Socialism in America? What the heck, Bobby Joe? What’s our society coming to? Yeah, bring up the word “socialism”, say we’ve got in America, and some folks start to freak out a bit. Some can’t believe it, but it’s oh-so-common, right under our noses, yessiree. The reason for this column topic stems from another column I had written that prompted some comment from our family friend, Tim Humes. I had been throwing out some opinions that were half-baked (imagine that) and Mr. Humes had to set me straight. Tim referred me to a blog at the Daily Koz website that listed not one, not 20, but 75 ways that we experience socialism in America. After reading the blog, I had to slap myself because most of it was so dang obvious that if it were a mongoose, I would have been attacked by now. Bernie Sanders set off some alarms with people thinking his platform was going to give away the farm - whatever you think of Bernie, consider this eyes-wide-open observation.
Here’s the partial list – military/defense, highways/roads, public libraries, police, fire departments, postal service, bridges, garbage collection (of course, some of that is privatized), veterans administration, public parks, public officials, sewer system, Medicaid, public landfills, farm subsidies, CIA, FBI, EPA, Social Security, public schools, jail/prison systems, the IRS, FDA, and free lunch programs. All these programs vary city to city, and can have private funding for some (so, lunch programs at school might be subcontracted, for instance). But many, many programs in our great country have been helped through socialism. Hard to even say the word socialism? Images of the ol’ U.S.S.R. keep poppin’ up? (they didn’t call it a socialist republic for nuthin’, kids.) Yeah, well, get it over, Junior, because stuff just got real. Fact is, there is almost always a disconnect between the meaning of socialism in America, and socialism over the rest of the globe. I’ll put “democratic” in front of the word, and that could ease some furrowed brows. Many, many people depend on democratic socialism everyday, in many ways – it’s not just for those freeloaders, and systemchuckers. In fact, one of my part-time jobs involves working with people who need public funding to get by.
I’m closing in on my second year of working as a part-time job coach at Genesis Development here in Storm Lake. Genesis, if you do not know by now, provides services for people with different levels of disabilities, enabling them to live, and work around our community, and led more fully independent lives. One aspect of our mission statement involves having an open mind about folks with disabilities, and getting more people, and businesses, around the community to do the same. This is isn’t some mamby-pamby, bleeding heart process of shaming people into letting our clients work for their business - our goal is providing real jobs, at real wages, for our clients, while breaking down some stigmas, walls, and barriers. Through the day to day process, our job developers, and program co-ordinators (thanks for the clarification, btw, Tammy Zoch, Sarah Anderson, and Brad Williams at Genesis) deal with funding sources, federal and state.
These folks make sure that our clients know when, and where their funding to help pay for their daily right to exist, work, and have a full a life as possible, is coming from. As a job coach, I just finished online training for me to know better the role of a job development, and the Genesis system as a whole, and I still have so much to learn. It’s complicated, messy, time consuming, and enough to make you wanna say “uncle”, along with some other imprintables, every day. And I’m just part time! Consider what our full time people go through! Funding from Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and other government funding changes with clients as their lives change. Older Americans get to know these programs well, so imagine if you needed additional help if you were blind, in a wheelchair, had an intellectual disability, complications from a stroke, were an amputee, or any number of other challenges. Anyone who is the least bit curious to learn, I would be more than happy to schedule a day for a guided tour through Genesis – I guarantee, it will give you a new awareness of a part of society that, unfortunately, still gets marginalized.
We all too often lump socialism in as a bad thing, when it works right under our noses in this country daily. We see what we see on all our forms of media, and usually, it’s never the good stuff that happens with our government programs. I bet dollars to donuts that not a minute goes by where someone doesn’t say, in some capacity, hey, what is it with all these lazy takers in our country, and why the hell should I give more of my well-earned tax dollars to any more programs? Guess what? I do the same, but I can tell you from first hand experience that many of the workers employed by these systems ain’t getting rich, I can assure you. So, my purpose to hopefully show you, and make you a bit more open, to how democratic socialism works, and has improved America. You might not change how you vote, but you might realize that not all your tax dollars are getting burned in the money pit of government programs.