By George Gregoriou
The obsession with the ‘socialist’ Social Security makes little sense in the feuding between the Neo-Liberals (Welfare Liberals), or the Neo-Classical Liberals (Conservative Liberals). For example, the Social Security system has been a profitable system, with more money coming into the hands of the government (from the wages of those who work) than money send to seniors, upon retirement. In fact, those whose salaries reach $106,800 stopped paying into social security. Moreover, the surplus money into the federal government coffers has been used to plug the financial holes (over-spending and tax cuts) the successive governments incurred, spending money like drunken sailors, thereby adding more to the national debt by both, Democrats and Republicans! We were reminded repeatedly during the healthcare debate that the social security will bankrupt the system—financial collapse.
Yet, as late as March 25, 2010, The New York Times reported (front page) that the Social Security System “has a balance of about $2.5 trillion that will take decades to deplete.”
Now, if our social security is that dreadful ‘socialism’, something wrong with that? I never met a senior who sent his monthly ‘socialist’ check back to the government! If health care, education, creating jobs for the unemployed, fighting for a living wage, affordable housing, and a clean environment are ‘socialist’ programs—do we need more of them, or less? Republicans, with support from right-wing Democrats are fighting against such progressive programs, every step of the way.
In my previous commentary I asked, ‘why the big fuss, the war of words, between the Welfare Liberals and the modern Conservatives (17th Century Liberals)? The language used by conservatives, tea party vigilantes, anti-feminists, and their attacks on congressmen (black, white, gays, women, pro-health care supporters) were indistinguishable from those who formed the mass base of the emerging Fascist and Nazi movements, in the 1920s and 1930s. Racism is at the root of the attacks on Obama.
The health care legislation approved by Congress is based on the one passed by the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. To repeat, if a liberal sounds like a ‘socialist’ to a conservative, the likes of “Tea Party” and ‘Sarah Palin’ agitators, he or she has no clue what socialism is, or liberalism, for that matter.
Of course, there is major difference, in perception, between ‘Welfare Liberals’ and ‘Neo-Classical Liberals’ (Conservatives). The former support capitalism, with a human face. It is good for those who produce and those who consume, including those in great need.
Let us assume I am on social security, welfare, unemployment, or disability benefits, what do I do with the check I get in the mail? I pay my rent, buy food/clothing, buy a six-pack [if I were in that situation I would need a case!]. The money I spend goes to the landlord, the super-market, the baker, the butcher, the transportation companies, and to the liquor store. Every dime goes to those who provide me with the means of life. Consuming stimulates the economy—a media event during designated holidays (Memorial Day, Labor Day, Martin Luther King Day, George Washington Day, Spring Recess, (even hare Krishna hare rama) day if there were enough Hindus in the country. It is good for business! It was not a coincidence when President Bush II told the American people, right after 9/11, to go shopping! His message: stimulate the economy; makes things look normal, Wall Street will be happy!
If more money was handed out to the needy, the circulation will be greater, production and consumption will increase—the country will be better off. More consumption leads to more production. There is also a lot of waste—the bread, the milk, the beer, and the food keep us alive. It is also gone, except the profits to the baker, the farmer, and the beer producer—they are all happy, making a profit from wage labor, hand-outs from the government, the ad people making profits promoting essentials for life and bad habits, which may be profitable for doctors, nurses, hospitals, drug dealers, even funeral homes!
It seems our Conservatives (17th Century Liberals), Tea Party warriors, and all those against ‘Socialism and Big Government’ are terrorized by these government hand-outs, and for good reasons(!), even though the profits find their way back to the owners of the means of production and others—jobs are created, others are elected and/or appointed in government, as judges, policemen, even prison guards! Why are they angry? Where would a judge, a lawyer, a professor of criminal law (his/her book on criminal law), a prison guard, or a soldier be, to put it bluntly, without crimes, national and international? These are the people who complain a lot! Of course, there are others. The real reason? The philosophical reason is simple: what if the changes, the small steps taken by the Obama administration and the ‘liberals’ (like him) work? What if the appetites of the lower classes are wetted, they increase their demands, there seems to be no end to this trajectory.
