Socialism is a social economic system in which the well-being of humans and the planet are given top priority—not sacrificed in favor of profits. In our current system of capitalism the greatest part of profits are kept by large industry or monopolies and financial and banking institutions or the super mega rich individuals who own or run these entities. In socialism the government we elect would work for the good of everybody, through our elected representatives and worker organizations.
In socialism, the enormous wealth produced by the labor of “we the people” would not be privately kept by large industries or individual billionaire company owners. Instead, it would be used by the government to create the most comfort possible for everyone in our society. Socialism’s goal is to meet human needs, allowing people to engage in the “pursuit of happiness,” while preserving the planet for future generations. It requires us to be responsible for our future. I know this sounds too good to be true, but it is possible. Don’t be fooled by those who tell you it isn’t. Socialism is totally possible in our day and age, and it is necessary if we wish to survive as a species. We have all the technology needed to transition to building socialism. We are only missing the unity to do it.
Building from What We Already Have
How do we get to socialism? We can unite around a basic program and a plan to get us there. We already have some government-administered programs that could be improved to move us toward socialism. In a socialist U.S.A., the constitution would guarantee that these programs and agencies be funded and run by the public for the benefit of the public. To name only a few: the national highway, railway, and park systems; the Department of Veterans Affairs; Medicare and Medicaid; the U.S. Postal Service; the Internal Revenue Service; Unemployment Insurance and Social Security; children’s food programs; and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Unfortunately, these programs and agencies are not meeting their potential because they are always being attacked and underfunded by Republicans and some Democrats. They are also attacked through the media by corporations that would love to privatize and run them for their own private profit. Instead, under socialism these programs would be expanded and improved, so they work for everyone with no exceptions.
In socialism the national, state, and local highways, roads, streets, and bridges would be maintained and improved on an ongoing basis so that they would be in optimal condition and not endanger drivers. This would be accomplished with a massive jobs program to hire all the necessary people. An extensive public transportation system would be accessible to all, be environmentally friendly, and be run by national, state, county, and local governments. It would also have union elected bodies working together with the government at all levels. All the people employed in this area, from cement workers to office workers, would be protected by unions that would guarantee safety, working conditions, good wages, and democratic participation. Public participation, through a voting or consultation process, would be needed so that no individual can take advantage of the system or profit from others. This essential feature of socialism would be written into constitutional law.
In socialism there would be universal, high-quality health care for all at no cost for all medical, dental, or eye visits; medicines; and procedures. Currently we could easily expand Medicare and combine it or model it after our publicly run Veterans Administration health-care system.
Public education must be funded from kindergarten to the end of college. The current college debt owed by students should be forgiven so that all those students that have graduated can focus on getting jobs to pay for things they need and want. This would help get our economy going, instead of having students paying interest on bank loans, which gets nothing going. Interest payments only put student money in the pockets of the bank owners and top bank managers.
The U.S. Postal Service should be improved now, not cut, so that workers would work only a six-hour day for eight hours’ pay. The number of postal employees would be increased to make this shorter workday possible. Those currently working part-time or half-time should be brought up to a six-hour full-time position. This kind of improvement can be done now but would for sure be a no-brainer under socialism. In fact, a six-hour day for eight hours’ pay in almost all areas of work is a good way to stimulate our economy after the huge unemployment created by the COVID-19 crisis.
We could also improve the Department of Housing and Urban Development. We can have a “housing for all” campaign with the goal of providing a permanent place to live for anyone that needs housing. We can do this by expanding and increasing subsidized rents and creating a national new-housing construction campaign that would have offices in every state of the union. This program would also create training programs and millions of government jobs with good wages. Under socialism there would also be guaranteed union protection, and union elected representatives would work with the HUD administration to be sure all workers and housing recipients in the program would be protected and represented.
Where Will the Money Come From?
