How did America remember what “socialist” means?

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I’m used to boomer generation “conservatives” equating socialism with communist dictatorships.  The boomers lived most of their lives during the Cold War era in constant fear of the communist menace.  I expect better from my fellow millennials, however, particularly the well-educated.

Marion Smith, Executive Director of “Victims of Communism” , has written an ignorant piece of red bait for Politico called “How did America forget what socialism means?”   If I were to write something with that title, I’d argue that decades of fear during the Cold War era, combined with manipulation by right-winged pundits had caused the boomer generation to forget what socialism means and instead equate it with the Soviet Union, as though Soviet style communism was the inevitable result of any attempt at a socialist economy.  As I’ve explained in one of my educational podcasts , Socialism actually can refer to a wide variety of economic systems so long as the means of production are publicly owned and the public decides the distribution of wealth.  Socialism can be anything from total communism to a community of farmers who have decided to collectively organize and share the fruits of their labor.

Mr. Smith’s article shows a picture of Bernie Sanders on the front, and then goes on to discuss the horrors of dictatorial communism, including that of the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba in particular.  His organization, “Victims of Communism”, does an excellent job of documenting the horrors that continue in Cuba.  At no point in this article, however, does Smith explain how this is in any way caused by socialism more broadly, or that it has anything to do with Bernie Sanders.  It pretty much amounts to, Cuba is socialist.  They do horrible things to people.  Bernie Sanders is also socialist.  Therefore…

It reminds me of Dinesh D’Souza’s “2016 Obama’s America” where D’Souza spends an hour or so cherry picking details like how Obama Sr. was a Kenyan revolutionary.  Many of those Kenyan revolutionaries were communistsObama Jr. loves his father and cried over his grave.  Obama must be a communist!

The kind of socialism advocated by Bernie Sanders is not Soviet style, nor Cuban.  He advocates the kind of Democratic Socialism professed by nations in northern Europe like Denmark.  If you want to criticize Bernie Sanders by criticizing Denmark’s economy, or the economies of other such systems in northern Europe, that’s fair game.  But Sanders advocates nothing close to the kinds of dictatorships seen in these countries that identify as “communist”, such as China, Cuba, etc.  Besides, China’s system would be more accurately described as “authoritarian capitalism” .  75% of China’s economy is privately owned.  The corporations exploit workers and make enormous profits, while being backed by the authoritarian “Chinese Communist Party”.

Smith is so disappointed that most of our millennial generation has “forgotten” the meaning of socialism.  By this, he means that we don’t have the same knee-jerk reaction to the word “socialism” as the half of the boomer generation with 24/7 Faux News echoing through their homes.  But these millennials haven’t “forgotten” what socialism means.  The boomers forgot.  The millennials are remembering.  The boomers on the right are still fighting the Cold War.  Someone really should inform them that the Berlin Wall came down.

I’m forgiving of the old.  They are set in their ways, and their worldview has been shaped by experiences that I’ve only read about in textbooks.  But for Mr. Smith, there’s no excuse.

Trump / Kasich ? My Prediction

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Have you noticed that Kasich has said little to nothing about Trump?  Unlike every other establishment candidate, Kasich doesn’t seem that worried about him.

I was watching CNN, thinking about the electoral map, and a light bulb appeared above my head!  In a Trump vs. Clinton race, Trump will need to focus heavily on the Midwest, AKA “the rust belt”.  These are swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and of course, Kasich’s Ohio.  These are states with a history of manufacturing, and a strongly blue collar mostly Caucasian group of voters.  Who better to help Trump win these states than Kasich?

In a Trump v. Clinton matchup, we know Trump will sweep the south simply because he is the Republican, with the exception of Florida, and maybe VA and NC.  We know Trump will win those very red and sparsely populated western, non-coastal states like Arizona and Montana.  We know Clinton will dominate New England, except for New Hampshire, and we know she’ll win the West Coast.  Florida and the Midwest will therefore determine the next President, as they so often do.

So back to Kasich.  The media has noticed that he’s been very hesitant to criticize Trump.  While Trump is almost certain to win more delegates to the RNC than any other, he may not win a majority.  That would mean a “brokered convention”.  Trump’s delegates will have to cut a deal, or maybe second place Ted Cruz might work something out sooner.  Trump is almost certainly not teaming up with Cruz or Rubio at this point.  But as things have been relatively civil (considering it’s Trump) with Kasich, Kasich only needs to win enough delegates to be able to give Trump the majority.  Also, Kasich could help Trump at least in Ohio, if not the entire “rust belt”.  Not only that, but Kasich is politically experienced, and in the establishment of the GOP.

Therefore, I’m predicting that one way or the other, if Trump is the nominee, he picks Kasich as his running mate.  Kasich could help satiate the establishment.  And more importantly, would be valuable to Trump in a race against Clinton.  About the only swing state where he’d be of little help is Florida, but then, Rubio and Jeb Bush are clearly out of the question.  Trump may fight extra hard in Florida, or write it off and focus on the Midwest.  But Trump already has his trade policy that will be well received in states that have suffered from decades of outsourcing.  Those states are always close, especially Ohio, so Trump needs any edge he can get.

