“April 29, 1938
To the Congress:
Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people.
The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism – ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.
The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Message to Congress on Curbing Monopolies
“Dad, I don’t think that people understand how liberal you are.”
Middle to PracticalDad, approximately 2015
The Facebook profile photo changed in April as Middle and I were driving home from an errand during the Pandemic. We chatted and he commented that perhaps it was time to remove the outdated picture of Andrew Jackson, which I had placed there years before. Perhaps I needed something more fitting with my political inclinations and I concurred. There was a time, almost a decade ago, that we needed a Jackson-esque leader who would take on the monied interests and restore a sense of balance to the economy. But instead, we got…well, you know who. As I prepared to make an ironically appropriate left turn into the neighborhood, I said that the picture should be Karl Marx. Trusting him with my password, he made the swap as I finished the drive home.
Arriving at the point of adopting a photo of Karl Marx has been a process. I didn’t awaken that morning and decide to spontaneously declare to the essential grocery workers that you need to unite and take back the means of production for you have nothing to lose but your chains! It has been decades since I read any of Das Kapital, a challenge because Marx wrote with the torpid grace and style of an artery accumulating plaque. My real takeaway was the understanding that he wasn’t a fire-breathing demon but instead a corpulent intellectual repulsed by the grotesque economic inequities of his period in the mid-19th century. That it seems strident is understandable given the initial publication in 1867, only two decades removed from the failed European-wide rebellion of 1848. Rebellion? Yeah, the rebellion that led to a Prussian repression which caused a huge influx of German immigrants to America in that same period.
I am now a Socialist neither by choice nor inclination, but by necessity.
I am a Socialist by necessity because the monied interests have used the power of the purse to capture the political system via massive amounts of dark money political contributions and lobbying.
I am a Socialist by necessity because that capture has fostered an economic system that benefits them to the harm of the rest of the citizenry. The Middle Class was failing before this President, but the Pandemic exposed our economy for the Potemkin Village that it truly was. Tens of millions have been thrown out of work and the national average of Americans facing eviction is at 40%, with some states above 50%. Simultaneously, a handful of billionaires have seen their wealth during this Pandemic increase by $584 billion while the rest of America’s households lost more than $6 trillion in wealth.
I am a Socialist by necessity because so many of the programs and benefits that supported our great-grandparents and grandparents have been rolled back and carved away, placing those burdens upon the American family itself. As of this writing, the President has commented that if he is re-elected, he will move to permanently end the payroll tax; this would effectively starve the Medicare and Social Security programs upon which so many of our elders depend.
I am a Socialist by necessity because a one-sided media complex has hijacked the airwaves with a malign gospel that those who require assistance in today’s America are somehow lazy or at fault, instead of asking how our nation reached a condition in which someone working a full-time job still cannot afford to survive.
I am a Socialist by necessity, having raised children into a rapacious, grotesque economic system devoid of the under-girding of the rule of law and a system of governance that would give a shuddering sensual thrill to Ayn Rand. Reusing the word grotesque isn’t editorial laziness but instead an indication that America has reached a condition recognizable to Dickens.
I am a Socialist by necessity because it is going to take a massive and prolonged effort to reform and restore the rule of law, especially regarding the financial sector where much of this started. It is going to take serious push-back against a conservative media that sells a mythic version of America and routinely describes any who disagree as them, and sometimes worse. This will be an unpleasant process if the labor history of the late 19th and early 20th century is any guide.
This election, and the next several afterwards, are crucial. Why? Because this nation has continually abused its currency, which also serves as the global reserve currency. For that, the world will be – is – looking to see what will replace the Dollar. This election, and the next several afterwards, will help decide how we choose to subsequently allocate our national resources which will no longer enjoy the privilege bestowed upon the global reserve currency. That coming date is unknown, but it will arrive sooner than later.
My upbringing wasn’t socialist and in some ways, I am still the product of a mid/late 20th century corporate family mindset. I still believe in property and the idea that there are some things that are better handled by the private sector (not including the prison system). Taxes can be too high and I am not in the least comfortable with the surveillance authority that we have given our government. I believe that people should be allowed to prosper and succeed…within reason. If you want to make three quarters of a million dollars and enjoy the fruits of that labor, have at it.
The problem is this: despite decades of commentators spouting descriptions of America as a land of unlimited opportunity and endless potential, there are still a finite number of zeroes in a 2019 national GDP of $21,430,000,000,000. Our national output is indeed immense, but it is still finite and the massive wealth disparity is clear evidence that all of this money is now going to only a small handful of people. There is a point at which wealth accumulation becomes a zero sum game and a person’s accumulated gains indeed rob many of the sheer means of survival. When a literal handful of billionaires make more than $584 billion in a period when the annualized GDP declines by almost 33% in a single quarter? Well, this is long past zero sum.
This is economic cannibalism.
There is no singular road-to-Damascus event that triggered a socialist conversion. It cannot be measured in a few years, but instead by decades. Many Republicans today bemoan that the party shifted to the right and left them where they were. In my case, experiences and observation have progressively forced me to the left so that I am now functionally socialist. Do I hate capitalism? No. I frankly think that it is a more efficient allocator of resources than socialism but it requires a degree of morality and above all else, a willingness to let failure occur. With the failure to address real systemic issues after the Long Term Capital Management and the 2008 Financial crises, and obscene amounts of liquidity to buoy the markets, it was obvious that the fix was in and honest-to-God capitalism was dead. If you ascribe to FDR’s 1938 description of fascism noted at the outset of the article – and I do – then we’ve been living in a charcoal gray, wing-tipped corporate fascism for the past two decades. That our President has harnessed fear and division to create a racist neo-brown shirt movement is only a shift to a more recognizable variant that we witnessed in Nazi Germany.
But make no mistake that we were functionally fascist before this President.
There are different route steps on my arrival as a Socialist by necessity and most are framed within the context of children and family. Each will be covered separately in the coming weeks.
First, I stopped all routine listening to any manner of broadcast political commentary on both sides of the spectrum because that is simply a business model of anger generation.
Second, I came to understand that capitalism was replaced by what some refer to as corporate socialism (where gains are privatized and losses are socialized), or simply fascism.
Third, I witnessed first hand the callousness and disregard of senior corporate management towards innocent employees.
Fourth, I literally stopped watching all television, varied my news sources and simply read. A lot.
Fifth, I spent considerable time on the internet, backtracking information and learning which sites were trustworthy and which were trash.
Sixth, I learned that it is indeed possible to take these various social and economic statistics and see them in action in my daily life and in my community.
Finally? I have tried to listen to the youngsters as they have grown and matured, opening myself to learning from them. This includes understanding that my focus upon family and economics simply didn’t give anything close to sufficient acknowledgement to the effect of racial disadvantage in the spectrum of daily American life.
Yes. Black Lives Matter.