Maybe We Need to Rebrand Socialism

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This originally appeared in my Broke-Ass City column for the San Francisco Examiner.

I’m a Democratic socialist. I know some of you just sneered reading that sentence, which is totally justifiable because I’m sure you’re a billionaire and Democratic socialists want to raise your taxes.

Oh, you’re not? Well, surely, you must at least be a multimillionaire.

No, not even a millionaire and you’re seriously bandying around the idea that socialism is evil and wrong?

Not to sound patronizing, and this honestly comes from a place of compassion, but you’ve been duped.

Hoodwinked. Hornswoggled. Taken for a ride. Swindled. Bamboozled.

My friends, you’ve been lied to. The idea that capitalism and the free market will fix everything is a myth made up by those who stand to gain the most from us believing it. The truth is that capitalism is what has gotten us to this awful place in history — and things are only getting worse.

Why do I call this era awful? Just look around: The environment is falling apart, jobs are being replaced by automation, people can’t afford health care and income inequality has reached staggering heights. Oxfam just published a study that found 82 percent of the wealth created in 2017 went to the top 1 percent. And these are the people who somehow manage to keep getting tax breaks. Someone who makes $1 million a year is making $83,333 a month; why on Earth should their taxes be lowered?

Now, I know the word socialism sounds scary. Growing up in the United States, we’ve had it beaten into us that socialism is evil and leads to things like the USSR and Cuba. And to be honest, socialism could stand a little rebranding. Maybe, instead of calling it socialism, we should call it “free-health-care-and-education-for-you-and-your-kids-ism.” Because that’s what it is.

Democratic socialism is Sweden, not Stalin. It’s the idea that, by making the ultra-wealthy pay a lot more taxes and the rest of us pay a little more in taxes, we can have things like great free health care, excellent free education, fair payment for the work we do and security for when those jobs disappear.

Unless your health care is covered by your job — which is less than 50 percent of Americans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation — you’re probably already paying far more for your health insurance than you’d be paying in total taxes if this country had universal health care. And if you want smart, well-educated kids who can compete globally, free education is a must.

Just look at Finland: By heavily investing in public schools, students not only end up speaking at least three languages fluently by the time they graduate, but they’re also now learning how to code, starting in kindergarten. And they don’t have any student debt after college. In fact, people in most developed countries leave university without debt.

Our current predatory system,  allowed to flourish because “capitalism and the free market will save us,” has gotten us to a place where regular Americans end up assuming crushing school and health care debt. And, of course, those who already have money are getting even richer by investing in the health care and educational institutions to which the rest of us are indebted.

Now, how is that fair?

The U.S. government is currently giving welfare to multibillion dollar corporations in the form of subsidies and tax cuts. Don’t you think that would be better spent on citizens instead of some of the most profitable companies in the history of the world?

I’m not alone in my beliefs.

Socialism is having one of its greatest rises in popularity since the labor movements of the early 20th century. And look what that got us: weekends, eight-hour work days, workers’ compensation and oodles of other laws that protect us from rapacious bosses — even if some people have spent the past 40 years undermining these laws and trying to give more power and profits to those at the top.

So, don’t let the bogeyman scare you. Don’t be afraid of a word that’s been given a bad rap by the greed monsters who don’t want to pay their taxes. Join the Democratic Socialists of America today and get involved; there are local chapters all over. Together we can make this country work for all of us, not just the 1 percent.

That’s what socialism is about after all.

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.

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