Three reasons to stop freaking out about socialism

Photo: Red Flags

"Friends, now is no time to experiment with socialism. To me, our opponent’s plan sounds more like big government, which is the problem. Bigger government is not the solution. Whatever you call his tax plan and that redistribution of wealth, it will destroy jobs. It will hurt our economy.”

-Sarah Palin 

Sarah Palin and John McCain are pulling out all the stops to prevent their Straighttalk Express from driving directly off a cliff. Among the recent allegations of treacherous wrong-doing by the Obama campaign is Obama's apparent desire to "spread the wealth around". Hyperbole meets hypocrisy in a rather desperate attempt to paint their opponent as an extreme leftist (please, let's be honest, there IS no extreme left in the United States), especially since John McCain supported the recent Treasury bailout bill that was intended to... spread the wealth around.

Yes, the old socialist tiger is being dusted off and trotted out again. Socialism - what a terrifying term! Let's look in the dictionary to see what monsters lurk beneath this horrible, horrible word:

so⋅cial⋅ism  [soh-shuh-liz-uhm]

–noun 1. a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole. 2. procedure or practice in accordance with this theory. 3. (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.

We're already socialist, kinda

The truth is, the United States government already spreads the wealth around. Most governments do. That's why we pay income taxes, and in return, enjoy government infrastructure such as paved freeways, postal service, Social Security (Medicaid/Medicare, if you qualify), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (sigh), and unemployment benefits. It's why we have a national forest service.

Hell, as Ron Way points out, public golf courses are technically socialist.

I'm not suggesting that these services are perfect, that our roads aren't in need of repair, or that the government operates with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine. And I do believe that it's fair to question whether government is always the best method for handling certain problems. I don't believe, like some do, that libertarianism is dead, because as long as Ayn Rand's books are still in print, there will be people who believe in putting the individual first. I do sincerely hope that we will reconsider deregulation in the future, especially since it seems that American financiers can never be trusted to earn an honest buck.

While the United States is technically a capitalist country, you'd struggle to find an example of a public service that is not funded, in some way or another, by tax dollars.*

We've had times in which our country was much MORE socialist. Take the New Deal, engineered and implemented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt at a time when our country was facing some very dire straights. You can argue, as many have, that FDR introduced socialism to the United States in a way that was palatable, as well as desperately needed. In fact, that's where Fannie Mae came from (as well as the FDIC, SEC, FHA, etc.).

If you don't think that socialism is a fairly weak force in the US, just look at labor unions. The very basis of many socialist economies, unions have never been so undermined and maligned in America as they are today.

John McCain's as big a commie as anyone else

I do believe, as John McCain apparently does, that there is a time and a place for a government to step in and fix things.

I don't necessarily know if this particular time in history is going to prove to be one of those appropriate moments for government intervention - like many Americans, I wasn't pleased with the $800 billion bailout bill that was handed to Henry Paulson, not to mention the political shenanigans that went into creating the bacon-laden bill to begin with.

Giving the banks a truckload of no-strings-attached Treasury money may or may not actually show us any returns in terms of normalized consumer lending anytime soon. All indications point to the banks holding the money to prevent their own implosion. In fact, John McCain may have a very good point when he responded to Mike Wallace in a now rather infamous interview:

WALLACE: But, Senator, you voted for the $700 billion bailout that's being used partially to nationalize American banks. Isn't that socialism?

MCCAIN: That is reacting to a crisis that's due to greed and excess in Washington. And what this administration is doing wrong, and what Paulson is doing wrong, is not going out and buying up home loan mortgages, home mortgages, and giving people new mortgages at the new value of their home so they can stay in their home. They're bailing out the banks. They're bailing out these institutions.

What McCain is talking about is nationalizing mortgages, which would be another socialist move. I actually don't disagree with the idea entirely, but then, I don't dislike socialism that much.

Palin, it is worth noting, is the governor of a state that pays people to populate it. Talk about spreading the wealth.

Many of our allies are MUCH more socialist than we are

Say what you will about the evils of Canada (and I will go on record saying that Canadians are pure, Molson-and-Tim-Horton's-filled evil), they seem to manage pulling of a mixture of socialism and capitalism with significantly less guilt than we Americans do. France and England, like Canada, have socialized medical systems, and say what you will about those French surrender monkeys, they have more pro-family government programs in place than the United States has ever enjoyed.

Sweden, often offered up as an example of the most egregious socialist state in the Western world, doesn't seem to be any worse for the wear. They're not experiencing USSR-style drabness of dress. Despite traditional McCarthyist claims, socialism is not actually related to totalitarianism, even though communist governments have historically trended in that direction.

What this means is that allowing the government to partially own certain industries or markets doesn't automatically strip you of your right to vote for your elected officials (we've got voter purges taking care of that right here in the US!).

Were our government not facing a monumental debt, two wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, and a looming trade deficit, I might be a stronger advocate of the federal goverment pouring non-existant dollars into failing industries; technically, I'm still on the fence about what direction I think the government should head in in order to stave off a much large crisis and recesssion. This crisis might settle down in the coming months with little intervention.

But if our economy does crash and burn, and we are facing another Depression - wouldn't that be exactly the time to start experiementing (again) with socialism?


*Removed a section from the article after a very astute reader pointed out that it was merely a rant against pork, and not pertinent to the argument that the US practices socialism of sorts through government sponsorship of social programs.

Average: 2 (2 votes)
Your rating: None

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Guest's picture

There's no extreme left in the United States? Guess someone forgot to tell the Earth and Animal Liberation Fronts. Too bad your valid points (McCain supported the bailout as well) were hidden inside a thinly-veiled apology for Obama's soft Marxism. Thank God for the unsubscribe button in Google Reader!

