The Truth about Socialism in America

book jacket featuring a graphic silhouette of the flag raising at Iwo JimaThe “S” Word: A short history of an American Tradition. . . Socialism by John Nichols (2011) makes the case for Americans to embrace the benefits of socialism for the common good. This book is worth buying as well as reading.

The Republicans and conservatives demonize socialism today without reason. With the fall of the communism of the Soviet Union, it seems like they need a new enemy to keep the war on truth, justice, and the specter of a hot war.

Seriously, how can anyone be against medical care for all? How can anyone believe that socialism means taking what little you have and giving it to (a) lazy, (b) immoral, (c) poor people and would destroy America?

Why do the haters of “socialism” find a political system that helps those in need survive, and maybe thrive, to be so despicable?

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Raising the Floor by Andy Stern

book jacketRaising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream by Andy Stern (2016)

This is a good book. I am buying this book. I do not agree with everything he says in the book, but the writing is clear and broad in scope. I was reminded of something I knew, that Alaska changed their state constitution to provide a basic income to all resident citizens from the money oil leases and such brought into the state by putting all that money into a dedicated fund to share the wealth. And a Republican governor did it.

I have some doubts about the purported takeover of technology for jobs, but that is probably a prejudice or failure of imagination on my part due to my lack of education and experience (pre-females being allowed to take shop in public schools). It is like watching magic to see a video of the automation that puts car parts together, or the mind blowing details of how the new Bay Bridge was built. Or when I saw the giant machine used to drill out the tunnel under the English channel. For that matter, every day I took the New York subway, especially though the tunnel under the water from Queens or when I drove through the Holland Tunnel and did not drown, well, it just doesn’t seem possible that mere mortals could figure out how to make tools and how to use them to accomplish such feats.

We have people who cannot make change correctly so cash register machines had to be modified to contain a function that simply told workers what the correct change should be. Icons are used instead of words, although I have to say, from a user interface point of view, this actually is a good thing on many levels: multilingual, faster, and more accurate. Translating the abstract concept of FRIES by having a little graphic of french fries in the container eliminates a lot of cross-brain work translating the letter symbols into a word and then punching a value of numbers in the register.

Trust is the number one criteria for people to accept a lot of the mechanization and technology. As a grocery shopped, you select a product based on a posted sign for a particular price. When the item is scanned at the register, can you remember the price of all the items selected to ascertain if the automated system actually priced it as the sale take listed or maybe it added a penny or a dime. Who actually watches the $$ values that are being rung up and are confident enough in their recollection to contest a price? Peer pressure of people standing in line waiting for you, the inability of the register clerk to know anything beyond what the computer tells her is right, having to call a manager over to assess the situation and go back to the shelves to check the sign, all to save 2 cents on a $2.00 purchase. Not a scenario to encourage questioning the accuracy of the technology. Even self-serve registers have this problem, or worse, because you have to do the scanning yourself while watching accuracy and then do the bagging too, again with people standing there impatiently waiting while you try to figure out why your credit card swipe is demanding a pin number you don’t have and it just seems wrong to push the red cancel button to continue.

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Thieves in High Places by Jim Hightower

book jacket author with sandwich board sign in red long johnsThieves in High Places: They’ve Stolen our Country and it’s Time to Take it Back by Jim Hightower (2003)

Another funny book by the author of:
 If the gods had wanted us to vote they would have given us candidates (2000).

Funny but it makes you want to cry way, book of commentary and actual facts from Jim Hightower. He starts the introduction with a very appropriate word for the W days: Kleptocrat Nation. I have since learned another word that better suits the 2017 administration: kakistocracy.

For those of you who don’t want to click the link, Wikipedia defines it to mean:

“a state or country run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens”

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Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth

book jacket showing an empty walletAusterity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth (2013)

I could start and end my commentary with this simple imperative: BUY THIS BOOK.

Economics was one subject about which I had little interest and a lot of hostility when forced to take it in college. The teacher tried his best, but trying to explain economic theory to a bunch of kids who have possibly never had any knowledge of how much money their parents make, spend, or what things cost is a rather hopeless proposition. At least for me, combined with minimal exposure to life long enough to seen the actual consequences of economic theory in policymaking and being able to see the short-term and long-term impact of such policies, made the content just too much of a word salad to be useful.

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IF THE GODS HAD MEANT US TO VOTE THEY WOULD HAVE GIVEN US CANDIDATES

clever book jacket with his face in cowboy hat and blue and red stripes with stars on either side with the photo of heads of politiciansIF THE GODS HAD MEANT US TO VOTE THEY WOULD HAVE GIVEN US CANDIDATES: More political subversion from Jim Hightower (2000)

Note, there is an updated and revised 2010 edition. This cover image is from the 2000 edition I got from the library. They may have the newer version too, and I definitely want to check it out (pun intended!).

I had heard the name of Jim Hightower and recognized him as a politician. I had no idea he was so FUNNY! Since he was from Texas I just assumed he was one of the humorless, hostile, conservative types. Turns out he will SKEWER ANYONE with equal delight!

Jim Hightower, America’s most popular populist, is a bestselling author, radio commentator, public speaker, and all-around political sparkplug whose credo is “You can fight the gods and still have fun.” Twice elected to statewide office in Texas, he has long battled the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought to Be: the working families, consumers, the environment, small businesses, and just plain folks.

Though the jacket copy above used the cringe-worthy “folks” that has forever been made vomit-inducing from the W use of it (and followed by Obama continuation of same while speaking in an elegant fully literate way otherwise), I was delighted to read this description, itself amusing.

The title alone perfectly sums up the 2016 election without needing any updating. In fact, it might be even more applicable to 2016. The 17 losers (and I include 45 in particular despite the Electoral concept biting US all in the ass), was astonishing in the shallowness of the candidates, the YUUUUUGENESS of their egos (45!! Unbelievable. Trust me. Believe me. Sad.)

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