The government measures its economy in terms of GDP (gross domestic product) which equals the total money transactions of the nation. It even includes such unfortunables as the cleanup of the Gulf coast after the BP off-shore oil well blowout. Happiness, home baked pies, and bringing up children are of no account in GDP — only the exchange of money counts. As money (as just money) has become more and more important over these last ten years, the chasm between the rich and poor, the workers and the CEOs, has widened and deepened. The rich may now be described, not as rich but richest of the rich, ultrarich, outrageously rich, or obscenely rich. Real wealth is now measured in billions, not millions. It is more accurately termed megawealth.
In the era of deregulation and free trade, we can speak of barbarous capitalism. You may prefer sauvage capitalism or scourge capitalism. Free trade is free-for-all trade. As a small exception, a few coffee growers are paid a living wage and we can get fair trade coffee. Even less frequently, the cacao harvesters receive decent pay and fair trade chocolate is offered. But, such honorable delectables make up only a tiny percentage of our morning Joe or evening chocolates.
In the first decade of the 21st century, language had to be further fudged to deny ambitions of empire in going to war. America would never be after Iraqi oil or Afghanistan’s advantageous geography for an oil pipeline. We just want to promote democracy in the Middle East. Democracy was used interchangeably with capitalism. For the more precise of us who insisted that the former was politics and the latter economics, we were assured that capitalism would lead to democracy as surely as money leads to wealth. To convince the skeptics, “terror” and “national security” were liberally sprinkled through the discourse. “National security” gradually became “national security interest” and then pure “national interest.” The former “geopolitics” was now “national interest” and reason enough to attack another nation with weapons capable of mass destruction.
On the home front, the corporate apologists spun language to object to any change in US health insurance. That is, for the younger than senior citizens. The right winged seniors, however, see no incongruity in telling their Congressional Representatives not to let the government take over their Medicare. For younger workers and the uninsured, any change in the status quo was called socialized medicine. In fact, most of the weak-kneed change that Obama has advocated on many issues is labeled “socialist.” Pity the poor Republicans, successors to the Whigs. Don’t they know that the word “social” is in keeping with the tradition of community and cooperation in the US? Everyone looks forward to school socials and church socials. Children are taught social skills — antisocial behavior is frowned upon. Soon enough they are teenagers who join cyber social networks. Many of their senior grandparents depend on Social Security for survival. Sociology and the other social sciences are accepted fields of inquiry.
Those of us born during FDRian times have grown up to expect several institutions in our towns and cities to be the responsibility of government. Here’s a short list: libraries, police and fire services, road building and maintenance, water and sewage, public schools, postal delivery, courts and prisons, national and state parks, trains and buses, the armed forces, and government agencies that a) provide for poor and unfortunate citizens and b) keep industry honest (except for Wall Street which is genetically deceitful). Lately, some of these natural functions of government — our government — have been put out for hire. Now, we have charter schools making academic decisions privately but receiving public funds. The armed forces are being replaced by private armed contractors (mercenaries) at four or five times the salary of an average soldier. But, hey, the private gunmen are not entitled to VA medical care for PTSD. We also have private prisons run by corporations whose primary mandate is profits, not rehabilitation. The government-corporate conspiracy is again eyeing the Social Security Trust Fund which has enough money for at least another 30 years of full payments to all seniors as they were promised when they contributed to the Fund during their working lives. So, the privateers are calling for Social Security “reform,” lumping it together with Medicare reform. Medicare financing may well need reform, but universal health care would include Medicare. Then, we would need neither Medicare reform nor Social Security reform.
National health care? You mean like Britain, Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Cuba? Horrors! Sickness on schedule and government bureaucrats dictating to doctors. What could be worse? Worse is when private insurance company bureaucrats deny treatment and limit your choice of doctor to their panel. But, Medicare seems to fit the definition of socialized medicine: the government pays for it out of tax revenues and physicians are required to accept payment in accordance with the Medicare schedule of services. Yet, the fact is that almost all US physicians accept Medicare patients, and most are happy enough with the payment. Taxpayers, too, are happy with Medicare finances — administrative expenses are less than 3% of revenues. There are no exorbitant executive salaries, no profits, and no marketing costs. Nor are physicians told how to treat their patients — the government doesn’t interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. So, it’s socialized medicine. Or, if you prefer, call it Medicare for all. As to socialism based on neighbor cooperating with neighbor …