simply stop working. I do not accept all of Rand’s philosophy.
You say we should be willing to pay for essential government services with our taxes. But the rub is that phrase, or should I say that word, essential. One mans essential is another’s excess. And many legitimate arguments exist on both sides. The real question is, at what rate is the tax too much? At what point does it become a disincentive, and we know this does happen.
Also, I would dare say that most people want everyone to have access to health care, regardless of philosophy. The debate is which approach is best, for coverage, for cost, for incentives to quality service, ongoing research etc. And, as many people are now asking, will we lose the good in our present (albeit flawed system) by accepting what is being proposed by Congress at this time. I also think you underestimate the impact of private charity. Granted it cannot cover everything, but it can help immensely. No where in the Bible does it say that the only way to help the poor is through government mandated programs. Rather it states the goal and leaves it for generous people to find the way or ways.



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