Guest's picture

You think your imaginary friend is a programmer for Google? Far out.

Guest's picture

There has been so much labeling and fear-mongering about things that should be just common sense. For McCain et al. to push nationalizing the banks and then turn around and attack progressive taxation or a sensible national health plan as a threat to individual liberties is just absurd.

Guest's picture

Shall we all just work for the government and subject to their moral standards? Oh yes, I forgot, government has no morals. So, it is just easy living, lower production, and a pull charity. The bailout was wrong and never should have happened. Fear is pushing people to a mob mentality and that never goes well.

Guest's picture

Socialism is clearly the best social-economic policy. Im 24 and just started college, But even I can understand the difference between communism, marxism, and socialism. Socialism is hardly related to either of these, as a economic policy is reduces waste and corruption by creating fair bussiness practices like child labor laws, workers comp, minimum wage ect ect. It also focus taxation on those who can afford to pay the taxes. Capitalism creates things like corperations, an entity that has no accountability. It improves worker efficency and productiviy, while at the same time reducing wages for profit. The capitalist class is not productive or innovative, they are a legacy class of birth righted conspicious consumers that live off the working class. If people of even moderate intelligence cannot 'get this' and continue to follow the dominant ideology we really deserve what we get; a feudal-capitalist class.

Guest's picture

Pino, can we take you seriously when you can't even spell or use proper grammar?

Pino, can us takes you for serious when you caint even spell or use proper grammer...?

Guest's picture

Heh, good timing- my Canadian (yes- evil) friends and I were just discussing earlier in the week that until this election we hadn't realised that socialism was a dirty word!

Guest's picture

Clearly we live in a society governed by a sovereign funded by the people. Okay. The difference in America has always been the element of self determination, fostering hope in young people that they really can "be anything they want to be," including independently wealthy. Socialist policies are detrimental to that notion of ultimate freedom. Yes, Britain is socialized. They are also a monarchy with a Queen and remain an imperialist nation. The ability for low income individuals in Britain to climb the social ladder and become the Prime Minister is effectively nil; in other words, were a similar system in place in the United States, your BFF Barack Obama would be nonexistant in the national political scene.
Maybe someone forgot to inform you about the "bailout," but 1) it is a loan; 2) it's better than the other option-- an unknown spiral of investment fear and the further collapse of our entire financial system (one day I would like to secure funding to buy my own home, wouldn't you? oh right... perhaps you would prefer government provided housing).
Finally, you seem to forget that the government can't do anything right. Every government department is a mismanaged money pit with too many employees and not enough accountability. Social security? In 20 years that will be a relic of ancient history and a black mark on the record. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? ouch. I'd rather sink money into public companies any day.

I preferred your blog when it was about saving money, not about having it forcibly removed in outlandish taxes by a political regime.

Guest's picture

I'm sorry, have you had a women president?

Oh no, sorry you haven't. So Thatcher may have been the worst Prime minister ever, but that isn't the point.

The whole point of a class based society is that a lucky few can climb through the ranks and achieve highly; but the majority don't.

Socialism in fact wants to do away with class-ism and base things much more on ability and hard-work; i.e. making it easier to do exactly what Obama kinda did.

And plus, wtf is everyone going on about Britain being Socialist? It is not at all. All you American's are just so right-wing that you don't know what the hell socialism is. I wish Britain WAS Socialist, as it would be such a better place, fairer for all; but as it is, it is not. Fortunately however, even our mainstream right is left of your mainstream left, thankfully.

Guest's picture

You would do your less politically-aware readers a huge favor if you would stop conflating "socialism" and "communism." The two are far from synonymous.

Andrea Karim's picture

By all means, unsubscribe if one blogger posts something that you disagree with. That's the mature thing to do.

Socialism and communism are related - in theory, socialism is a stepping stone on the way to communism, although obviously in practice, you can achieve a socialist economy and stop short of communism.

Guest's picture

I think I'm not alone in thinking that... if I wanted to subscribe to a political feed, I'd do that. Wisebread should stick to what it knows. And that ain't politics.

Andrea Karim's picture

Dude, I've written WAY worse articles than this one. This isn't even close to the top ten of my worst articles.

Guest's picture

Nah, your other ones were just either irrelevant or poorly researched. This one rises to actually "bad."

Guest's picture

So, when did wisebread become a forum to pontificate on your political slant? I find it incredibly amusing, that despite nearly every media outlet endorsing Obama, that people continue to rail rabidly as if he was being stifled- um, this isnt MSNBC by the way. Oh, and if Obama isnt an extreme leftist, how come he hobnobs with ex-terrorists and his wacko preacher? Not to mention all of Hollywood clamoring to support and fund him, well shucks, if anyone would know how us penny pinchers felt, it would be the hollywood elite right? Scarlet Johansson totally knows what its like to be Joe the Plumber- but wait, middle America is an object of derision from the far left. Spare me the political diatribe from an armchair political analyst. Wheres the tips on savings? How to better finances? Wait,there are none? Guess you just lost a reader.

Guest's picture

Awesome article. This whole election I've been wondering why Americans STILL see socialism as a huge threat and a sure path to eliminate their liberties. You really put into words almost exactly what I've been thinking about. As a Swede (yay), I can really support the notion of socialising parts of society, without going all-out communism.

Guest's picture

...that Ayn Rand's books are still in print. Because without a healthy does of individualism and the need for individual success, there is no motor to drive any innovation. While it isn't hard to make the argument for need for a government, and some government intervention and regulation, it is also extremely important that we do not disincentivize the individual.

