Socialism already is a fact of life in 21st-century America. We pool our resources to pay for fire and police protection; this avoids us having to have our fire or police account number ready when we dial 911. We pool our resources to help our senior citizens with medical care. We pool our resources to pay for our children’s education. As a recent letter to the editor pointed out, many businesses and industries receive tax breaks or subsidies from pooled taxpayer resources. Call this what you might, but William Shakespeare eloquently made the point that a rose by any other name still is a rose.
Both of our major political parties actively have supported some or all of these programs at one point or another. The largest “new” social program of the century is the senior prescription drug benefit program legislated by the Bush administration.
I do not see Republicans as misguided or evil. We have wide differences of opinions in this country on a variety of issues, and I respect that. I do have issues with what seems to be an almost mindless characterization of socialism as something we should avoid at all costs. In truth, many who argue against social programs see “their” programs as somehow right and fair. The argument appears to be that we need to stop all government social programs and subsidies “except the ones that help me.”
In my view, the main issue with social programs in the United States is that we manage them very poorly. For example, we won’t spend the money needed to reduce Medicare fraud substantially because it would cost more than the fraud itself. Many of our largest social programs seem based on the assumption that recipients won’t cheat, at least not very much. We keep hoping that people eventually will reveal the “better angels of (their) nature.” We need to acknowledge that we have waited long enough and find creative ways to resolve such issues.
The answer to the cost of social programs is not to eliminate them but to figure out how to manage them better. Effectively managed programs would go a long way toward revealing the positive effects of pooling our resources and help us feel good about helping each other. Isn’t that what a civilization is all about?