Back In the USSR - Where Amerika Has Always Been
By David Sirota
September 26, 2008 - 1:48pm ET
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A number of commentators and politicians have noted that the proposed financial bailout is, in effect, a socialization of Wall Street. They claim that such socialism is new in the good ol' commie-hatin' U.S. of A. But as my weekly syndicated newspaper column today shows, it's far from new. America has always been the United States' Socialist Republic, or Amerika for short. And the problem we are facing now is not socialism unto itself, but our unique brand of kleptocratic socialism - socialism whose objective is private theft.
Since I worked for Bernie Sanders in the late 1990s, I have been fascinated/disgusted by those right-wing politicians and pundits who at once red bait when anyone proposes, say, an expansion of Medicare, yet who bill themselves as free-market capitalists as they vote for gross defense, oil and drug industry subsidies, and for trade policies which include strict patent/copyright provisions that use government authority to rig the market. They pretend that America isn't Amerika - even though we have long exhibited many socialist tendencies - and Sanders himself took to television this week to point out precisely that hypocrisy:
Where we differ with the rest of the world is in our socialism's objective.
In Amerika, we socialize private losses, and privatize public gain. We, for example, are about to socialize $700 billion in Wall Street losses, while continuing to fund the research and development of pharmaceuticals, which we then give away to drug companies so that they can sell the finished products back to Americans at the highest prices in the world. The examples of this dichotomy are endless - and it's clear what has forged it - our campaign finance system. A political system run by monied elites is one that socializes on behalf of those monied elites - and no one else. President Bush could have given a speech a few nights ago and replaced all the language about a financial crisis with language about the health care crisis - and he could have done it years ago. But in our kleptocratic socialism, the only "crises" are those that affect the kleptocrats.
If there is a silver lining out of this moment of economic crisis, it is that we are - finally - having a discussion about this dichotomy, and the immorality of it. The fact that, for example, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) - one of the largest recipients of financial industry cash - feels pressured to try to make sure taxpayers get equity stakes in financial firms as part of this bailout represents some modicum of progress in opening up a wider debate about what our political system is and is not, even if it is unstated progress. Similarly, the fact that John McCain is rhetorically pretending to support regulation - as disingenuous as that rhetoric is - suggests that the parameters of the economic debate are shifting before our eyes.
The question we face on the cliff of this economic crisis is not whether we're becoming a socialist country or not - Amerika has been a socialist country since back when our government handed over large swaths of the Rocky Mountain west to private railroad interests. The question is what KIND of socialism are we going to be - one that values kleptocrats, or one that values We the People? If you want to demand that question be answered with the latter, then sign Sanders' letter about the bailout here.
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