Face it, "From each according to his(their) ability, to each according to his(their) need" only creates more needy people, not more able people.

The basic underpinnings of the American Epoch are based in individual liberty and the advancement of the self. It is what has, and will make us great. Any one who derides the businessman derides the best in us all.

(Oh, and I agree, I don't need any political rantings I didn't sign up for. Unfortunately, this isnt the only blog this is happening to).

Guest's picture

Sorry to see you getting so much grief for a well written article.

Maybe we simply need to do away with ALL social programs in the US, including two of our largest, the military and our prison complex.

I venture a guess that given a couple more months of this economic downturn more people won't mind a little help and won't care what it's called. I doubt they will be standing for much more corporate welfare at that point.

Guest's picture

I found the article to be interesting, but I had to laugh out loud at some of the comments here. I come from Australia, a country with pretty much all the "socialist" trappings of the UK and we share the same Queen with them and Canada. We've had no problem what so ever with Prime Ministers coming from a poor background, our current Prime Minister came from a single parent family so poor that they spent part of his childhood living out of a car.

Strangely instead of being held back by the evils of socialism, he was able to get government help to get a university education, health care and housing and become leader of our country.

Tony Blair the last Prime Minister of England/UK was the illegitimate son of an actress adopted and raised by a shipyard worker. Not exactly a great example of an elite background, or of being held back by socialism either.

Having lived with a level of socialism that would, it seems freak out a great many of the commentators here I have to say I LIKE having free medical treatment when I need it, a cheap education, that enabled me to start my own business, government. I am more than grateful that when things go wrong in my life there will be government services and a welfare net to help my family again, as they have in the past.

I know nothing I say will change any of your minds, but I do find it annoying that people that have no idea about what life is like in a country they would call "socialist" make such sweeping condemnations of it.

Guest's picture

If it's any consolation for the negative comments, I am very grateful for this post. Thank you.

Guest's picture

...that Ayn Rand's books are still in print. Because without a healthy does of individualism and the need for individual success, there is no motor to drive any innovation. While it isn't hard to make the argument for need for a government, and some government intervention and regulation, it is also extremely important that we do not disincentivize the individual.

Face it, "From each according to his(their) ability, to each according to his(their) need" only creates more needy people, not more able people.

The basic underpinnings of the American Epoch are based in individual liberty and the advancement of the self. It is what has, and will make us great. Any one who derides the businessman derides the best in us all.

(Oh, and I agree, I don't need any political rantings I didn't sign up for. Unfortunately, this isnt the only blog this is happening to).

Guest's picture

Your article reflects a profound lack of understanding of how effective, stable economies or societies function. Under the system you advocate, you would likely have neither the technology to write the blog you write for nor the freedom to do so. I've been able to tolerate the clear liberal slant that comes through in many posts on this blog, but this is ridiculous. I've got better things to do with my time...too many other quality blogs on finance and frugality to waste any more time on this, even to get to the good stuff. Just wanted you to know why you're losing another subscriber.

Guest's picture
Uncle Peppy

Thats all well and good, except that Obama has put quite an effort to deny any socialist associations. So, i guess he is a liar

Guest's picture

+1 billion so either you are wrong or he is a blatant liar either way your wrong.

Guest's picture

Another reader lost. Enjoy your decrease in subscribers just so you could go on a rant.

Guest's picture

McCain's socialism doesn't excuse Obama's. If anything, it's a disparagement of the (socialist) political system of these united states.

The fact that we're already socialist isn't a reason for serenity, either. This socialism will come to a head later; we current young will pay the price for the socialism of our elders (witness the social security deficit and climbing national debt), much of which started during the last depression.

Our so-called allies' socialism, too, is more reason for pause than reason to "stop freaking out." Europe, especially Austria, has a great deal of difficulty financing its social welfare programs because these relied on population growth which is no longer present. That is, we've seen the consequences of redistribution already. Perhaps we'll have to see them firsthand, instead of elsewhere, before we admit this.

As for this depression being the perfect place to start experimenting with socialism again, this article suggests that you are wrong on this count as well.

Ms. Dickson, I cannot claim that you have lost me as a reader, as I was not one to begin with. However, your ability to string together a paragraph of coherent sentences does not excuse your lack of editorial detachment, nor your rationalization (as opposed to reasoning) of your support for Mr. Obama. If the comments above are to be believed, it is clear that this article has convinced nobody but the Obama apologists that his policies are a good thing, and has in fact driven off a number of Mr. McCain's supporters from your site.

As a consequence of all these things, I encourage you to change something about your writing: your topics, your research, or your venue. I'm sure there are a number of strictly Democratic or Socialist party sites which would be glad to have you as a contributor.

Guest's picture

This is one of the better post in a while. I don't understand how people are missing the connection between a frugal living blog, the current state of our economy and how it directly relates to capitalism, socialism, and the upcoming election.

Great job!

Guest's picture


Guest's picture

There was nothing true in anything you wrote though it was well written. Socialism is bad it wont work and it gives even fewer people the real power than have it now. Your naive and live in a dream world people are corrupt and Obama will screw us the first chance he gets just like Mccain. So with that welcome to earth please leave your bullshit elsewhere.

Guest's picture

Sorry, I have to disagree. Everyone of your "reasons" is a cop-out. Socialism is antagonistic to freedom, period. This country was founded on the basis of freedom and liberty above all else, and socialism is the polar opposite.

Yes, we already "spread the wealth," but that is part of our current problems. We need to get the government less involved than it currently is... not hold the line or grow government.

