“Socialism and the redistribution of wealth is a fundamentally wrong-thinking, anti-freedom, anti-American idea. Nowhere in history has it worked. It destroys nations. Why do our leaders keep moving us in this direction? Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness CANNOT happen when you limit, confiscate, and redistribute ownership and property through central government – societies throughout history prove REPEATEDLY that humans are incapable of making socialism work. It has, without exception, landed governments in despotism, cruelty, slavery, and violence. Does this bother anyone else??”
I found the above quote on Facebook. It was someone’s status a few years ago, but people have perpetuated these ideas for years, and somehow, they continue to gain traction. First, I need to address this issue of “the redistribution of wealth.” This is the main argument for nearly every soul opposed to social programs. I know a lot of these people, and the foremost thought in their minds is a vision of the government actually stealing money from the rich and distributing it evenly amongst people too lazy to work for their own money. Another Facebook status offers a suitable response, though I understand the issue is more complicated. This is from someone who was enjoying a recent LDS General Conference, which you can watch streaming live (the first weekend of April and October) or as a recording anytime, on lds.org:
“Thanks, Elder Oaks, for serving as a counterpoint to a lot of recent nincompoopery about poverty. Our job is not to debate the causes and make concomitant generalizations and judgments, but it is to relieve suffering where we find it.”
This is the role that many social programs play in the lives of men, women, and children living in poverty. Many on the right, though they might deny it, see poverty as an infectious disease that the government can only cure by denying treatment. Or they see it as an addiction to a drug which the government supplies, keeping these people dependent on that “dealer” to get a continued fix. The sheer absurdity of those ideas should be enough. I shouldn’t have to say any more. I mean, do I really need to say that poverty is not anyone’s preferred status, and the paltry means currently provided by social programs in this country often barely help to alleviate suffering, but it at least helps people survive. Who wants that life? Take it from someone who’s been there: no one wants that life.
As for what redistribution really means? Allow me to share what has been used as a “controversial” statement to answer that. On 13 July 2012, in a campaign stop in Virginia, President Barack Obama said the following:
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
“The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.”
The above quote became one of the most blown-out-of-proportion quotes I have ever heard. I don’t have time to break the entire thing down, but I shouldn’t have to because everything you need to know about it is right there in plain, proper English. However, I will look at one thing specifically, since it is a large part of the evil Socialist agenda in this country. We have all had that great teacher who inspired us in some way, even if we didn’t ultimately pursue that subject in which said teacher inspired us. I can think of one easily, immediately. Most of these teachers, as was my 10th grade English teacher Mrs. Murphy, are or were part of the public education system, one of the largest social programs we have in this country. However, this program suffers from opponents who refuse to allow it to grow into a more consistent, larger social program. Education should fall under the reigns of the federal government, even if it takes a constitutional amendment to see that happen. I know I just fired up some of you “government-is-evil” folks out there, but you have no room to stand. The current state of education in this country, when compared to other developed nations, is abysmal, at best, and it continues to dwindle.
My vocation allows me to see firsthand the failure of the public education system in this country. A large percentage of students continue to fail two of the most basic and most important subjects for success in the world, math and writing. In these areas, especially mathematics, most of the rest of the developed world are already too far ahead for us to catch up in multiple generations. The countries with the best education systems are the countries where education is under complete control of the state (or the federal government). That allows for consistent delivery and expectations. Unlike those countries, the education in the USA is completely divided. For example, just before I started my freshman year of high school, I moved with my family from Illinois to Idaho. Where we settled, I had extremely limited educational opportunities compared to what I had looked forward to in Illinois. The most extreme example came in the choice of science courses. I had one choice for ninth grade in Burley, Idaho, compared to multiple choices at Moline High School in Illinois. There was nothing I could do about it, and I had to sit through an entire year of a science class that taught students things I had learned in 6th and 7th grade while living in Illinois. And we wonder why all these other countries with far more rigorous and consistent curricula are beating us into the ground intellectually.
I will return to the broad, main issue at the end of this post. In the interim, I hope you will enjoy my take on a few issues that still fall under this evil umbrella of Socialism, beginning with taxation.
