Civil Rights icon and longtime Congressman, the late John Lewis, often talked about using counterintuitive “good trouble” as a means of constructive change. Can there also be a “good socialism”?
One of the better ideas of the American democracy is its innate socialism, probably beginning with our radical departure from the rule of King George III, stated no more succinctly than in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”
The later story continues in the 1788 US Constitution (the “promote the general Welfare” bit) and with our first income tax in 1861 to finance the Civil War. The Bureau of Internal Revenue was created by Congress in 1862 and developed into today’s Internal Revenue Service.
We don’t have a classic socialism where society actually owns the means of product or service creation, but our system does collect taxes on the resultant income from those products and services. The money is redistributed unevenly back to the general population as dictated by need and political will.
Unhinged conservatives often cry, “It’s my money!” railing against where and how that money is spent, and labeling as “creeping socialism” most Democratic programs like healthcare for all, subsidized college education, or the current Green New Deal.
Conservatives who complain about “my money!” might be shocked to learn that 11 of the top dozen states most dependent on federal dollars are led by republicans. Those residents and state governments receive far more in federal program dollars than they pay in taxes, so they benefit the most from … (pause for effect) … American Socialism!
For reference, California ranks among the lowest states in our return on federal taxes. We pay a lot of income tax, but get $6.6 billion less returned in federal programs each year.
How do those dollars come back to the states? One of the socialist ways the federal government distributes dollars is through healthcare payments to providers, from individual practitioners to large corporate hospital groups.
It will be interesting to see where federal outlays go throughout the country to address the Coronavirus pandemic. California is doing well with vaccinations. Forty-seven percent of those eligible have been fully vaccinated and another 12% have received one dose.
Widespread vaccination is said to be responsible for the national reduction in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths due to Covid since earlier this year. But the vaccination rates have varied widely with states. For example, in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wyoming (all republican-led), less than 35% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
Looking ahead at the Covid prognosis, both the Delta (India) and Gamma (Brazil) variants are more infectious and more virulent than earlier strains. So far, it appears that available vaccines offer protection against hospitalization from the new variants. Unfortunately, the risks for unvaccinated Americans are expected to be high. States with poor vaccination rates have the most residents vulnerable to the new variants and will require America’s healthcare socialism for rescue.
Many eyes will be watching what happens in low vaccination red states with Covid deniers and vaccine hesitance. Those states eagerly reopened their economies and lifted restrictions early. Will they be the next centers of disease requiring a socialist influx of government funds to treat patients? A scary thought.
As a postscript, recall my May commentary on the trial of Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s murder, where I suggested the teenage videographer of Floyd’s death would be a strong candidate for a Pulitzer Prize. On June 11, prize winners were announced and Darnella Frazier received a Special Citation, “For courageously recording the murder of George Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice.”