Socialism is the slavery of the people to the system. And I don't judge myself in relative terms.... I care not about how socialist we are compared to other countries.... I care how socialist we are compared to not being socialist at all.

This post was not very wise.

Guest's picture

...and I also hope that all those U.S. citizens who are commenting, for or against this issue, will exercise their civic rights and vote this November.

On a personal level, it's funny to see the title "three reasons to stop freaking out" and then to read several comments where folks appear to be freaking out. Priceless!

Guest's picture
Michael C

There are may comments on this list stating that more socialism will lead to less personal freedom or lack of opportunity. How is that true? A more socialist state would provide a higher education for all that desire it. Using Obama as the example, he received his excellent education largely through grants and scholarship. Personally we need more socialism in the form of public health care and higher education. Also more regulation on important social institutions. As to the comment about socialism make a person a slave to the system, I have news... unless you are living an internet-connected shack in the woods, you already are that slave. Now excuse me, but I need to flush another copy of Atlas Shrugged down the toilet and then leave for work. Personal freedom is a great thing.

Guest's picture

Whether I agree with you or not is not important. The top of the web page outlines what you purport to be

* Personal Finance
* Frugal Living
* Career and Income
* Life Hacks
* Deals and Coupons

I don't see political or economical opinion in there. I come here to get tips and ideas on how to save money. It's absolutely your right to post what you want on your blog, but I just wanted to let you know why I'm unsubscribing. Also, I can't help but notice this article is not linked on your main page. Maybe you're learning a lesson: post what you claim in your outline to post.

Guest's picture

If Obama wins, I'm going to quit working and let the rest of you all support me.

Guest's picture

Interesting post. I'm not sure it was the best argument I've heard, but certainly a decent one. Some of the wealthiest and most healthful countries are more socialist in government. Just check UN's best places to live.

We're just really excited at the prospect of an administration willing to take responsibility and throw off the blame, ignorance and cowardice of the last 8 years.

Speaking of cowardice... How about a name, Guest?

Guest's picture

Look at our government and honestly tell me that we need more of that... We really suck at most of the social programs that we have. Thinking of having more really terrifies me. Socialism as a concept is not evil, but if improperly implemented it will be a disaster. And I doubt our government can do anything right.
Think of Soviet Union - they wanted to reach true communism by being socialist first. They got stuck at a socialist stage and it was VERY ugly. And I know first-hand of what I am talking about.
Anyway, I hope wisebread will refrain from articles like this in the future. I fought off my instinct to immediately unsubscribe this time, but next time you will definitely loose another reader

Guest's picture

How in the world is advocating a political position that results in the government taking *more* of your money -- and then selectively returning it to politically-connected interest groups and propping up the power of politicians -- "wise"?

If this reflects the depth of your thinking about saving money, I'll save myself the time.

BTW, your 'point' that "Many of our allies are MUCH more socialist than we are" was good for a laugh. If that fallacy held, then what if someone on the right said "Many countries are much more repressive than we are"? Hey, China blocks websites and jails dissidents... therefore, we should support a Patriot Act on steroids! Did you even stop to think about whether you were making sense when you hit "post"?

Sorry to say I'll join the exodus. Thanks for making it clear that your other advice is probably just as flawed.

Guest's picture

The seductive nature of socialism is easy to like. And you make some good points about how this country is already headed in that general direction.

The downside though is a government big enough to give you everything you need or want is also big enough to take away everything you have. When they're paying the bill they get to make the rules. We surrender more and more of our liberty each year in exchange for ever increasing reliance on a hopefully benevolent bureaucracy.

What will we do if we wake up one day and find that we have become de facto slaves of the government?

Andrea Karim's picture

Chris, thanks for raising that point - it's one I've considered a great deal recently. In fact, personal freedom and the ability to resist the tyrrany of an government is why I have gone from being ambivalent to completely supportive of second amendment rights. While I don't envision a time in which armed mitilita of resistance fighters have to fend off government forces... well, it's not like it's never happened before in US history. That's why I stand in absolute support of the right to bear arms.

Of course, merely being armed isn't a good enough defense against government overreach, so your point about needing to prevent the government from being all up in our business is a very good one. My initial answer is something along the lines of "Well, that's what laws are for" but we've seen how easily a determined administration and cowed Congress and transmute our Constitutional rights. 

It's interesting, especially during an economic crisis that was caused by the greed and deregulation of Wall Street lending practices, that people see government as the greatest threat. Right now, your credit card rates are going to go up so that banks can make additional money off of you because THEY made risky loans that are now being defaulted on. It's times like these where I would assume Americans would push for MORE regulation, rather than complaining about how the government might take over their lives.

I think it's worth looking at countries, like Canada, that are arguably more socialist than we are, and asking "Does the government prevent their citizens from living full, free lives?". British classism apart (utterly unrelated to their system of government, thank you), I think we'll find, as one of the above commenters mentioned, that socialism as part of an economic system is not the same as communist totalitarianism. I used to live in China, and I would never argue for their style of government OR economy.

As to whether or not this discussion belongs on Wise Bread, you'll notice that my admins yanked this post it from the home page pretty quickly - we don't have a category for discussions on economic issues, so this is filed under 'Extra Commentary'. Frankly, I'm not even sure how you people are finding it, other than through an RSS feed?

Guest's picture

It's nice to see an article inspire such lively discussion, though too bad some people are just flipping out and unsubscribing. Nevertheless, the national economy always ties in to our personal economy. I'd like to add a few points.

First, those who equate socialism with a loss of freedom are confusing an economic concept with a political one. It's an easy mistake to make in an environment where socialism is waved around as the boogeyman of totalitarianism. In reality, political and economic systems are mixed in many ways -- totalitarianism and capitalism (parts of China), socialism and democracy (Sweden).