Change follows with more change! This is what the Austrian market fundamentalist economist Friedrich von Hayek (a precursor of Milton Friedman) warned, in his book The Road to Serfdom (1944). If we continue along this trajectory, the whole economy will be socialized, and we will have communist totalitarianism! This seems to be the knee-jerk reason why Conservatives and Republicans are opposed to every government reform–equated to Big Government and Socialism!). Real Republicans (with wealth) are not against big government, especially when Reagan gave them 1 1/2 trillion dollars tax breaks, $1 ½ trillion in military expenditures (benefits to the military industrial complex), or using the Big Brother (big government and police men) spying or eavesdropping on ‘suspected citizens’, when violating the peoples’ civil liberties, or cutting back on social services for dependent families, and children.
The list is long. Following the thinking of Adam Smith, Friedrich von Hayek, and Milton Friedman, the Republicans would try to do everything, including governing, through market fundamentalism and a culture of dog eat dog–we are not far from it!
There is also the GreekNews reader who is not a Republican, he or she is not even interested in politics, hates government and taxes! The issue of government and taxes was confronted by the historical Jesus, when he was confronted by his followers who wanted to know whether to pay or not the taxes to the Romans! Paying the taxes meant obeying the ‘illegitimate’ Roman government. Not paying the taxes implied open rebellion to the Roman authorities, and being in the company of Judas, the most popular agitator for such a rebellion! There was no right answer (Greek-Americans recall such a dilemma faced by presidential candidate Michael Dukakis when asked if Kitty (his wife) was violated, what would he do? He was tested on his position on the death penalty (which he opposed!), and he did not say I will kill that sob! He gave an intelligent answer, but it did not go well with the crowd-pleasing expectations. What was Jesus response? ‘Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give God what belongs to God’! That is, pay your taxes to the Romans, and give God what belongs to God! Jesus lost his followers and the Roman authorities moved in to get rid of this potential rebel!
What conservatives and market fundamentalists never understood is that a competitive market economy, with its laws of competition, winners and losers, with more competition and accumulation into fewer hands, on a permanent basis, coupled with the immiserization of the great masses (loss of jobs and home foreclosures) who fall through the cracks of the laws of capitalism (short cycles (every 10 years) and long cycles (every 50 years) is untenable. These laws (economic cycles) and the permanent crises in capitalism, in the long run, require dictatorial regimes, including fascism and Nazism, to sustain the rule of capital over labor. The laws of the market competition and accumulation are also incompatible with civil liberties, such as free speech, protesting, open/democratic elections, and union organizing—would also render capitalism untenable. The collapse of capitalism in 1929 required state intervention to rescue the ruling power bloc in the USA. FDR poured $15 billion to rescue the business world in the 1930s. The health of capital (as in the 2008-2009 financial collapse) was equated by the FDR presidency with the health of the millions of unemployed, lined up in soup kitchens, and for jobs – those who could not buy food or pay for shelter. To save the capitalist system, the liberal state was transformed into a ‘Welfare State’ to pacify the masses, and to avoid collapse. Of course, it was the militarization of the economy during WWII, which brought capitalism out of the Great (!) Depression.
The poor and the unemployed were offered a new calling and a new mission—guns, uniforms, nationalism, patriotism, even trained to kill or get killed. Since it was the ‘Hot War’, which rescued the capitalist system, from possible collapse, militarism was continued, spread globally–the ‘Cold War’, which continue rescuing capitalism, not necessarily from collapse, but for big profits. As Rosa Luxembourg observed during WWI, militarism is not just to defend a country from foreign attacks. War is also good for big profits! This led to President Eisenhower warning the country from the collusion of the interests of the military-industrial complex, a phrase identified with his presidency. The War Racket will appear next time.
*** George Gregoriou, Critical Theory and Geopolitics Professor Emeritus, Political Science Department, The William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ 07030