By MIKE ZAGATA • View From West Davenport
When Bernie Sanders starts a sentence by saying “The truth on this matter is,” it’s time to reach for your wallet to see if it’s still there. He’s not alone in that regard, as there are lots of candidates trying to sell us on the virtues of socialism. To learn how socialism has affected you, read the last three paragraphs.
The major differences between socialism and capitalism can be defined by the role of the government. In general, capitalism affords economic freedom, consumer choice and economic growth. On the other hand, socialism, which is an economy controlled by the state and planned by a central planning authority, provides for a greater social welfare and is expected to decrease the business fluctuations likely to occur in a free market.
Capitalism is a market-based economy made up of buyers (people) and sellers (private or corporate-owned companies). The goods and services that are produced are intended to make a profit, and this profit is reinvested back into the economy.
The U.S. is considered to be a capitalist economy, along with most of the modern world. Economists, however, are quick to point out that almost every society has a socialist aspect or program within it, i.e. Social Security.
In capitalism, the government regulates and in socialism it controls. Power becomes concentrated in government and those who run it. In a capitalistic economy, individuals, not the government, choose what to consume, and this choice leads to more competition and better products and services.
Competition exists among the producers of products and thus goods and services are produced based on demand. If the same product can be sold for less, that should increase demand. That creates incentives to cut costs and avoid waste – pollution, for example. Government regulation is intended to keep an even playing field and avoid the creation of monopolies that eliminate a key ingredient – competition.
In contrast to a capitalistic economy, socialism is characterized by having the producers of the products owned by the state. Individual citizens, the worker bees, are compensated based on what the government decides they contributed. That might make it difficult to get an annual performance review or be able to complain to your “boss.”
Theoretically there is equal opportunity for all and the “profits” from industry must be returned to the government pool (could that be a cesspool?) for the good of all. The government decides what goods and how much of them to produce and then you are “allowed” to buy from that supply.
At this point, it would be easy to point to countries like Venezuela and Cuba that have tried socialism and failed. Let’s look a little closer to home.
Canada put into place a system of socialized medicine under government control. Has it worked? Not according to patients that describe waiting for months to get an appointment. Do you really want the federal government to be in charge of your health care? Can you name one agency of the federal government that provides satisfactory service on a regular basis?
Have you visited the Social Security office in Oneonta? If so, you were greeted by two armed guards who demanded to know why you were there. It would seem intuitively obvious you weren’t there to buy ice cream.
Let’s take a closer look at Bernie. His net wealth is estimated to be approaching $2 million and he owns at least three homes. This is the man who constantly rants about income inequality and the benefits of socialism.
Has he offered the use of one or more of his homes to the poor? Has he offered to divvy up his wealth among the poor? Has he put forward a health care plan that would give you and me the same health care benefits enjoyed by members of Congress? Has he, or any of the other elected members of Congress who are running as socialist candidates for President and profess to be champions for the “little guy,” offered us a retirement program like theirs?
The answer to each of those questions is a resounding “no.” Welcome to socialism.
And, believe it or not, that’s only the beginning. If you’re old enough to be eligible to collect Social Security, your Social Security payment is considered by the government to be an “entitlement.”
That means your government is trying to tell you it’s giving you that money – even though, for most of us, we’ve had money taken out of our paychecks for Social Security since we began to work. That’s pure, unadulterated bunk.
Social Security is only a form of socialism when the government allows people who have not put money into the system to take money out. We’re a wealthy nation, due to the success of capitalism, and thus can afford to help provide a bridge to those who need it from time to time – but don’t lie to us about why the system is running out of money.
If more people take money out than put money into the system, it will go broke. To make matters even worse, a prior Administration took the money that was in the Social Security account and used it to pay off that national debt.
As a result, the money that you paid in isn’t sitting in an account drawing interest and thus growing. Instead it was borrowed (spent) by the government and now all of us, as taxpayers, are tasked with paying back the amount that was borrowed plus interest.
Instead of the Social Security account growing, it is a debt that we are expected to pay off. Were you asked at the time by your government if that was OK? Another resounding “no”. Welcome to Socialism, Part Two!
Mike Zagata, a DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.