Second, if you really believe in absolute free-market economies, stop using the interstate -- your government built that to facilitate trade. Cancel all your insurance -- that's a pooled fund to manage risk. If socialism is anything other than an absolute free-market economy, then we've been socialist ever since Ben Franklin started the first subscription fire department. So if your house is on fire, put it out yourself.

Third, government regulation and oversight of industry protects the average worker and consumer if implemented correctly. Don't like government interfering with business? Read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle for a lovely picture of how unregulated free markets squeeze every last bit of humanity out of an economy.

Guest's picture

Whoa, for a second there I thought my reader had been hijacked to the DailyKos or Huffington Post. There I would expect to find junk like this. Not here.

So long.

Guest's picture

"What will we do if we wake up one day and find that we have become de facto slaves of the government?"

What will we do if we wake up one day and find that we have become de facto slaves of Business?

Answer to both questions: Revolt. At least government officials have term limits.

Guest's picture

I need to make a few points here. First of all, Obama is the representative of the Democratic Party, not the Socialist Party. We do have a Socialist Party in the United States, and their representative is Brian Moore. Funny thing is, hes actually kind of upset that republicans are comparing Obama to socialism.

2ndly, many people seem to be forgetting what has made this country great. We have a government based on checks and balances. Even if Obama wanted to turn us into a socialist state, he would have to do a lot of convincing to congress, and then to the judicial system. See how long it took us to figure out a bailout plan for the banks? Nearly everyone that was interviewed claimed that they wanted something to be done, but it still took 2 weeks and some false starts to actually get anything signed.

So basically i say everyone needs to relax. Also, if anyone actually looked at Obamas tax cut plan, hes proposing more cuts to middle class and lower class. I would imagine that the majority of people reading a website about saving and debt reduction would like the sound of that. I know i do.

Guest's picture

I do like the sound of middle/lower class tax cuts, but not on the back of others. Because people work hard and make more money than me does not give the government the right to take a larger the percentage of their income. Tax cuts for all would sound good to me.

"I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

Guest's picture

I work for a company that is owned by two men, both of which file any profits with their individual tax returns. Obama's tax cuts WILL hurt small business. He may have laughed about Joe the Plumber not even making $250,000 but I can easily see a sole owner having a big enough business with 20 employee's doing that. Our company's revenue is $65 million! I'm reasonably sure that the CEO and vice president of our little S-corp make enough to be affected by Obama's plan. Guess what? Anything that affects their business affects me. Be careful about what you ask for. It may bite you in the ass in ways you have never dreamed.

To everyone else. I recently saw an article that pointed out that any government (US) that treats it's heroes (our soldiers) will treat it's general population worse. All of our soldiers and vets have medical help through the VA but we all know it's not a good health plan. Do you think national healthcare will be better for the general population (that's me and you)? I've been told by many of my Canadian friends that it can take 6 months to see a doctor. I've read that many Canadians come to the US for more serious problems so they can be seen quickly.

Socialism will stifle the drive of the American people. Have you seen the productivity of unions? They all make the same amount of money so many don't strive to work hard. They strive to work easy to collect the check. Socialism will kill American invention. Nobody will strive to be better? Why would they? It will just be redistributed.

I saw a comic today that made my point. It was a trick or treat setting at a house and the man giving out candy commented to all the candy the children had. He said "you have all that candy. Why don't we redistribute it to all the children to lazy to put a costume on and go trick or treating" The young child said "Oh god. This guys a democrat". Funny for sure and it highlights how I feel. Government has never been good in business. Why would you want them to get deeper into it?

Andrea Karim's picture

Patrick - that's another interesting point, and it made me think of something my uncle said. My dad's side of the family is Canadian, and they are split between liberals and conservatives (live Thanksgiving dinners, let me tell you). My uncle is the CEO of a mining company, and he does business in Sweden. He complains up and down about how lazy the Swedes are. "It's those damn socialists!", he'll snarl at the table, setting off a healthy (if tipsy) debate about the merits of a capitalist system - the idea that you'll work harder if you have the potential to earn more.

In theory, I can see where socialism would seem to reward people for doing less. And again, I'm not advocating that we become like Sweden. I'm just pointing out that we already participate in socialist practices - there's no point in getting hysterical about the term. It's already here.

Does it stifle creativity in England? In Canada? In India, which is arguably somewhat socialist? Do these systems prevent innovation? I can always say, in theory, what an economic system is going to do, but does it play out in real life?


Guest's picture

I love socialists! You know, like Teddy Roosevelt (national park system) and Ronny Reagan (saved Social Security from the chopping block). Both Republican heroes, both not above instituting some wonderfully socialist policies!

* note, I think the use of the word "socialist" even as I use it here, is completely ridiculous, as it is in most of the comments posted here

Also, one commenter is right in that the military and police are, in fact, just as socialist an idea as progressive taxation. By the definition some of these people seem to go by, anything that involves government intervention is socialist.

Just another in a long line of words that has lost all meaning from misuse.

Guest's picture

I'm glad that everyone is allowed an opinion. Thank you, Andrea, for expressing yours. I am a Canadian, and I am glad for the social benefits I've received, and I am glad to have high enough taxes to help others in turn - and yes, I love my Tim Horton's coffee!

It's too bad that so many people have decided to stop reading WiseBread because their opinion conflicts with yours in this one case. Politics is always a difficult topic, and in the days nearing the election topics will by necessity become more spirited.

Good luck - with future posts, with voting, with the election, etc. Our elections were held recently and very little is different, but no matter how your elections go, there will be changes for all of us - even we evil Canadians!

