Our Common Good

You see, five years ago Mitt Romney told Glenn Beck that letting the uninsured get free health care via emergency rooms (which is what our country does) is “socialism.

"And in a 2007 interview with Glenn Beck, Romney called the fact that people without insurance were able to get "free care" in emergency rooms "a form of socialism."

“When they show up at the hospital, they get care. They get free care paid for by you and me. If that’s not a form of socialism, I don’t know what is,” he said at the time.
As HuffPost notes, Romney was singing a completely different tune last night on 60 Minutes:
Downplaying the need for the government to ensure that every person has health insurance, Mitt Romney on Sunday suggested that emergency room care suffices as a substitute for the uninsured.

“Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance,” he said in an interview with Scott Pelley of CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night. “If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.”
So the new “conservative” Mitt Romney is now in favor of “socialism.”

I seem to remember, during the health care reform debate, hearing that we pay four times as much for people to go to emergency rooms than what we’d pay if we simply helped them get insurance, government or otherwise.

So, Romney isn’t entirely wrong. It is a form of socialized medicine having the government insure health care for everyone who’s uninsured. They do it in Israel, and Romney praised that only a few months ago.

Sánchez Gordillo is a historic leader of the Farm Workers’ Union (SOC), the backbone of the current SAT. He has been the mayor the little village, which numbers fewer than 3,000 people and is in the Seville region, since 1979. There, thanks to the participation and support of the local population, he launched a unique political and economic experiment which turned the village into a kind of socialist stronghold in the midst of the Andalusian countryside.

New utopia

With the economic crisis, Marinaleda was given the chance to verify that its 25 square kilometres of utopia is a genuine solution to market forces.

Its current rate of unemployment is zero per cent. A good part of the residents are employed by the Cooperativa Humar-Marinaleda, created by the farm workers themselves after years of struggle. For a long time, the farmers repeatedly occupied the land of the El Humoso Farm, which belonged to an aristocratic family.

Each time, they were dispersed by the Guardia Civil [police] and would chant: “The land belongs to those who work it.” In 1992, they were finally beat the authorities. They now own the farm.

They grow beans, artichokes, peppers and produce high-quality olive oil. The workers themselves control each phase of the production while the land belongs to “the community as a whole”. The farm includes a canning facility, an olive mill, facilities for livestock and a farm store. No matter what their position, the workers all get a salary of € 47 per day.

They work a 35-hour work week over six days and earn a monthly salary of €1,128, at a time when the minimum wage in Spain is €641 per month. In high season, the cooperative employs about 400 people and never less than one hundred. But positions are not attributed to a specific person. They are done on a rotation basis so as to insure a revenue for all. “To work less so that all may work,” that is the basic principal. In addition, some people work their own small land parcels. The rest of economic life is made of shops, basic services and sporting activities. In practice, all of the residents of the village earn as much as a worker at the cooperative.


For decades, as Spain was gripped by a real estate boom. Speculation took over the construction sector. Marinaleda decided to swim against the current. here, it is possible to rent a house of 90 square metres, in good condition, and with a terrace for only €15 per month. The only catch is that everybody must participate in the construction of their home, in accordance with the philosophy that guides all of the activities in Marinaleda. The local council obtained some land through a mixed policy of purchase and expropriation.

Thus, it offers the land and provides all the building materials needed to construct the house. The labour is left to the tenants themselves, unless they pay someone to do it for them. Furthermore, the council employs professional masons to provide advice to the residents on the more complicated tasks. One last point, the future tenants do not know which home will be theirs, which helps fosters a community spirit.


In Marinaleda, there is no police force and political decisions are taken by an assembly in which all citizens are asked to participate. As for the “action squad”, it deals with “all urgent questions, on a day-to-day basis,” explains Sancho, adding, “It is not a group of elected officials. It is people who, together, decide how to allocate tasks and what needs to be done in the best interest of the village.”

As for taxes, “They are very low. They are the lowest in the entire region,” if Sancho is to be believed. The budget is decided in a plenary session of the assembly, which also approves budget items. The process then shifts to the neighbourhood level, with each neighbourhood having its own assembly. It is at this level that the decision is made on how to invest each euro of each budget item devised by council.

