Leonard Zwelling

         I have been getting hammered by my conservative friends on a host of issues. First, they resent the fact that I do not show enough deference to the current occupant of the Oval Office. He may be a despicable human being, they admit, but he is the president, they aver. Frankly, I am fiercely independent on this subject. If I want to call the current President of the United States the SOB he is, I will. I owe him no deference given his proclivities toward lying, stealing and cheating. He’s a dreadful role model and a terrible person. You don’t like it, tough!

         On a more serious and substantive note, I am also getting hammered because my conservative friends see me as a bleeding hearted liberal because I espouse some views that they think are socialistic. On this point they are right.

         America already has a well-ensconced vein of socialism in its federal government. This includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, school lunch programs, support for education, the CDC, the NIH and for that matter the entire Department of Defense. The Constitution and its preamble indicate there is a role for the federal government in the running of the republic and that role is constantly in flux. So what exactly is wrong with socialism?

         Contrary to what my conservative friends think, I am not a socialist when it comes to the basic economic system in the country. I am a firm capitalist and agree with them that capitalism is what has made America great even though it does get out of control once in a while thus necessitating things like trust busting and the EPA. There is also a role for some aspects of wealth redistribution for the betterment of society. That is usually understood to be the function of taxation at all levels. Money is taken in by the government from people who have it (you can’t take it from people who don’t have it) and programs are developed to support those in need—the old, the sick, poor mothers and public education students.

         What really troubles me about the attitude of some of my conservative friends is that it suggests that they have gotten where they are (usually in the top 1% of wealth) on their own which simply is not so. This doesn’t mean they didn’t work hard for their money, but most of them are white, come from middle class backgrounds and are professionals. All of which is very nice, but still not representative of much of America.

         The coronavirus has made the country realize that like it or not we are really in this together. The virus is a great leveler. Everyone is susceptible, but the poor seem to be bearing the burden disproportionately because they cannot work from home, live in virus supporting crowded living quarters, and do not have access to affordable health care. I for one do not really want to live in a country that espouses the attitude that George Orwell stated in Animal House. All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

         Capitalism is great and it tends to sort out winners and losers. I just don’t think people should have to die because they were not successful enough in the capitalistic food chain. Now it appears that we may be in for a real recession as the governmental support that was keeping many Americans afloat goes unrenewed. Spending which was not horribly curtailed during the contagion may now really go in the tank and with it the economy. Things can get worse and without federal relief they will.

         So, to my conservative friends, I am not a bleeding hearted liberal, but I also do not think a fully Darwinian society is one in which I would feel comfortable, let alone safe. Some aspects of socialism may be necessary if America is to continue to thrive. Government has a role in the economy and now is the time for the Congress to act like it actually cares about the country. Our fellow Americans need our help. Let’s do it.

Leonard Zwelling