Guest's picture

It's not just that people disagree with the's also because this is not a political forum. If Andrea has a personal blog then it's all well and good, but she is blogging here under the banner of Wise Bread, and WB is, according to this website, about frugal living, not socio-economic opinions. Andrea doesn't say anything about how socialism is frugal, or how it gets us more coupons. This website is not Andrea's is where people go for tips on saving money.

Guest's picture

1. I'm MORE upset about the socialistic programs already in place than the potential for new ones.
2. This just pisses me off, because I have the choice of (not literally) more evil or less evil.
3. Great - That just means there's no where I can go to escape it. ...Now I'm completely at ease about socialism.

People get upset when socialism comes up because this country was never supposed to be run that way. And before you ask who says that, the Constitution says that. Have you read it lately?

I don't WANT the government to 'have my back'. If I want to 'spread the wealth around' there are plenty of good charities. I have no problem paying taxes to support road work and defense and such things. I don't believe the government has ANY business interfering in marriage, retirement plans, food with trans fat, etc. I'm a fully capable adult and I DON'T need a babysitter!

Leaving out the entire issue of the 16th amendment and income taxes, I think taxing the 'upper classes' goes completely against the idea of upwards social movement that is such a huge part of who America is. That idea of working to better yourself and leaving your children better off than you were...that's pretty ingrained in our culture. Then why, I ask, does the government make this more difficult for people?

Not to mention the difficulty there seems to be in defining who the middle - upper class is. I'm worried about Obama getting elected and me hitting that ceiling where the tax increases start. Is it just me, or should that probably not be a worry for someone fresh out of school in an entry level position?

Andrea Karim's picture

Again, we Wise Bread bloggers are allowed to post about whatever we want on the Extra Commentary section (I know this is tough for some of you to grasp, but it doesn't go up on the main page, so you really have to click to get to it).

You'll notice that there are a range of topics posted there.

You no likey? No one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to read my writing. The truth is, most people who have written here expressing their intent to never read Wise Bread again aren't going anywhere. In fact, they'll probably be MORE likely to read now just to see if what I have written will provoke ANOTHER outraged response.

Anyway, I appreciate the people who have taken the time to write comments that express their opinion on the subject matter. It means a lot to me, whether you think I'm crazy or have a point.

Someone very wise sent me this link last night:

Unsubscribers take note: we know you're full of it.

Guest's picture

The USA is not socialist. You completely missed the point of the definition. Socialism isn't purely about spreading wealth around. It is about transferring the ownership of the means of production to those that produce and taking it from those that just own. It is about empowering the working class, which in turn is about equality.

Guest's picture

I'm glad you tackled this subject. It seems like Americans do freak out when they hear certain words... "socialism", "terrorism", "Islam", (for example) -- anything they perceive as a threat to their way of life. (The negative comments and unsubscribe threats following this post are a perfect example -- I don't think they could prove your point any better!) Buzzwords get people's attention because they're so emotionally charged... and they sound great in an election, don't they?

It turns out the real threat to your way of life isn't communism or socialism it's greed. As a result, the rest of us have the US to thank for this current economic crisis.

And as for this blog... Andrea, the fact that you're meeting with opposition means you're doing something right, and saying something that needs to be said. Usually the last thing people want to hear is the truth.

Guest's picture
Canadian Girl

lvleph, you raise an interesting point about who owns the means of production. You're right... Socialism is about taking power from exploitative bosses and owners. So Bill Gates would be the enemy in a socialist system ;)

I've seen a lot of Americans turn up their noses at our health care system and disdainfully label it as "socialist". If the government operates our health care system using our taxes, who actually owns the means of production? (tax payers or government?) In the US, that answer is clear -- it's a business, like any other. I guess the workers own the means of production rather than the government... So does that make the US system socialist and not ours?

I'm so confused :) I guess I should crack the books and have another look then. My concern is that the people who actually get to vote in this election are going to hear these buzzwords and vote based on a set of false assumptions.

Andrea Karim's picture

Hey, Canadian Girl! Was wondering when you would stop by.

I think that the notion of "empowering the worker" is nice, but it's mostly rhetoric. Socialism really is about collective ownership. There are many aspects of American government and society that are not socialist in the traditionally Marxist sense of the word, and one might argue that the Canadian healthcare system does not necessarily "empower" the workers who run it (I've met my fair share of awesome Canadian doctors, though). But because it is supplied through government taxation and technically run by the government, which is in turn supposedly run by 'the people', the health care system is considered socialist.

Unless I am drastically misunderstanding the Canadian healthcare system. Which is possible.

Guest's picture
Canadian Girl

Hmm. That does help clear a few things up, and I agree with you -- but I'm still confused. In Canada, the enemy is the US health care system. In the US, the enemy is a socialist health care system. NEITHER system works particularly well, it just seems that each one is failing in a different way.

But I digress... This isn't a debate about health care :)

It's hard to look at these knee-jerk reactions to socialism and not think that Americans love money more than they care about each other.

Andrea Karim's picture

I can assure you that Americans are a very caring bunch. Most people are, really - I don't think I've ever visited a place where I say "goodness, the people here are so unwelcoming". Americans have been constantly inundated with anti-socialist messages that are tied in with our McCarthy era politics, which we are still nursing a hangover from.

I think a knee-jerk reaction to socialism is just something programmed into a lot of people, honestly. I say this because people who are vehemently against big government have not protested the careful dismantling of our consitutional rights by the current administration.

But I promise you that ignorance of the Canadian health care system (which, like you said, won't be debated here) is to blame for anti-socialist sentiment, and not a lack of concern for each other.

