I cannot tell you how many times I’ve argued for communism, socialism, anarchism, science, evolution, global warming, beards, men wearing earrings, etc. I cannot tell you because I don’t know the number myself. It is probably somewhere between hundreds and a gajillion. Perhaps even as many as a zillion. (gajillion < zillion?)
I am a committed socialist. And that is what this essay will be about. It is interesting that there are people in this world who look at any socialist that is around my age and assume that it’s some sort of “phase” or passing fancy. “Oh, he’s just in college. They all explore those ideas. He’ll come around.” Now that I’m thirty, multiple degrees in hand, I am only more firmly committed, however.
It is probably important, at this point, to explain just what I think a socialist is, since there are so many misconceptions of what a socialist actually is and is not. So here goes: I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that societies function much more effectively when people work cooperatively and wealth is distributed, more or less, evenly. This also means that I am convinced that the more polarized and consolidated wealth becomes, the more unjust, and less coherently, a society will function.
Why do I think this? There’s a part of me that screams that it is self-evident. But I know that is the least effective way to argue for it. Believe me. When I was a freshman in college, it was an instinct. I knew it because it just seemed right. A part of me smelled it and my subconscious evaluated it and it just made sense. As I aged, and read more books, the arguments for it coalesced in my higher brain. Perhaps I’m hardwired for it. As a humanist (another topic entirely) I do believe that if everyone gives the idea of socialism a fair chance, they will see its merits. Socialism is a philosophy of cooperation rather than competition. It’s a philosophy of justice for the many rather than the few.
For instance, it is profoundly unfair that even a misdemeanor violation, which carries the smallest fine, can be a nearly insurmountable obstacle to a working-class family and yet for a wealthy teenager, it’s an undetectable bump. The solution is so simple it’s idiotic: sliding-scale fines.
This is not to say that I do not believe in some meritocratic ideas. It seems to me that there is nothing inconsistent with being a socialist and feeling that certain privileges ought to come for those who contribute the most to society. Those who share of themselves in the best ways. But this ought to be within reason. Yachts, for instance, are ridiculous unless communally owned. Learjets even moreso.
Which brings me to the crux of the issue: wealth and income distribution as it currently stands. Some statistics, bulleted for ease of absorption (2007 numbers):
- the top 1% of Americans possess about 35% of all the total net worth in the US.
- the next 19% of Americans posses a further 50%.
- combined, the top 20% possess 85% of the total net worth of this country.
- elementary school mathematics tells us that the bottom 80% of Americans possess but 15% of the pie.
- for more (including the fact that the bottom 90% possess 75% of the debt) click here.
And so I ask you, whoever possesses the eyes reading these words: do the top 20% of Americans deserve it? Do not answer right away (even if your answer is no). Really think about it. Look at a CEO of a multinational corporation whose annual compensation might very well be millions of dollars or more. Does he work harder than a bus driver? Than a factory worker? Than a teacher? Is there something about this CEO that makes him more deserving of such a ridiculously humongous piece of the pie?
There are arguments that might say yes. For instance, the CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt, has been compensated to the tune of $25,413,891 since he took the job in 2001 (as of 2009). It is, perhaps, interesting to note that 44% of that was from ’08 and ’09. He has earned almost half of his fortune in the years after the housing bubbled exploded all of its sub-prime juices over America’s middle class like an over-ripe zit. It can be argued that, since he is the CEO of the largest corporation in the world, and that it employs 287,000 employees (as of 2007), that perhaps there is some justification for it. Having to head up such a monolithic corporation has got to be a difficult and challenging task. (All numbers compliments of Wikipedia)
There are some reasons why I feel this logic is flawed, however. Consider that the median income (the income that splits the country so that half earn more and half earn less) is around $44,000 per year (as of 2004; I’m certain it must be lower by now). In 2009, Jeff I. was compensated 5.5 million. He made 12,500% more than a teacher (since teachers are typically paid based on the median income of their region). Put another way, a teacher makes eight tenths of one percent of what Jeffy made in 2009. Does he deserve to make 12,500% more than a teacher? Does he work 12,500% harder? Are his responsibilities 12,500% more important than educating 35 students at a time every year?
Don’t say no yet. Consider what it takes to run GE. He is the CEO, the figurehead of the largest corporation in the world. Does he actually have a hand in managing those 287,000 employees? Hell no. He doesn’t know 99% of their names. He doesn’t interact with any of them. His job is to deal with big-picture stuff. Mergers and acquisitions and such and very rarely does he deal directly with the workaday employees of the company. What I mean is (and this is just an estimate) 99% of the real work that GE does is performed by the other 99.999999% of the company (estimate). And so does he deserve it?
Consider also that he is a human being. Take away the charimanship, the learjet, the mansion(s), limos, sports cars, exotic pets, and you have a biological entity, an animal, a beast that is no better or worse than my 5th grade teacher (yo, Mrs. Putnam!). He does a job, a hard job, I don’t doubt, but there is no fucking way that it is harder, more challenging, or more important than a teacher’s job. At the very least, it is not 12,500% harder, more challenging, or important. Indeed, it is absurd to even consider such an idea.
And Jeffy-poo is just a multi-millionaire. A billionaire is (and this is just a guess) about a thousand times more wealthy than a millionaire. Mark Zuckerberg has a net worth of over 5 billion dollars. The average net worth of an American family is about 93,000 dollars (yeah, just that). He’s worth 5,376,300% more than you if you are a normal American.
Remember, Mark Zuckerberg is just made of meat. There’s nothing special about him except that he had an above-average intelligence and computer programming skill and one very clever idea. That’s it. And yet, somehow, he is worth 5 million percent more than you.
Okay, so the other argument against socialism is basically two things: USSR and China. Well I have one response to that argument: The USSR and China are not and were never actual socialist countries. They were dictatorships right from the start. Lenin screwed up. He silenced the press and set the stage for Stalin. Mao was…smart, but flawed as well. They did not actually ever make the real transition to communism that Marx spoke of.
What I espouse is a transition to socialism that does not have to be problematic or painful. And here goes: in theory, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a debt-based fiat currency like the US dollar. It just has to be utilized properly. Consider the Brazillian Real. In the United States, we don’t even have to transition completely from a capitalistic system.
The problem with the US economy has nothing to do with the country being broke. There are tons of dollars. It is just locked up in personal fortunes where it just sits there. These wealthy people at the top make money faster than they can spend it, and so they hoard it. It’s just numbers that sit there. The fact of the matter is, the US economy only actually functions when people are spending money. Right now, nobody is spending money. The wealthy aren’t spending it because they are hoarding it and everybody else just simply doesn’t have any money.
Solution and transition to a socialist economy:
- Raise taxes (a lot, like all the way up to 80%-ish) on individuals who make more than a million dollars a year
- Close tax loopholes on corporations so they can’t get away with paying no taxes.
- Expand the Earned Income Credit to include middle-class families
- Spend, spend, spend on social programs, grants for entrepreneurs, public safety net, education, education, and education.
Better yet, levy a huge tax on wealthy people, take all that money that you get a result, and then burn it (or in the case of the US dollar, which is really a digital currency, hit delete). It amounts the same thing and sends a better message.
And so there it is. I am a socialist. Here is my reasoning. It is perhaps true that I wrote this more for myself than for you, but I hope you liked it.
ihr habt noch Chaos in euch