When we think about the transition from feudalism to capitalism, we take the long view – we scan the four centuries from 1400 to 1800, looking for signs of fundamental but incremental change. To be sure, we assume that the great bourgeois revolutions of the seventeeth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries were both symptoms and causes of this transition; in that sense, we proceed in our thinking as if capitalism were created by social movements, political activism, ideological extremism. Still, we know these early modern movements can’t be compared to the communist parties that created state socialism in twentieth-century Russia, China, and Cuba, because in these more recent instances, self-conscious revolutionaries organized workers and peasants to overthrow capitalism and create socialism.

In the mid seventeeth century, John Milton, John Lilburn, and Gerrard Winstanley clearly understood that they were overthrowing something, but they didn’t know they were creating the conditions of capitalism; neither did Thomas Paine a century later, as he made his way from the American to the French Revolution, from Common Sense to The Rights of Man. Not even Maximilien Robespierre, the mastermind of the Terror, was prophet enough to see this improbable future. And when Theodore Weld, Angelina Grimke, Frederick Douglass, and Abraham Lincoln set out to overthrow slavery, they didn’t know they were making “The Last Capitalist Revolution,” as Barrington Moore, Jr called it in Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (1966).

In short, capitalism was the unintended consequence of bourgeois revolutions, whereas socialism has been the avowed purpose, or at least a crucial component, of every revolution since 1911. This difference has become so important that when we think about the transition from capitalism to socialism, we take the short view: we look for ideological extremes, social movements, vanguard parties, self-conscious revolutionaries, radical dissenters, armed struggles, extra-legal methods, political convulsions – as if the coming of socialism requires the abolition of capitalism by cataclysm, by insurgent, militant mass movements dedicated to that purpose. As a result, we keep asking Werner Sombart’s leading question, “Why Is There No Socialism in the United States?” And we keep answering defensively, on our way to an apology. [read]

Critics of every social insurance proposal in the U.S., including recent health care reform, have called them socialist attacks on private property. To be sure, social insurance is a central pillar of social democracy, and social democratic parties originated in a socialist critique of capitalism. Yet the equation of social insurance with socialism is doubly ironic. The first realistic proposal to abolish poverty by means of universal social insurance was Thomas Paine, who explicitly advanced his scheme as a defense of private property against socialist revolutionaries. And the first actual social insurance scheme was introduced by Otto von Bismarck, who advanced it against the German Social Democratic Party, which opposed his plan.
Elizabeth Anderson, “Tom Paine and the Ironies of Social Democracy.” (via letterstomycountry)

Looks like 1911 was the best year.


There are too many good grafs in the post linked above to pull just one. I hope that if you think the Occupy Wall Street movement is a joke, or just the rumblings of a lazy band of social misfits, you will take a few minutes to read Taibbi’s piece. I don’t always agree with him, but here I think he’s spot-on, and he focuses on specific acts of corporate misfeasance that have not gotten proper attention in the news.

So, since you didn’t ask, here is my contribution as a member of the 99%:

I believe in capitalism, in the benefits of hard work and the benefits and uncertainties of taking big risks. But capitalism where the capitalists keep their hand on the scale; where capitalists risk big, get bailed out, and continue to preside over the decimation of the middle class isn’t capitalism: it’s corporate socialism.

My husband and I work a combined 100+ hours per week most weeks. We have taken 2 brief vacations in the seven years we’ve been married. I have paid off my undergrad student loans, and I didn’t get a dime in federal loans for law school. In spite of my significant private loan debt burden, I work as a lawyer in the public interest, in which capacity I don’t make as much as my private counterparts but I feel a great sense of personal satisfaction; and in which capacity I encounter the crippling effects of educational and social inequities every day. We live in a house that is worth 2/3 the face value of the mortgage (though we’ve made payments equal to 1/2 the face value of that mortgage over the life of the loan), thanks to the devastating effects of real estate speculation and unsound mortgage practices at every big bank in America over the last 10 or so years. We have watched our small retirement accounts be decimated since 2007, even as we continue to contribute because we don’t know what else to do. We have never missed a mortgage payment, and we don’t intend to, despite the fact that in today’s dollars we make less than we did four years ago. In spite of these challenges, we still manage to be active participants in our community, donating our time to arts organizations and to public school children. Because that’s how we were raised.