Guest's picture
Canadian Girl

I don't mean to sound anti-American at all. I'm talking about policies, not individuals.

It's hard to watch Americans criticize Canadian policy when we're suffering because the US managed to create a financial crisis.

As for dismantling constitutional rights... You're right about that one. It amazes me that people are still more concerned about socialism than civil rights. So many of my Canadian friends are against Sarah Palin because her views are detrimental to the rights of women. Yet all we seem to hear about is how Obama is an evil socialist. Go figure!

Guest's picture

I'm amazed at the negative reactions to this article, and the ignorance of most of the complaints. Those who complain that it's off-topic for the site's frugal-living core focus are right, but I really doubt that they're complaining because it's off that topic -- they're complaining because the word "socialism" freaks them out, unless it's in a context like "evil socialism."

The fact is that every country with a functioning government has a blended economy, with capitalist elements and socialist elements. Some are more socialist -- Sweden, for example. Some are more capitalist -- the US, obviously. Best practice is to socialize things that are best monopolized by government (military force, food safety regulation, basic science research, management of health care), privatize things that are best left to private business (all sorts of things).

Another point missed by the complainers is the difference between economic system and type of government. The US is a capitalist-leaning blended economy with a democracy-leaning government. Sweden is a socialist-leaning blended economy with a democracy-leaning government. Today's China is a capitalist-leaning blended economy with an authoritarian government. The former Soviet Union was a socialist-leaning economy (officially socialist, but the underground economy was quite capitalist) with an authoritarian government.

As for the difference between Obama and McCain, it's nothing but different shades of capitalist-leaning economy. If we count corporate welfare as an intrusion of socialism into our economy, McCain is probably more socialist than Obama.

Nice writing, Ms Dickson.

Guest's picture

Afterthought to my message, number 58.

The article does qualify as a frugal-living article, in my humble Guest opinion. Our choice of elected officials affects our financial condition far more than most small-scale things we can do to save money. It's rare that one vote makes the difference in an election, but this article probably had more readers than the Governor Gregoire's margin of victory in the 2004 Washington election, which is one of many close elections that we could use as an example. Deciding what to do with our votes can affect our government in a way that affects our finances.

So who is the best choice? If you make a quarter-million or more a year (and then you shouldn't need to read frugal-living articles), McCain probably has a better deal for you on taxes (except that Congress isn't likely to let him have his way). If you make less than about half that, Obama definitely has a better tax deal for you. If you're in between those figures, your choice isn't likely to affect your tax bill much.

But there's more to the choice than taxes. If you work in a line of business that generates a lot of pollution, your job might be safer if McCain wins. If your job is at risk of being moved to another country, your job is almost certainly safer if Obama wins. For that matter, most jobs are likely safer if Obama wins, because he's not caught up in the deregulation ideology that got us into the current economic mess.

There's more to the choice than job security too. If your job survives, you still have to worry about health care. Obama's health care plan is better than McCain's for pretty much everyone except health insurance companies. Even the rich are better off with Obama's health care plan, unless they're rich because they own a health insurance company.

So choice of vote really does make a difference in a person's financial situation. And this latest nonsense about socialism appears to be the last gasp of the campaign to make life a little better for the super-rich, at the expense of everyone else.

Guest's picture

I've been following the responses to this post and find some of them quite remarkable in their complete dismissal of the points raised based on no discernible reasoning but apparently on some type of emotional, almost visceral, response to the term socialism.  I use the word 'term' as it does not appear that most of the respondents have addressed the 'concept' of socialism.


I find it almost amusing that so many in this nation have transmuted the concept of socialism into a four letter swear word linked, by implication, to the more extreme  cases of economic communal experimentation.  It is word which, when used at all in our nation, is meant to evoke an emotional response and not a reasoned on - and it is used very effectively to this end.  (Then again, expecting reason from politics is rather like expecting the proverbial pig to fly.)  Perhaps it would be amusing for people to realise just how much the USA owes to that most pernicious of bogeymen - the socialist; and by extension, how much we as individuals and as a society owe, too, as we ARE the USA.  For example, it is common knowledge that the US government is running a deficit of several hundred billion dollars; in other words, that is how much money the government has to borrow to meet their expenses.  And who are they borrowing from?


Here are some numbers:

Japan is still the biggest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury debt ($587 billion as of January, 2008 ). China ($492 billion) comes in second, but is rapidly moving into first place: something like $90 billion of U.S. Treasury debt was sold to China in just the past 12 months. Other big holders include the U.K. ($160 billion), Brazil ($141.7 billion), and two categories the Treasury lists simply as “oil exporters” ($141 billion) and “Caribbean banking centers” ($108 billion).

(from   "Is China paying for U.S. taxpayer rebates?", John W. Schoen, Senior producer, MSNBC )


Please note - the countries noted there are all socialist (or mixed/blended economy) nations except one - China, which is communist.  China is also the country which has been buying up huge chunks of US debt - which is one of the main reasons the government has been able to run up the huge deficit over the last 8 years.  In other words, the nation which denigrates socialism, and social democracies, is being kept afloat by those very systems.  Here's the list of major foreign holders of treasury securities, from the Treasury department  Does anyone else see the irony in this - or is that just me and too much Monty Python in my youth?


