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Words Shouldn’t Be Weaponized

I am tired of certain words being hyped, polluted, or weaponized — especially in the political realm of tribalism we now live in. Socialism, may have become one of the casualties.  

This trend shouldn’t be confused with slang expressions we have experienced. When I was young, the adjective “cool” had nothing to do with temperature. It was a stand-in for socially connected, in-the-know, or someone to be admired. 

In the 1980s, I heard teens utter “rad,” as short for radical. This denoted something new, unusual, or special. It was a pastime or event that had nothing to with activists or revolutionary behavior. 

The culture wars — Wikipedia says “culture wars” are conflicts between social groups in the struggle for dominance of their values, beliefs, or practices. There are dozens of cable television channels added to the previous three networks.

A growing number of social media, and talk radio stations exist for every tribe and its causes. It’s a connected world, but with this media expansion, governance and politics have come to resemble blood sport. We’ve been reminded that each of us seems to seek out a media provider that echoes our own views. Maybe that’s why we cling harder than ever to our hopes and our media, becoming more war-like when challenged.

What I’ve noticed — Words as adjectives with well-known definitions began to evolve first on talk radio. I noticed this trend when terms like “liberal” (in a political context) were snarled instead of spoken by commentators like Rush Limbaugh. He morphed this into “libtards,” presumably a “retarded” liberal. If being retarded is a disabling condition, then, this utterance seems oxymoronic because liberals are generally activists for change.

If they were ineffective, how could they anger conservative talk show hosts? Therefore, “libtard” should be considered only a directed insult. Effective people with popular ideas may be what boils the blood of hosts like Limbaugh or Info Wars’ Alex Jones.

False assertions seem to be increasingly common, everywhere except in major daily newspapers. The second amendment interpretation of unlimited contemporary gun ownership rights remains controversial, even with our nation’s increase in mass shootings. The Democrats and liberals were predicted to “take away our guns,” if elected in 2008. For eight years during the Obama Administration, no one came knocking and gun confiscation was never proposed. No policy progress is possible when such fears abound. Aggrieved male gunmen will continue to threaten us all.

Conspiracy theories have become common, and some cable news outlets and social media platforms specialize in them.Russian 2016 U.S. election hacking was openly invited by a presidential candidate and was verified by all of our intelligence agencies. Yet, their evidence and conclusion continue to be ignored while some in government and the media excuse Russia while blaming only Ukraine.

Correcting misinformation—Socialism has gotten a bad name. The Oxford Dictionary says it’s “a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”

The key word is “or,” because there are a range of possibilities. The most extreme forms of socialism probably approach the mildest forms of communism—which generations of Americans have rightly feared.

If socialist nations had been on an express path to communism, those like Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, India, Australia and Japan would have already caved to it by now. And it can’t be said that taking better care of all citizens in socialist nations has resulted in a loss of entrepreneurs, or economic stagnation.Most have governments and political parties that are less bitterly divided than our own.

With any suggested return to Eisenhower-era marginal tax rates, “over-regulation” has been claimed by conservatives to erase economic growth and kill entrepreneurial incentive. That can’t be true, as the Eisenhower years were economically strong.

If bad economies were claimed for socialist nations, that would mean that dozens of long-term, worldwide economies would have never had entrepreneurial business development — which is untrue. Such comments may be self-serving by those who earn the most, yet pay the least in taxes.

The Eisenhower era tax policies produced far less income inequality than today. That economy carried more single income families than we can now. Medically-induced bankruptcies were rare. The top marginal rate was 90 percent, and then 70 percent until dropping to 37.5 percent during the Reagan Administration.  Real wages (adjusted for inflation since 1985) have nearly stagnated for the working class.

Recessions, often caused by de-regulation (check 1986, 2000, and 2008) have each affected our economic bottom tiers far more than the wealthy. Particularly in the deep recession of 2008, we were told that the losses from bank speculation had to be backfilled with public funds. They were too big to fail while the rest of us weren’t. In contrast, Canada’s unbending regulation of banks and financial institutions kept their economy boring and stable while the U.S. and Europe experienced multi-year chaos.

Certainly, socialist economies charge higher taxes than the U.S., but this alone does not justify the words “socialist” or “socialism” being snarled with a grimace. Citizens in such nations face no medical bankruptcies, enjoy better consumer protection, less expensive higher education and support of vocational education for those not college bound—all positive outcomes.  

Socialist economies provide far more paid vacation and family leave. Every citizen has a lifetime medical entitlement yielding more accessible care that collectively costs those governments less than ours, with better health results. No corporations make a profit off of citizens’ health care when a government single-payer system is in place. There’s no $5 billion spent annually on pharmaceutical marketing.

Are we already there? In America, the collection of revenue from many to pay for intermittent individual services (eligible to all) looks a lot like socialism. 

Did a local or distant agency protect your house recently (or ever) from wildland or structure fire?

Do you drive on any road without paying tolls or fees?

Do your children attend public schools at no extra cost to you?

Are you longing for Medicare coverage at 65, or do you plan to receive Social Security benefits at retirement (or before if you become disabled)?

Does the federal government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation protect your private pension if it defaults? 

Do you receive your medical care at a Veterans Administration facility? 

If so, you are thinking or behaving like a socialist already.

Our children under 15 years of age cannot work more than 10 hour shifts ever since Massachusetts progressives built such reforms in 1836. Your own five day, 40-hour work week occurred because of similar support for the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. There is nothing scary about such socialist protections in our society. The only justified fear is going without them. 

The U.S. still works more hours than any developed nation with a socialist-based economy.  Maybe that’s a legitimate thing to snarl about. 

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