The Conservative Revisionist History
In today's buzz-word heavy culture, it's almost impossible to say a word like "socialist" without conjuring images of hammers and sickles or angry Tea Partiers waving anti-Obama banners. It's the same way that the word "democracy" still seems to be rallying word for some people until you say the word "capitalism", at which point their allegiance seems to shift a bit. It's really no surprise that some of the central vocabulary to our history as a nation has become perverted by the polarized political discourse and party-wrangling of the past several decades.
After all, Civics education in the U.S. is the consistently lowest performing content area and, according to recent studies show that nearly half of Americans can not name the three branches of their federal government. Only one in a hundred can name their state representative, and more people vote on reality television than they do for presidential elections. This is not the "educated electorate" that Thomas Jefferson envisioned in creating our public system of education, or our democratic process.
All the same, the United States is a socialist democratic society and a representative republican system of government. We use the republic form of government because it's more convenient for such massive populations of people, and because three hundred years ago we did not have the ability to make the voice of every citizen heard (which is a democratic system). All the same, we have espoused socialist democratic ideals throughout our history, consistently creating both competition and checks and balances against that competition, within our system. We have a public education system that is beholden to the voters and taxpayers to which it serves.
It was never meant to be a federal pet project, which it has become largely under Republican leadership in the last thirty years. We have a U.S. mail service that, due to technology and several successful alternatives, is being outpaced and made increasingly obsolete...until you look at rural areas where federal postal services are critical to the health of the community. We have several social safety nets which, after the incredible corruption and exploitation by government and the financial sector in the 1920's, became necessary to continue to serve the social well-being of the country. Those safety nets may have become a little less important to social welfare as a whole, but their placement was a large part of why our economy didn't bleed out after the 2008 crash. Public servants, likewise, are paid for doing those services that are central to the preservation of the nation through taxation. These are democratic socialist ideals, and they are a large part of who we are as a nation.
Therefore it concerns me that certain groups within the U.S. government are hailing competition and government limitation over these democratic socialist ideals, characterizing a shift of that nature as a "return" to the initial intentions of the creation of our country. First of all, to presume to know what those intentions are is foolish and arrogant. The architects of our Constitution created the document to be fluid, but to protect the inalienable and basic rights of its people (not corporations, which didn't come along until the end of the 19th century). Past that, I don't think they had particular intentions as stated in the document itself.
Secondly, the "return" that many of the radically conservative elements in Washington and state capitols advocate for is actually a return to the industrial explosion of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time that saw outrageous growth in the private sector, consolidation of wealth at the top, and exploitation of the American middle class. These elements came together to cause the Great Depression, an economic catastrophe that's much closer to the 2008 crash in character than any other recession since.
To have individuals, pundits, lawmakers and lobbyists, advocating for that kind of policymaking so recently after an economic crash that was brought on by the same kinds of behaviors, is astounding. It's as if our economic recession of the past several years just wasn't bad enough to bring about real change. We have 1 in 100 people unemployed, instead of one in four. We had major banks (those responsible in the first place) flushed with cash and maintain their employees, rather than closing and laying off everyone. What will it take United States voters (other than a slightly better Civics education) to look at the reality, and not the rhetoric? Socialism isn't a bad word, it's actually a portion of our national history. Competition is good, but it's not the end. it's only a means to making life and prosperity attainable for the American citizen. That's the end.