I support the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Not because I want the government to subsidize my wealth the way it does the banks’. Not because I begrudge wealthy people the enjoyment of the fruits of hard work. Not because I am a utopian naïf who believes we can live in a world full of only winners with no losers. I support it because I believe that if you enjoy the rights of corporate personhood, you owe the responsibilities attendant to that personhood. As I grew up understanding it, the central premise of capitalism is that corporations (or partnerships or individuals, really any market participants) are amoral actors, driven by market forces to achieve success through efficiency and innovation. Well, that’s fine, until you say, “Corporations are people, too, my friend.” You can’t have it both ways. You can have soulless pursuit of profit or you can have personal accountability, just like I do. Meaning, if you don’t pay your bills, you lose your stuff, just like I would. If you cheat or steal from people, you go to jail, just like I would. One set of rules for every PERSON. If, on the other hand, you want to go about your business as an amoral actor, that’s fine, but you can’t expect the same free speech and other rights I enjoy as an accountable, real person; you can’t expect to enjoy the benefits of American citizenship while being organized under the laws of some Carribean tax haven.

Now, look. There plenty of middle class folks who don’t support OWS because they don’t believe (or at least they think they don’t) in wealth redistribution. Well, I do. I accept that the redistribution of wealth means that sometimes those who receive the benefits of my hard work may fritter away or misuse those benefits. God knows, I came of age in the 1980s when every time you turned around there was another politician squawking about welfare mothers or some such shibboleth of allegedly endemic socialist graft. And that squawking had the ring of truth because it was rooted in anecdotal, if not systemic evidence. But you know what? I’m willing to risk a little individual misuse of my tax dollars by people who have less than me, because the benefits to the many outweigh the misdeeds of the small few. Where I live, poverty and racial and educational inequality are still alive and well. If a few of the hours I work every week go to programs designed to attack those problems, I’m happy to put in those hours. (And I’ll still be happy to volunteer my non-work time, too, as I do on a regular basis.) Does that mean I will mindlessly support any program with a name that conjures social action? No. But I am happy to support those that innovate to improve the lives of individual people, one person, one community at a time. Whether that’s in the form of government subsidies to non-profits or government programs that replicate the successes of non-profits; whether that’s in the form of government subsidies to schools that serve the public interest (and education, pure education, is the essence of the public interest) or subsidies to individual students who demonstrate need and/or ability; whether that’s in the form of aid to artists and arts groups or in the form of subsidized public art; whether that is in the form of aid to small businesses willing to hire local workers or in civilian corps-style programs; I am happy to work a few hours a week to make government and communities work better for everyone.

But what I am not happy to do is work extra hours every week to support failed businesses whose only successes seem to lie in preying on individual failure and political power to “make” money. I don’t accept that my tax dollars should be redistributed to entities who don’t need my money and yet still manage to waste (ahem, I think they prefer the term “invest”) it on risky investments, shadowy off-book frauds, and political influence. What I don’t accept is that I should work extra hours in every week to pay for bankers and equity companies and hedge fund managers to make wagers that would make a horse-betting junkie blush. What I don’t accept is that my voice should be drowned out in the political process by their dollars (which is to say, my tax dollars) arguing for policies and perks that benefit fewer than 1% of the population. Sure, if their innovations and efficiencies were helping America back on its feet, I might reconsider, but everyone knows that isn’t what is happening. We all know that the large financial institutions are sucking the American treasury dry and doing nothing to aid the people—the tax base—that makes their greedy feeding possible. Even if you don’t support OWS, you have to recognize that this is an untenable arrangement that has to be re-aligned. There simply is not enough money or energy being reinvested in actual goods and services in this country to sustain such supports.

We subsidize every significant activity of multinational corporate finance in this country. Aren’t we owed at least a modicum of accountability in exchange? Aren’t we at least owed the same amplification of our concerns? This is what OWS asks. This is what I’m asking.

Oddly enough, the politicians who most loudly condemn liberal policies as socialist conspiracies are often the ones who try to enact the most repressive tenets of socialism. When it comes to moral ideology, conservatives in this country are even more socialist than liberals. The recent wave of health bills attempting to place limits on a woman’s reproductive freedoms, from proposed mandatory transvaginal ultrasound tests in Virginia to Arizona’s law requiring women to tell their employers that they use birth control, make China’s draconian reproductive policies look humane. As anyone who has lived in a socialist country can testify, the worst thing about socialism is the invasion of privacy, and the best things are governmental policies that benefit everyone, not just the rich and privileged. It is time for conservatives to wise up, and stop badmouthing socialism — because they’re really pointing the finger at themselves.