“Income Tax didn’t even exist in America until 1861 – and that was 3%!!! Before that, individuals, churches, & community groups HELPED EACH OTHER and took care of THEIR poor and needy. They considered it their moral duty. It still is. Turning it over to the federal government is immoral. And it will kill this nation. It’s killing it right now. It needs to stop. Socialism is evil, people. Understand that. Do you realize socialized medicine would not seem like a need if we hadn’t been running an increasingly socialized system since the 1940s? The ‘cure’ is worse than the disease. It caused the problem in the first place. A wise man once said, ‘No, the Lord doesn’t really need us to take care of the poor, but we need this experience; for it is only through our learning how to take care of each other that we develop within us the Christlike love and disposition necessary to qualify us to return to his presence.’ So tell me how Socialism helps us develop Christlike love” (another Facebook status by the same individual who provided the one I used to open this post).
Wow, where do I begin with this one? Seriously, Socialism prevents us from developing Christ-like love? Such a statement suggests that if you use the government as a tool to better society, then there is no room for you to reach out to others personally. That sounds like someone ready to make an excuse for lack of personal responsibility, a responsibility that we all have, to love and serve when and where we can. A colleague and friend says it best in the description of his political views: “I believe that a representative government should not only protect the rights of its citizens but take active steps in fostering a social and cultural infrastructure that guarantees equal opportunity for all. I believe in public institutions, progressive taxation, and look forward to universal health care.” If Christians believe that God inspired the government of our country, then they must also believe he intended us to use government as a tool to help people. The sheer numbers of people dwelling in poverty (and worse) in the USA (and even the world) means that whatever effort we make to fulfill our moral duty, while important and worth every bit, makes very little to no impact on the overall problem. The government has the infrastructure in place (and even if it didn’t , it is far more capable of producing one than any of us), and that same government can stretch a dollar a great deal further than any one of us are capable, so we should shut up, take our medicine (read, “pay our taxes, and more if we are asked”), and allow the government to provide some medicine (from the real stuff all the way to cash assistance) for those people suffering from so many maladies.
Additionally, we live in a completely different world today than the one the founding fathers lived in. This is precisely why, in their wisdom, they created a living document in the Constitution, not something static and oppressive, but a document that can evolve with the people it was written to protect. Like the living oracles many Christians believe in, who provide the living word of God, which allows them to see what the Lord would have them do in our day, so the Constitution can continue to be molded of the people, by the people, and for the people.
As for the income tax criticism, the income tax introduced in the 1860s was used almost exclusively to support the war effort. The USA did not establish a permanent income tax until well into the 20th century, 1913 to be precise. That’s interesting. I wonder why it happened then? Although WWI was still a few strides away, there was growing unrest in the world, and the USA was about to become a major global presence. Now, consider the rise of income taxation throughout the last 100 years. We have had to fund dozens of military efforts, several on a massive scale for several years. We have also had to deal with an enormous serge in population, for which we need infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.), police officers, fire fighters, governing bodies and places where government business can be conducted; I could go on and on and on. So how does one propose we otherwise support the government, our government, our employees other than by paying them?
To finish up, I came across the following comment at the end of an article that I read on CNN.com. This is one of the best comments I have ever read, and it’s not just about the words. The tone is world class. The man or woman who wrote this has a strong voice. Apparently, Someone flagged the original comment, because he or she did not like it after it had received 222 “likes.” I love the moxie of the repost:
“At 222 likes, someone flagged my comment. I see freedom of speech is under attack in America. I repost it, in the name of free expression. Here it is: ‘If Obama is elected… it is an acceleration to the gradual destruction and “socialization” of America….’ Hello from Canada, the evil social democracy just North of the holy capitalist USA. In this DISGUSTING social democracy we all have full health care, and as a result: live longer lives than Americans, have a lower infant mortality rate than America and our system cost[s] us less. Our evil socialist Canadian dollar is worth more than the holy U.S. capitalist dollar and each Canadian citizen is $40,000.00 richer than their American counter part because of our social system. Canada is disgusting in that not a single Canadian bank failed. Not one. This left our retirement savings for our retirement, and not for the third yacht for some criminal banker. Our socialist shores and seas are pristine unlike the capitalist Gulf of Mexico. We are not on par with third world countries in income disparity. America is on par with Mexico and the Philippines in income disparity (Geni Index)[.] It looks like a bit of DISGUSTING socialism in America could make a huge difference.”
There isn’t much else to say except that I also extend a challenge to anyone still in disagreement, even after word straight from the horse’s mouth (that’s a quality cliché). If Socialism is really so “evil,” why is it that the countries in the world with the best quality of life practice that evil to a far greater degree? Do the research and you will see that citizens of some countries that pay the largest tax rates enjoy far greater lives than most of the rest of the world, including enjoying a world-class healthcare system. I’ll give you some hints to point you in the right direction. Think Vikings.