Friday, February 13, 2009

What is socialism (Baby don't hurt me. Don't hurt me)

Originally posted on the Marx and Coca Cola blog

Recently Congressman Paul Broun (Retardlican-GA) had this to say about the Stimulus Bill:
I see this as a huge leap toward socialism as a nation. It's creating new government programs, it's creating new government jobs, that don't have any sunlight to those programs, to those jobs. It expands programs that are already there. It further - some of the tax relief, I believe and hope the gentlemen will agree with me, actually just furthers through the refundable tax credits a dependency upon government. My friend Star Parker had wrote a book one time that she called Uncle Sam's Plantation. And what this does is it economically enslaves people. And that's what we see happening.
Putting aside for a moment that this is all gibberish (Really? Tax credits are slavery. And "creating new government jobs, that don't have any sunlight to those programs", What the fuck does that mean?) let's explore this idea that somehow any government spending is equatable to socialism (I have a feeling that this idea will pop up a lot over the next couple of years). Socialism, like capitalism, is an economic system, which is the way goods and services are distributed throughout a society. A society can't have to two different economic systems. That would be like a hunter-gather tribe living next to a feudal estate next to a modern factory farm and operating as a coherent unit. Eventually one system would come to dominate the others. While the nation-sate may be the largest player within our capitalist system it is one of many. When governments spend money on goods or services (à la the stimulus) it does so in capitalist market with the other players (individuals, corporations, charities, etc.)

But how is this "socialist" stimulus plan any different from regular government spending? As this handy graph from the Heritage Foundation shows discretionary spending, especially military spending, increased dramatically during George W. Bush's term. Rather it was Medicare part D, No Child Left Behind, or his two wars he used government spending to fuel economic growth (for a good account of how W turned Northern Virginia into a Silicon Valley of lobbyists and defense contractors see Thomas Frank's The Wreaking Crew). George Bush was a Keynsianist in everything except name. But why didn't the free marketeers stand up and decry Bush as a socialist? The government spending programs that are described as "socialist" are school construction, health care for children, etc., in other words spending that benefits the vast majority of working people. Government spending that lines the pockets of the rich is "capitalist". It would also mean that the hundreds of billions of dollars that are spent on defense is not meant to actually protect Americans, but to enrich the few. This idea that social spending is socialism is the view that is also taken by various "communist" parties and the likes of Hugo Chavez. Republicans are just like Trotskyists; no wonder they can't win an election.

So from this we can conclude that socialism is anything Paul Broun doesn't like. For example if he saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and didn't like it, it would be a "socialist" movie. And just as bad as slavery.