A friend reached out to me to ask me how I handle it when family and friends bring up the scary word socialism. I understand the concern around the word socialism in the sense that there has been a long-ingrained fear in America surrounding that political model, usually dating back to childhood. However, this is a word that is now being manipulated and weaponized in this political climate. It is time to call this fear out for what it is—irrational!

Many people will bring up countries like Venezuela or Cuba as examples of failed socialism, but it was corruption that led to the demise of the political structures in these nations, not their use of social programs. Conveniently, the fearful never seem to want to investigate the Scandinavian countries where they employ many social programs, or Australia and New Zealand, or the 32 industrialized nations that successfully provide healthcare for their citizens.

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The fact is America already uses socialist programs. If I asked you if you would rather go out in front of your house and pave the road from one side of your property lines to the other, I’m guessing you’d choose to have that road paved by your tax dollars. If you are so adamantly opposed to social programs, I would invite you to go rent the heavy machinery, haul in the materials, and pay the laborers required to pave your stretch of road. Don’t forget you’ll also have to budget in the fees you’ll have to pay to all your neighbors and local business owners in order to drive on the stretches of roads that they have paved and now have to pay to maintain. It sounds like a ridiculous option, doesn’t it?

If I asked you if you would like to hire independent teachers for each of your children, to teach them at appropriate grade levels and ensure your children receive a quality education, I would assume you would rather not have to employ them out of your personal finances. Public schools and publicly-funded charter schools certainly seem to be the preferred choice for most Americans. It’s a nice alternative to having teachers on your payroll, and most people are fine paying taxes to avoid taking on these expenses independently.

What if you had to employ your own on-call police officer or your own firefighter? That sounds expensive, doesn’t it? Or you could forgo those expenses and hope to heck you never need those services.

What if you had to find your own water source, filter that water, and configure the engineering to get that filtered water into your home?

Worse yet, what if you had to be responsible for all your refuse removal and buy the land to deposit that refuse upon?

Then there is the unthinkable … how are you going to take care of your crap? As in your literal feces. Have fun dealing with that mess! For all the times I hear people say, the government can’t do anything right, I beg to differ every time I flush my toilet.

Currently, in America, there are 61 million people who receive social security benefits. This security net is not a free resource; we all pay into this program each pay period, so that in our retirement we have the peace of mind to know that we will not have zero income as we enter our last chapter of life. No one wants to be old, poor, and homeless, and in America, we shouldn’t be. Is Social Security really such a bad idea? Isn’t it smart to invest in our future?

Right now, we have an incredibly wasteful and inefficient medical system, riddled with the exploitations of pure greed—a system that leaves 30 million people priced out, and lets another 30-40 thousand people die each year. Don’t we owe it to our fellow Americans to try something better?

Does it not make sense to cut out the middle man (i.e. greedy insurance companies), and have the power of the US government to negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies (i.e. the greediest crooks of them all, profiting $100 billion a year). Can we honestly not see that pulling our collective resources together just might make things easier and much less expensive?

At present, we are spending nearly $500 billion annually on billing and insurance-related expenses, of which between 50% to 66% is estimated to be “excessive” administrative cost. I would think this level of waste would be maddening to the true fiscal conservative. And frankly, I don’t know about you but I am not hearing a lot of complaining from the 44 million beneficiaries of the effective and efficient Medicare system we currently employ. Can we not see the value in following the models that have already proven themselves to be successful, both in our country and in 32 other nations?

But I digress. This is not about Medicare for All or expanding public schooling to include four-year universities. This is about an antiquated fear of the scary word socialism. Let’s quit the crying and stop denying the fact that we already employ socialist programs, and we happily relish in their conveniences.

If you want to continue to weaponize this word and be willfully ignorant to our current state of affairs, then I expect you to either pay a private courier to deliver this year’s Christmas card to me! My guess is that after I succeed in helping to elect our first Democratic Socialist President, Bernie Sanders, you’re going to be too busy licking your egotistical wounds to make that Christmas card journey.

So, go ahead, keep pretending that you hate the programs you happily use. And don’t worry, I will never expect you to admit I was right about this one. I’ll just tell you now, you’re welcome. I’m glad the future I am fighting for is one that treats all Americans equitably, not just the ones who got off their butts to make it happen.

No, I’m not afraid of the word socialism. What I am afraid of is the stubbornness that denies the validity of social programs we already employ and the willingness to knowingly allow harm to fall on our fellow Americans just so you can dig in your fearful heals.


Michelle Shaw of Glendale, AZ, is a political activist, organizer, and community outreach leader who has worked on over 20 political campaigns. Earlier she wrote Socialism – That Scary Word! on the Blog for Arizona.

She holds a degree in political science, graduated summa cum laude in her masters of education degree, and taught science to the future leaders of America. Michelle’s most important measure of success is her two sons; defining success as “Raising healthy, productive, compassionate human beings who go out into the world and make it a better place.” Michelle’s boys and her Purple Heart Veteran husband are the driving forces behind Michelle’s passion to create a more just, equitable, and sustainable world.

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