Since the crash of 2008 and the Occupy movement that brought attention to the gross inequality in our country, we’ve heard a lot about the 1% not paying their fair share. Companies like Amazon pay little to no taxes while paying wages so low that their workers often need to apply for food assistance. Two ways of making corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share are to impose higher taxes on the wealthy and create a tax on every Wall Street transaction. These are not pie-in-the sky ideas. In 1950, the overall tax rate on the wealthiest households was 70%; in 1980, it was 47%. Two years ago, the top 400 wealthiest households paid only 23% of their income in taxes, a rate lower than the average American’s. As for a Wall Street trading tax, this type of taxation existed from 1914 to 1966 in the U.S. and continues to exist in France and the UK.
The military budget is another source for the funding needed to help build socialism. More than 64% of our country’s discretionary spending (money allocated by Congress each year) is used to fund the military, whose current budget stands at $740 billion. Add to this the bloated Homeland Security Department budget, which includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP); in 2019 these two agencies alone cost taxpayers $24 billion. From this a huge amount of money is used to buy very expensive jet fighters, guided missiles, armored vehicles, and other military gear from private companies. We use this technology to kill or aid other countries to kill our fellow human beings. This is morally wrong. It is a crazy use of money and a totally unnecessary expenditure. The military budget needs to be cut drastically; the money saved could fund health care, mental health, job counseling, housing, K–college public education, public nutrition programs, and the Green New Deal.
Much the same can be said of the thousands of useless police department expenditures which can be better spent to improve our city services. In Los Angeles, for example, more than half of the city’s budget goes to fund the police department as social services are being cut and 60,000 homeless sleep in our streets. Across the country police budgets are being increased. In Los Angeles it has already been cut a little, and hopefully these cuts will continue because of the current protest and rebellion against police.
We can see how priorities are currently all wrong when throughout the country essential workers in hospitals cannot get face masks, but every police department can equip their officers with high-tech military dress, weapons, and gadgetry. In socialism the priority would be the protective equipping of hospitals and all medical personnel who are the real heroes that care for us. Much, much less would be spent on the police and the military because peace in our communities and with the peoples of other countries is a very important part of socialism. Saving the planet from nuclear destruction is also a basic component of socialism, and a U.S. Department of Peace could be established toward this end.
We must remember that police departments are created by city councils, and city councils and the Congress are elected by us. The current daily demonstrations are one key component for driving change. Voting for representatives who will promote these programs is another. Elected officials should be responsible only to the voters—not big money interests like real estate developers, military contractors, and the pharmaceutical industry. Under socialism big money in elections would be prohibited by law. This can also be the case in our current system if we demand it of our elected representatives at the city, county, state, and federal levels.
Today hundreds of thousands are marching against racism and police who kill African Americans and are never prosecuted. Others march for an end to gun violence and against sexual and gender discrimination and abuse. Still others demonstrate for peace and against war and the hunger it brings. These demands, which are really calls for a more just society, can become a reality under socialism.
A much safer, healthier, happier U.S.A. and world are possible with socialism. We don’t have to wait years and years for improvement in our country. We have the necessary technology now. Socialism in the U.S.A. is possible today in our lifetime. Getting there requires that “we the people” decide we want a much better life. A much better life requires that we do something about the horrible situation that capitalism has put us in. It requires that we choose to become politically active and, at the very least, to vote. It requires that we demand of the candidates we will elect that they either change things for the better or be voted out. It requires that we demand and build unions to improve wages, safety, and working conditions. Change requires that we share with our families, friends, and others the discussion of socialism and the need to work together, in unity, to achieve a basic program to improve the situation in our country starting now, not in 10 years.
Let’s do something. Start by demanding and talking to others to make demands with you. Unity is key, especially since the powerful owners and bosses of the giant corporations and banks are not going to share the wealth they have that we produced. They will fight with all their power and money to convince white working people and everyone else that capitalism is good and socialism is bad. But just look at the situation we are in, and you can see that capitalism is good only for the very few and favors the super rich tremendously.
Socialism in our day is what we need to be prosperous, healthy, and happy.
Image: Justin Mitchell, Creative Commons (BY 2.0).