For those who seem to have some romanticised notion of the merits of Ayn Rand from an economic perspective, as opposed to an philosophical one, they seem to forget that we no longer live in the 1500's when the type of existential individualism she espouses was a necessary component of the character of those who explored this nation - the original pioneers.  These individuals, however, did not build this nation; they forged the paths for those who followed, the true builders of any nation - the settlers.  Who formed communities whose very survival and prosperity was dependant on each individual contributing to the well being and development of the whole community.  Almost sounds like socialism, doesn't it?  Perhaps because all societies have to have socialist components at their core in order to be successful.  And from this arises a necessity, in my opinion (among others), for those who have and can to aid those who don't have or can't.  This doesn't mean we throw out the concepts of individuality and personal ambition and success, but it does mean that we can't sacrifice our social conscience on that alter.


"Rich households in America have been leaving both middle and poorer income groups behind. This has happened in many countries but nowhere has this trend been so stark as in the United States," said the OECD.

At $93,000 (€70,400, £54,700), the average annual income of the richest 10 per cent in the US was the highest in the OECD. But the poorest 10 per cent earned an average of only $5,800, "about 20 per cent lower than the average for OECD countries", it said.

("Gap between rich and poor widens", By Andrew Taylor and Chris Giles, Financial Times


New York University economist Edward Wolff's recent analysis of Federal Reserve data shows that the top 5% of U.S. households saw their wealth rise by an average of 92% between 1983 and 2004. Those in the middle gained only 27%, and those at the bottom lost 59%. Another startling statistic: 69% of all nonhome wealth is concentrated in the top 5% of households. What kinds of risks do we incur as a society when the majority are left to fight over a shrinking pie?

(Viewpoint "Bill Bradley Slams McCain's Tax Rant", By Shoshana Zuboff , BusinessWeek


By the way, according to the 2006 US Census Board, those households earning more than $250,000/annum comprise the top 1.5% of earners in the US (some interesting reading here   Those that cite the problems that many of the European nations, as well as Canada and Australia, are having funding their social systems - they're correct.  Those problems do exist and are going to be exacerbated by an increasingly aging population and a shrinking tax base due to negative birth rates, even with increased immigration.   However, we face the same problems for the same reasons.  I see no constructive suggestions being made; only useless disparagement and political rhetoric.  What would you have - that when the time comes when the aged and infirm are no longer able to support themselves, they should then take themselves into the wilderness to die so as not to become a burden to others (I would like to say metaphorically speaking, but I'm not sure it would be correct)?


I also find it odd that people looking for notes on 'frugality' seem to be unable to connect the dots with the larger picture here.  Of what use is practising personal frugality when the whole system around you  is collapsing?  Of what use is personal frugality if for every dollar you save, you have to spend two more just to stay where you are?  Our personal finances are not divorced from what happens in the larger sphere - they are wholly dependent on it.  To dismiss out of hand any elucidation, illumination, or discussion of that larger sphere invites our own individual personal disaster. 


But then, all this is only my personal, individual, opinion for whatever it's worth - you should draw your own conclusions from your own research.


(Note - I am not an economist, so take all the above for whatever it's worth; I am, however, curious about the world on which I depend for my very existence.)

Guest's picture

Okay, if you look at figures for happiness, healthcare and pretty much every area of society, you will see that the Scandanvian countries, particulalry Sweden, constantly come out near the top.

So stop the "oh no, I might lose $8000 dollars more of my $800,000 dollar estate!" attitude, and see the bigger picture.

Guest's picture

People complaining about Socialist governments failiing or supposedly being useless...

I am sorry, but how well has Capitalism done? The gap between rich and poor in America is massive, is that truly fair? You cannot argue that the American dream is reality surely?

Socialism is pretty much THE fairest economic/ social idea. End of. I cannot see any way to argue with it. Taxes are good for everyone if proportional; you are lucky enough to have earned more, so you give more, you earn less, give less. How can you possibly argue with that? Surely everyone in your "great" country would prefer a national health service? As oppossed to the unlucky majority being stuck with bills to pay their whole lives. And what if the government provided housing? How many people actually own their own houses? Mortgages are actually a kinda loan also, so until you've paid it all you don't own the house. Duh!

America needs to get away from this idea that it is somehow amazingly great, and free, and fair and the single best Democracy ever. It really is not. Get over yourselves and see the truth, and start to care for others rather than just yourselves. (obviously aimed more at the right wing fools over where you are)

Guest's picture

You can't blame capitalism for the state of the economy today, because every single problematic issue we have is the direct result of a government attempt at social engineering.

Socialism is slavery. You're right - the US already spreads the wealth around, and look how that is working out. Since the New Deal, the corporations have been empowered, the rich are richer and the poor are poorer. The money we were forced to put in government funds for retirement was spend decades ago. The Medicare/Medicaid system is fraught with fraud and waste, and has done more to drive costs up than any other entity in the hostory of the world.

You are very, very wrong. Socialism is evil. If it wasn't, participation wouldn't be mandatory.

Andrea Karim's picture

The New Deal didn't empower corporations - Reagan did, by deregulating everything under the sun (Clinton, too). Socialism did not cause banks to make risky loans to people who cannot afford houses. Socialism did not cause Madoff to defraud people of billions of dollars. Socialism is not responsible for out of control defense spending (which is not figured into our current budget deficit, which means that our current financial crisis doesn't look as bad as it actually is).

I can understand arguing that socialism is wasteful, or promotes laziness... but evil? Get a grip.


Guest's picture

I like that this article created debate, but the diminished capacity for tolerance is kind of frightening. I think it would be best to look around the world at different systems and try to be honest: none of them work. However, that does not mean that you just pick whichever broken ideology you wish and defend it to the death. I wish more people would read, think, and then form their own opinions. Because in reality Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism have their advantages and flaws. When somebody comes up with a perfect system of government or a truly fair economy, please give me a call. Until then it is good that people are trying to figure this stuff out. Nicely written piece.