This is Socialism? Only in America!

Sandra and I were having lunch with friends yesterday, and I wondered out loud about the swine flu vaccinations being pushed on the public. I don’t share the belief of one of my neighbors that vaccination programs were initiated to kill off surplus peasants and perfect “the New World Order,” but I worry that the swine flu vaccine hasn’t been thoroughly tested, and I am skeptical about the panic being drummed up by “experts.” It makes me wonder who is getting rich from the latest pandemic scare.

labor_dayBut one of our luncheon companions had a different explanation: “Socialism.”  I wondered if she had heard that at church. That’s where a lot of the rage sweeping America is fomented, and one of the religious right’s complaints is that President Obama is a Socialist.

I didn’t say anything at the time, but I don’t think Socialism is behind the swine flu vaccinations. I suspect it’s some pharmaceutical company that stands to make a bundle. And I know one thing for sure: Whatever is going on in America, it is not Socialism.

Not when unemployment is approaching 10 percent, and social programs are under assault. Not when wages are shrinking and home equities are vanishing. Not when so many people under 65  have no health insurance. Not when so many workers are required to take unpaid vacations and so many employers are suspending contributions to pension plans. And not when so many CEOs are raking in outrageously high rewards for downsizing, outsourcing and taking reckless risks that have cost millions of Americans their jobs, their homes and their retirements.

It seems to me that America is suffering from the very aberrations that gave rise to Socialism in other countries. I think that to suggest they are the result of Socialist policies is to contradict the evidence of history.

One of the clear-headed commentators that I turn to when my brain gets muddled is Robert Reich (photo below), who was President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor and is now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. In his Labor Day blog, Reich puts the picture in sharp focus. Here’s an excerpt:

reichThe Economic Policy Institute reports that between 2006 and 2008, wages grew at an annualized rate of 4.0%; by contrast, over the past three months annual wage growth has plummeted to just 0.7%. At the same time, furloughs – requiring workers to take unpaid vacations – are on the rise: recent surveys show 17% of companies imposing them. More than 20% of companies have suspended their contributions to 401(k)s and similar pension plans… (But) unemployment among those who have been in the top 10 percent of earnings is closer to 5 percent, and their earnings continue to climb – although, to be sure, much more slowly than before the meltdown. It’s much the same with health-care and pension benefits. Among people under 65 who are in the bottom 20% of incomes, only 21.9% have employer-sponsored health insurance – if they have a job at all. Half of all people nearing retirement age have a 401(k) balance of less than $40,000…. The bottom 90 percent of Americans hold 50 percent or more of their assets in residential real estate, which has taken a far bigger beating than stocks and bonds. The top 10 percent of Americans have only a quarter of their assets in housing; most of their assets are in stocks and bonds. And although the stock market is still a bit tipsy, it has rallied considerably since it hit bottom earlier this year. Home values, on the other hand, are down by an average of a third across the country, and are still falling.

For the complete blog, click:

http://robertreich.blogspot.com/

In view of these facts, I am amazed that so many Americans are rallying to defend “free enterprise.” But perhaps I shouldn’t be. Americans have never been eager to support labor. Labor Day itself is an import. The annual holiday originated in Canada in the 1870s, triggered by parades to celebrate passage of a law protecting union activity. An American labor leader attended one of the festivals in Toronto and copied it in America. Interestingly, the Canadian law legalizing trade unions was not imported along with the holiday.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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