Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson

When I was coming of age military service was held by most as essential in protecting our unquestioned capitalist way of life. The Vietnam nightmare consuming America was all about communism vs. capitalism. Communism, and its believed intermediary socialism, were un-American.

I then spent four years in our armed forces, early-enlisting midway through my senior year in high school. Those 12 years of schooling were paid for completely by tax dollars. Then and now, no one called or calls that a socialist educational system, but rather a public one. It certainly isn’t a capitalistic one. My medical training as a Navy corpsman was also totally tax funded. Rejoining civilian life I went to college on the G.I. Bill, just as my father had when many attributed that government program with jump-starting America’s historic “post-war” economic growth.

In the service, I was paid the same for assisting surgery as I would have been chipping paint. Everyone in the same “rating” got paid the same rate regardless of the job done or hours worked, yet that system didn’t disincline anyone I served with from giving their all towards our common goals. We were comrades, though that word was never used.

Living an uniformed and uniform economic existence outside capitalism hadn’t been mentioned at all as a recruitment incentive. It’s just the military way, an accepted irony that struck me as surreal from the get-go. Service life is plainly an exemplary model of the definition of socialist communism even though no one in uniform, and few in civvies, ever acknowledge that obvious truth. We salute that socialist protection of our globalized “homeland” while remaining socially and politically fearful of wider beneficial adoption in civilian life. America’s sociopolitical branding dodge remains a never-ending shell game of semantic manipulation to benefit those already advantaged rather than uplifting those marginalized. In the military rank also had its privileges but everyone had their basic needs met.

Oh yeah, the military’s healthcare back then wasn’t just universal single payer, meaning taxpayer, it was free and government delivered. And, being totally socialist certainly didn’t prevent it from providing an outstanding best practice of medicine.

Four years of that communist-socialist patriotic reality was enough for me, but I can well understand its appeal to those who choose it as an extended career. Free comprehensive medical care, free schooling, guaranteed job placement, and housing and food security for everyone is a pretty good tradeoff in relinquishing a few freedoms most civilians have little use for anyway.

Outside of our national defense, conservatives attack socialism as anti-American while championing the often catastrophic vagaries of capitalism as a better way of life. Despite the evidence provided by nearby Canada, or Europe, they can’t imagine a workable socialism functioning in a civilian setting or condone a distribution of wealth where nobody needs to want for equitable necessities.

I didn’t exit the service for capitalism but for democracy. Opting out and returning to a reliance on a free market system to provide for my essential needs was about as pragmatic as idealistically enlisting in the first place. In living life on the outside no one has your back. Democratic capitalism takes no prisoners in pitting each of us against all other participants competitively fighting over an elusive ever-in-short-supply brass ring.

Democratic socialism, aka social democracy, isn’t communism or even real socialism. Fear-mongering that suggests that they’re the same is just plain wrong, as wrong as equating Cuba with Sweden. Assertions that personal freedoms will erode and free enterprise will disappear are simply scare tactics to defend the poorly functioning form of capitalism most Americans now suffer under unfairly. Traditional capitalism’s being undermined by its own failure to sustain a livability it once was capable of providing, if not to everyone then to most. Its American Dream promise is being systematically reneged by a runaway “class warfare” redistribution of wealth to the already super wealthy.

In 2016 many Mainers heard and embraced Bernie Sanders’s message of the 1 percent and how the collective wealth of our world’s greatest economy should provide similar progressive entitlements as those enjoyed by many social-democratic allies and trading partners. That benign socialism has been more accurately described by some as compassionate capitalism, a privately controlled economy with a social conscience.

Medicaid expansion. Maine All- Care. Universal in-home care. Public childcare. A livable minimum wage. Public education through college. Family medical leave. All are doable if enough of the electorate desires them to be. In the service, such democratic empowered change wasn’t possible, but then all those needs were already met.

Some conservatives still feign an inability to comprehend how any of those European modeled social entitlements could be afforded here. Who’d pay for it?

This November’s ballot initiative on universal home care clearly calls for a 3.8 percent tax on that portion of income exceeding $128,400 to fund its implementation.

We manage to afford a defense budget including $6 billion dollar BIW ships that surpass those of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, the United Kingdom and Japan combined. Where’s the conservative outrage against that always bipartisan praised socialist underpinning to Maine’s economy?

Gary Anderson lives in Bath.

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