Photo of the day

This shot from the California wildfires has been making the rounds on twitter.  Amazing.  Lots more good stuff from the photographer.

An air tanker makes a drop on the River fire in Scotts Valley, Friday August 3, 2018 near Lakeport. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2018

What’s with all the Socialists

I should keep up with Michael Tomasky more.  He’s a smart analyst and I pretty much always agree with him.  Anyway, loved his recent NYT Op-Ed looking to explain the rise of “socialism” within the Democratic party.  And, I think he’s right that, basically, capitalism amok is to blame:

I’ve been fretting lately about the state of mind of America’s capitalists. All these socialists coming out of the woodwork must have them in quite a lather. So I write today with some friendly advice for the capitalist class about said socialists.

You want fewer socialists? Easy. Stop creating them.

Every once in a while in history, cause and effect smack us in the face. The conditions under which the czars forced Russians to live gave rise to Bolshevism. The terms imposed at Versailles fueled Hitler’s ascent. The failures of Keynesianism in the 1970s smoothed the path for supply-side economics.

And so it is here. As I noted recently in The Daily Beast, the kind of capitalism that has been practiced in this country over the last few decades has made socialism look far more appealing, especially to young people. Ask yourself: If you’re 28 like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York congressional candidate who describes herself as a democratic socialist, what have you seen during your sentient life?

You’ve seen the United States go from being a country that your parents — or if you’re 28, more likely your grandparents — described as a place where life got better for every succeeding generation to a place where for millions of people, quite possibly including you, that’s no longer true.

As that happened, you’ve seen the rich get richer, and you’ve perhaps noticed that the government’s main response to this has been to keep cutting their taxes (in fairness, President Barack Obama did raise the highest rate in 2013 to 39.6 percent from 35 percent, although for single filers, that rate didn’t kick in until earned income went above $400,000).

You witnessed the financial meltdown of 2008, caused by big banks betting against themselves…

I could go on like this for 20 paragraphs. Many more, in fact. But you get the idea. Back in the days when our economy just grew and grew, we had a government and a capitalist class that invested in our people and their future — in the Interstate highways, the community colleges, the scientific research, the generous federal grants for transportation and regional development.

And, funny thing, during all this time, socialism didn’t have much appeal… [emphasis mine]

So if you were a person of modest or even middle-class means, how would you feel about capitalism? The kind of capitalism this country has been practicing for all these years has failed most people.

Yes, it’s given us lots of shiny objects to gush about. A smartphone that can display slow-motion video is a wonder. But an affordable college education, though perhaps not a wonder, is a necessity for a well-ordered society. So is a solution to a national drug crisis in which 115 people die every day, as well as a lot of other problems that the capitalism of our era has simply ignored.

I have mixed feelings about this socialism boomlet. It has yet to prove itself politically viable in general elections outside a handful of areas, and by 2021 we could wake up and see that it’s been a disaster for Democrats.

But I understand completely why it’s happening. Given what’s been going on in this country, it couldn’t not have happened. And if you’re a capitalist, you’d better try to understand it, too — and do something to address the very legitimate grievances that propelled it.

Had an interesting discussion with a former student a while back about Democratic politics and I was surprised/ taken aback when she said that the issue was that I was a capitalist and she was not.  Properly and appropriately regulated, i.e., like they seem to do in most of Northern and Western Europe, free markets really are a great thing.  There’s clearly no better economic system for unleashing human achievement and innovation.  It just needs strong regulation and a strong safety net to check the worst excesses (and they are damn bad) of unfettered capitalism (e.g., strongly limiting the role of the profit motive in health care provision).  When done right, capitalism works really well.  The “mixed economy” model.  Alas, Republicans of late have done to “capitalism” what right-wing Evangelicals have done to “Christianity.”  No wonder there are more “socialists” and more “seculars.”

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