Maybe I’ll be right, maybe I’ll be wrong.  We’ll see.  I just wanted to put this out there and see if I get some bragging rights after the RNC.

What the Last Clinton did to US – Part 1 our jobs

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Presidents are praised when the economy does well, and blamed when it does poorly.  The average voter doesn’t realize that it usually takes years to feel the effects of policies, and sitting Presidents are usually presiding over the effects of the previous administration.  Furthermore, the US President can’t do a whole lot on domestic policy without Congress.  With that in mind, let’s revisit the Clinton years from 1993-2000.  This is the first of three blog posts I will publish on Clinton’s legacy that we should consider before offering the White House to another Clinton.  This first blog post will consider Clinton’s “free trade” policies and how they hurt America’s working class.

Clinton was generally a popular president, and is praised for the booming economy of the 90s.  However, he had little to do with it.  When Reagan and Tipp O’Neal reformed the tax code in 1986, they made it much easier for new businesses to emerge and pay a more modest tax rate in the mid 20 percentages, rather than nearly 70%.  The Tech Boom that created all that 90s prosperity was possible in part thanks to Reagan and O’Neal working together.

So what did Clinton do?

When Clinton ran in 1992, America was at an economic crossroads.  In short, do we protect our thriving manufacturing sector and unique blue collar middle class; or do we open ourselves to free trade in pursuit of cheaper goods, with the intention of maintaining that middle class by allowing cozy office jobs to replace the old manufacturing jobs?  Bush wanted the later, Perot wanted the former.  Clinton presented himself as a centrist on this issue, supporting freer trade with some protections for working people at home and abroad.  Clinton won the White House in part on that platform.

How Clinton crippled America’s manufacturing sector

NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, was implemented in 1994.  Many manufacturing jobs went to Mexico, but the American economy thrived.  Many economists, therefore, believed it was a success.  I may lose my job at the factory, but I can learn some new tech skills, put on a short sleeve white collared shirt and a tie and become Dilbert!  Not bad, eh?

As Ross Perot noted, you can show me all the numbers you want, but if you look at what was happening on the ground, the people suffered.  I don’t mean Americans (not yet anyway) but Mexicans.  Where factories popped up in Mexico, so did poverty.  So did pollution.  So did long hours for low wages.  There were few, if any, protections for exploited Mexican workers, and the profit margin for CEOs massively increased.  We were told we’d get cheap stuff in America, but most of the cost savings of cheap labor was eaten up by upper management and shareholders.  But that’s OK, we’ve got our tech jobs, right?

We might have survived NAFTA anyway.  Mexico’s government is far from perfect, but it isn’t a dictatorship.  They do have a Constitution, they do have rights, and the people were demanding better.  Wages were starting to increase in Mexico over time.  Their economy was picking up.  In time, their living standards likely would have come close enough to American living standards that CEOs would no longer stand to make too much profit from outsourcing, and if anything would redevelop manufacturing in America to save on shipping.

They needed cheaper labor.

In 2000, Clinton’s last year in office, he did something much, much worse than NAFTA.  Clinton signed a bill to “normalize trade” with China – to permanently lower tariffs and phase out quotas.  Unlike Mexico, China is run by a strict oligarchy – the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  Elections are but a rigged formality where the candidates are chosen by the CCP, and the people “vote” for them.  There is an official constitution, but it’s a joke.  The people of China have as much rights as the CCP will allow them to have.  Therefore, whereas Mexican workers can vote for better laws, form unions, etc. Chinese workers have no such recourse.

But for US, this was particularly harmful and couldn’t have come at a worse time.  The tech bubble was bursting, a recession was beginning, and just when we needed to fall back on our manufacturing base, Clinton was handing it over to the Chinese Communist Party.  As it currently stands, our trade deficit with China is astronomical.  As you can see from the US Census, we import from China about 4 times as much as we export to China.  They’re beating US 4 to 1!

Meanwhile, the American middle class is crippled.  We were told that “free trade” would improve our standard of living.  The only people who benefit are the uber-wealthy in both China and the US.  CEOs these days are paid on average over 200 times what their employees are paid.  In 1965, CEOs usually made about 20 times their employees.  Ya know, back in the old days.  Today, average wages in manufacturing are above $19 an hour, but these jobs now.  Manufacturing made up nearly 40% of GDP when Clinton took office, but that has dropped to under 17%, so by more than half!  Meanwhile, the average retail associate earned just above $9.50 an hour.

In my next blog post, I’ll discuss how Clinton favored Wall Street and banksters over the American people.  I’ve broken this into three parts because as I did more research and developed more solid arguments to support my position, I realized that it was about to turn into information overload.  My blog posts are often used to spur debate, and I’d like such debates to focus on one topic at a time.

Notes:

While this politifact article rates Ed Shultz’s claim as “half-true”, it still acknowledges that at least 32,000 factories have closed since these “free trade” deals began 

For further info on the plight of Chinese workers, visit www.chinalaborwatch.org/