Yunte Huang, In defense of socialism

Keep reading

(via theweekmagazine)


A 12-hour occupation by workers at a Chicago factory on February 23 won an agreement that will save workers’ jobs for at least three months so they can seek other ways to keep their plant open and producing.

The factory on the northwest side of the city is the former Republic Windows & Doors plant, where union members occupied for a week in December 2008 after the previous owners and their financial backers, Bank of America, announced without warning that the factory was closing.

That struggle electrified the local and national labor movement, causing an outpouring of solidarity that stunned the bosses and bankers. After six days of the occupation, management caved. A new owner who promised to continue operations took over, and the Republic factory became Serious Energy.

On Thursday afternoon, the same workers whose courage three years ago inspired people around the country again heard that the next day would be their last day of work. They again turned to the tactic of the great labor struggles of the 1930s and occupied the factory.

But this time, they won a concession that saves their jobs for now before the dawn of the next day. Around 2 a.m.—with snow flurries starting to fall that brought back memories of the 2008 occupation—the 60 members of United Electrical Workers (UE) Local 1110 who remained inside the plant proudly marched out, fists held high, after an agreement was reached.

UE Local 1110 President Armando Robles, who led the 2008 occupation, told the crowd of supporters who assembled as soon as they heard about the new takeover: “We got more than we expected. Now we have 90 days to work and try to get somebody else to buy the company, with the possibility of the workers run it under our own banner.


The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy (1855–1931), who was a Baptist minister, a Christian socialist, and the cousin of socialist utopian novelist Edward Bellamy (1850–1898).

Bellamy’s original Pledge read as follows:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The Pledge was supposed to be quick and to the point. Bellamy designed it to be recited in 15 seconds. As a socialist, he had initially also considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided against it - knowing that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans.

Wikipedia (via paxamericana)
To wit, 44 percent of Social Security recipients, 41 percent of military veterans, 43 percent of unemployment recipients, 40 percent of Medicare recipients, 43 percent of college Pell Grant recipients and 27 percent of welfare recipients all said they had never used a government social program.

Nouriel Roubini is a mainstream economist who teaches at New York University and may be best known as one of the early predictors of the ‘08 crash.

He is no Marxist.

But today, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Roubini admitted that Marx was right about Capitalism and raised the possibility that Capitalism is destroying itself in the way Marx outlined more than a century and a half ago.

A truly strange thing has happened to American Christianity. A set of profound contradictions have developed within modern conservative Christianity, big and telling inconsistencies that have long slipped under the radar of public knowledge, and are only now beginning to be explicitly noted by critics of the religious and economic right.

Here is what is peculiar. Many conservative Christians, mostly Protestant but also a number of Catholics, have come to believe and proudly proclaim that the creator of the universe favors free wheeling, deregulated, union busting, minimal taxes especially for wealthy investors, plutocrat-boosting capitalism as the ideal earthly scheme for his human creations. And many of these Christian capitalists are ardent followers of Ayn Rand, who was one of - and many of whose followers are — the most hard-line anti-Christian atheist/s you can get. Meanwhile many Christians who support the capitalist policies associated with social Darwinistic strenuously denounce Darwin’s evolutionary science because it supposedly leads to, well, social Darwinism!

Meanwhile atheists, secularists and evolutionist are denounced as inventing the egalitarian evils of anti-socially Darwinistic socialism and communism. It’s such a weird stew of incongruities that it sets one’s head spinning. Social researchers like myself ask, how did these internal conflict come about? And why are not liberals and progressives doing the logical thing and taking full advantage of the inconsistencies of right wing libertarianism by loudly exposing the contradictions?[…]


In “socialist” Norway, government spending is 40% of GDP. That sounds like a lot, until you realize that in the “free market” United States, it’s 39%. So where the hell is the money going?
The military. We have a military that costs 20 times as much as the next 17 countries combined. Not only is there a lot of waste, but there is a lot of unnecessary war going on.