I posted this cartoon to my Facebook page earlier today which prompted a question from Mrs. Risner, known to my seven faithful readers as one of my favorite and most influential teachers in high school. Mrs. Risner and I did not agree politically when I had her in 10th and 12th grades and nothing has changed. She was the first real Republican I ever knew, other than my father. She was a Reagan supporter in 1976 when he challenged the appointed incumbent Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination for president.
Below is her question and my response:
Brenda Risner Okay, Jeff, how do you and the cartoonist define socialism? While you're at it, give me the left's definition of facism and of communism. I really do want to know.
Mrs. Risner, first, I cannot speak for the cartoonist. Now, let's face it - the sign on the left is correct - "Obamacare is Socialism." Socialism, in some form, has formed the basis for what had been the most successful years of our Republic, often called the Greatest Century, although it was really only about 70 years. From the mid 1930s to about fifteen years ago, through various forms of socialism, America became the light shining on the hill to which Ronald Reagan famously referred. Because of high employment and high taxes - broad participation on the income side, America could afford Medicare and Social Security to seniors; Medicaid, Unemployment, and food stamps to the poor; farm subsidies and electrification to rural communities; and community block development grants and revenue sharing (both programs introduced by Nixon) to urban areas - broad participation on the outgo side. This is the best of Socialism if such a thing exists. Then, starting with California's Proposition 13 in 1978 and followed by Reagan's edict that government was not the solution but the problem, we began to turn our backs on our fellow Americans in favor of rugged individualism and entrepreneurship. We evolved away from "We, the People," certainly a socialist idea, into one of greed and me-ism, of government and control by the rich and the few, a form, ironically (a word I learned in your class), of communism. Corporations in search for profits moved their operations out of the country, taking away jobs and tax revenues. Simultaneously, we began undoing our tax system with lower and lower taxes to where today we are at our lowest overall tax levels since before the Great Depression. The result is we no longer are and no longer can be Reagan's light shining on the hill because we aren't interested in paying for it. We've traded a form of socialism - economic participation by and for the many - in for communism - economic participation by and for the few. If one were to align the political parties along side forms of socialism and communism, my party would (and has) fallen into the former category while your party has, since Reagan, fallen into the latter. Reagan, of course, provides another irony. As the hero of the right, his borrow-and-spend policies have largely been forgotten. Admittedly his borrowing-and-spending led to the downfall of communism in Europe and Asia, but it also has led to a different kind here in the states. He wasn't worried about those borrow-and-spend policies since in his mind the end justified the means, and perhaps it did. But rather than delve into an exercise of "rugged individualism" to correct his deficit worries, he left that to Tip O'Neil and the Democratic congress while he was in office as well as to "Read My Lips"" Bush, who ultimately paid the political price for Reagan's failed economic policies. My side of the aisle can accept its role in the successful use of socialism in this country as it worked from Roosevelt to about 1992. Can your side of the aisle accept the greed and centralization of capital it has fostered, a form of communism, power over the many by the few, in the same manner?
Your thoughts are appreciated in the Comments section below.