Monday, August 1, 2011

Socialist America


Again, another mile or so on the slow slog toward rationality.  I have just finished my electrifying new novel, so I am free to lecture you helpless victims about matters that ought to be obvious at this point.  Therefore:

Not long ago my wife's adventurous step-brother, John Townsend, commented on the way I bristled at being termed a "leftie" by Steve Mumford by suggesting that I had probably overreacted.  He himself was a little concerned that the Republican Hard Right was calling Obama a "socialist."  Socialism, after all, is anathema to the American Way.

As the astute Fareek Zakaria noted in a recent Sunday morning commentary on CNN, the fact is, federal agencies have always played a major -- very often a dominating --  role in America's economic development. From the first Land Grant and Homesteading Acts to the Louisiana Purchase to the underwriting of the transcontinental railroad to herding the Indians onto reservations to picking a fight with Mexico so we could acquire the Southwest to taking over heavy industry during both World Wars -- both times putting Bernard Baruch in charge -- to overseeing the production of the aircraft carriers and B-17s that destroyed the Japanese Navy and the Nazi industrial capacity (taking out Peenemunde alone ended German ball-bearing production, and grounded the Luftwaffe) -- all government initiatives and control, all vital to our survival and development.  More recently the Manhattan Project provided our Cold War atomic defense structure, NASA landed us on the moon, federal research produced the internet, the National Institute of Health has come up with most of the real breakthroughs in modern medicine.  And as for education, etc....

It would be hard to find a society this side of the old Iron Curtain in which governmental initiatives and collusive management have played a larger part historically.  By far the greatest beneficiaries of this overwhelming involvement of the public sector have been the lions of private industry, where the utilization of a wealth of patents and the enormously lucrative contracts and the world-wide protection of  both the American military and the intelligence services -- which have regularly functioned as collection agencies for threatened American corporations -- have produced generation after generation of augmented profit.
This arrangement goes back a number of generations.  In The Old Boys I went into detail as to how all this destroyed working democracies in Nicaragua and Iran, the sort of toxic collusion that Dwight Eisenhower was referring to in his late-day warnings about the intent of the "military-industrial complex." The stacked-up profits this strategic alliance have produced have increasingly been protected from federal taxes in foreign tax havens. Heavy federal subsidies have gone to influential companies, from coal and oil to airlines to agribusiness.  Jobs -- at first blue-collar and increasingly white-collar -- have gone off-shore by the millions.  A system of loopholes, lobbyists, and a stacked federal court has evolved to protect these privileges.

As the government's recent response in rescuing the banks and the auto companies would suggest, the protections of a Socialistic society will be extended automatically to the special interests after they have blundered into insolvency.  The rest of us -- prepare for legislated pauperization.  What little the "entitlements" have promised is on the legislative chopping block. The Trade Union Movement in America is all but destroyed.  Part of the Second World already, it's going to be a fight for us to hang onto even that.

Have I cheered you up?

Burton Hersh

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