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CAPITALISM, COMMUNISM, SOCIALISM: WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Updated on November 17, 2012

CAPITALISM, COMMUNISM, SOCIALISM: WHAT’S IN A NAME?


If you watched FOX News for any length of time during the just finished campaign, you heard the words Socialism, Communism, and Capitalism peppered in the analyses of their “experts”. Terms you probably have not given much thought to since taking Economics 101 freshmen year in college. President Obama is a Communist who wants to turn the U.S. into a socialist, welfare state. He and the Democrats want to control every aspect of your lives, down to the size of the soda you are allowed to drink (Mayor Bloomberg did endorse the president, did he not?). We need a return to Capitalism and the free market system. Thus, Mitt Romney should have been elected president. That seems to be the gist of what FOX sold continuously, but obviously did not work in this presidential race. I must admit that capitalism is not the first word that comes to mind when I think of Mitt Romney, but oligarchy and monopoly.

The economic pattern of the last 30 years appeared to follow this course: Republican Administrations in office (Reagan 1981-89, Bush I 1989-1993, Bush II 2001-2009)- business runs amok, scandals abound, partial economic collapse, nation falls into recession. Democrats gain Oval Office, need more government involvement to cure ills; Republicans and conservatives are up in arms, crying the American Dream is dying (we can now expect 4 more years of the same). An oversimplification, no doubt, especially considering the Democrats are just as much under the sway of Big Business as their political foes. The Obama Administration once more touted its support for the “little guy”, but the president’s campaign was primarily funded by the wealthy and large corporations (breaking all campaign finance records for amount raised, similar to 2008). These big donors are taken care of first by precedence, as seen with the bank bailout and stimulus package in 2009, which included numerous pork-barrel projects for supporters filling the war chests of Senators and Congressmen (even Republican VP candidate Ryan had his hand out), but phantom “shovel-ready” jobs for the middle and working class.

Some of our problems might be corrected by breaking the link between Big Business and government, which could be accomplished by eliminating the private funding of political campaigns. Let the national government be contained within itself. Politicians would be elected on their merits, can concentrate on doing their jobs, and get re-elected on their record, instead of fund-raising and the ability to do so, being the main criteria and occupation of politics. What about our ailing economy? Greater government involvement is not the answer. Washington is a money-sucking, black hole of inefficiency, and as Thomas Jefferson said 200 years ago, “Were we directed from Washington when to sow and reap, we should soon want bread”. The free market, however, does not seem to be functioning real well either. In fact, one might question whether the capitalistic system even exits in the U.S. anymore.

Capitalism, according to Econ 101, features many companies participating in active competition, providing consumers with choices, low prices, and quality products. What choice do Americans have? Coke or Pepsi? Cable or Dish? (both outrageously expensive) The health care mess is the prime example of how both the private sector and government have come up short. Pre-Obama Care, 40 million people have no insurance, while those who do really have no say in the coverage they can get. If you are lucky enough to obtain a job that provides insurance, you take their policy at a very high cost (which is going up all the time). Obama Care places band-aids on some of the inequalities in the system (denial due to pre-existing conditions, kids can stay on their parents’ plan until age 26- get out of the house already, will you!-just kidding), but it did not address the main flaws- cost and choice. The insurance companies will be making even more money, at the consumers’ expense.

Yes, millions of uninsured will have access to coverage, but supposedly, while they are coming into the system, millions of others will be driven out of it by rising costs and quality of care will fall dramatically (if you believe the doom and gloom crowd). What will be the effect on Medicare, if Obama Care is paid for by robbing its coffers? Of course, much of the uncertainty arises from the health care bill being an incomprehensible pile of mush. More than 2000 pages. Has anyone read or faintly understood the whole thing? Highly unlikely. I have a sneaking suspicion that is the way the Obama Administration and Democrats wanted it. Think how many trees and how much money could have been saved if just the wording of the bill had been reduced to a more manageable size. Introducing more competition into our health system, and by extension reducing costs and offering more choice, might require the breaking up of the largest insurance companies. Where is the trust-buster Teddy Roosevelt when we need him? Health benefits should also be separated from the work place. Why should there be any difference in the cost of coverage for a 25-year old who works for a large corporation, compared to another 25-year old who wants to take over his family’s small business? It does not make sense. A person should also not lose their insurance if they get laid-off.

Cutting costs will require tackling the lawyers as well, who ride the gravy train of malpractice suits against doctors. Many physicians are finding it difficult to keep practicing due to the cost of malpractice insurance, and how can you blame them for ordering every conceivable test for patients, even if unnecessary, just to cover themselves. All this added cost is passed on to the consumer. Insurance companies and the legal profession possess powerful lobbies in Washington, which brings up the thorny question of Big Business and government again. Ideally, the free market and government should be as separated as possible. That means, however, business must compete fairly and honestly. Then, the need for government oversight would be reduced, and regulations simplified. Wall Street cannot have it both ways, cheat until they get caught and whine because more rules are put in place by government. Don’t cheat….seems pretty obvious.

Just a brief word about Sodagate. Will legislating the size of a soft-drink cup really reduce the amount of soda a person can drink? I don’t think so. Free re-fills? Obesity was not a problem in this nation 40 to 50 years ago when fat-free and no-calorie did not yet exist. Super Big-Gulps and the fact MacDonald’s still sells Big Macs is not the cause of our society being overweight. Parents are working longer for less money. Children come home after school to an empty house, so sit down in front of the computer instead of going outside to exercise. Healthy, nutritious food is more expensive than junk food. What do you expect lower income families to do? Perhaps politicians should spend more time concentrating on solving the causes of these problems than harping on the effects for a photo op. Double Gulp or Quarter-Pounder with cheese? Anyone?

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