About my Blog

I am writing this blog from a radical political point of view. To be a political radical is to examine everything critically. It is about taking today's news, today's unmentioned news, history, or even just the way we think about ideas, and adding a totally new perspective to them. If you are a radical, and a socialist, like me, you will agree with a lot of what I have to say. If not, I hope I at least make you think about things that you previously took for granted. Most of all, I hope everyone enjoys this blog.

About Me

I have just graduated from college, where I wrote opinion pieces for my school newspaper. Though I started out a liberal, I have moved far to the left since then. Despite my politics being different from most people, many people found a lot of what I had to say interesting and insightful. I hope to continue challenging people to think here on my blog.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Simple Case for Radicalism

The first question is: What does it mean to be a radical? I would argue that it simply means thinking outside the box. Very far outside of the box.

George Orwell tells us that simply thinking logically makes us radical. In 1984, he states the most obvious fact, 2+2=4. However, people in Oceania engage in "doublethink." In other words, they believe in two incompatible ideas at the same time, and therefore believe things that cannot possibly be true. Such as 2+2=5.

The protagonist, Winston Smith, is the only person (as far as he knows) who still believes the truth (including, 2+2=4). George Orwell was originally going to call the book "The Last Sane Man in Europe," but the publisher did not like that. By being the only sane man, Winston Smith was a radical.

How does this apply to us? In her autobiography, Assata Shakur uses an example that is as straightfoward as 2+2=5, but that even I didn't know until I read her book.

The 13 amendment to the Constitution is the one that ended slavery in the United States. Or at least, that is what we are taught in school.

Say to yourself the uncontroversial statement "slavery is always wrong."

Now, look several lines below to read the actual 13th amendment.

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

In case you didn't see it, let me highlight the relevant part of section 1.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

In other words, the 13th amendment does not ban slavery, it makes it Constitutional.

I rest my case.

Monday, August 17, 2009

One more thing About Health Care Reform

I'm putting this in a separate post since the other one is so long. Needless to say, healthcare is a big issue.

Anyway, the current system and any reforms that Obama proposes, empower management over the working class. They can keep lower wages while offering health care as a trump card. A job that offers health insurance might be more desirable than a job that with better wages and conditions but no health insurance. With a single payer system, healthcare is taken out of the hands of employers entirely. This makes it easier for workers to negotiate for fairer wages and better conditions, since they no longer have to worry about health insurance.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Single Payer is the Only Real Option

The debate has already been framed for us. On the one side, you have the right wingers, claiming that the government is going to have "death panels" to kill old people, and that they are going to ration our health care. On the other, you have the Democrats, claiming that "health care reform" is the only way to go. The system does not work, single payer is not possible at this time, and health care reform will save the currently broken system. Liberals are following along, talking about how important reform is, even if they support single payer.

The system is indeed completely broken. And the right wing claims about the government slaughtering your grandparents are simply ridiculous. But Obama's continually watered down health care reform, even if it were to end up with the "public option," (which it no longer looks like it is going to) is not going to fix it.

Before I get into what is wrong with Obama's plan, let me explain what a single payer plan would do. While the exact cost cutting would obviously depend on the plan, single payer systems in most of the developed world cost half of what they cost here in the U.S., while producing better outcomes. In other words, the country that has the most problems with waste are having that problem because of the private sector, not a supposedly bloated government. Intuitively, it should at least make sense that giant corporations would not be more efficient than government. Add to the fact that corporations are inherently working to make a profit instead of working for the public good, and its easy to understand why the private sector is the least efficient option.

Put simply, yes, you'd be paying more taxes, but you'd be paying half as much for healthcare overall because you wouldn't have to pay for insurance out of pocket.

And of course, it is a myth that you'd have no choice of doctors. Under this program, you could choose any doctor, today, your insurance company chooses your doctor. Also, the waiting times are a myth. Sure, if you're rich, you can buy yourself quicker care in the U.S., but most people wait a long time here too. As Julie Mason explains in the Ottawa Citizen, the U.S. media has fabricated a horror story about Canada's health care system (A reality check on a reality check). A woman who claimed she couldn't get immediate surgery for a brain tumor in Canada and therefore had to get care in the U.S. actually had a benign cyst. While her waiting time would have been completely inappropriate if she was dying from a brain tumor, it was perfectly reasonable because she was not. Of course, the most obvious question regarding a single payer system is: Why are we only talking about Canada? Occasionally, people will criticize the British system, but no one talks about the single payer system in France, Germany, or almost any other developed nation. I wonder if those systems work even better than the Canadian system. However, one thing is certain, people like it so much, they refuse to get rid of it. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher attempted to get rid of their National Healthcare System, but had the same success that Bush had in trying to privatize social security.

Also forget about rationing under single payer. The most significant part of single payer is how healthcare is treated as a right, not a privilege. In other words, rationing by private insurance is precisely the problem that we can get rid of with single payer. Private insurance companies can deny you coverage for any number of reasons, such as a prexisting condition (ie, you have MS, like the author of this post). Of course, this doesn't include the almost 50 million Americans who don't have healthcare at all. But if you have coverage, you could end up with the worst of both worlds, you pay a huge proportion of your paycheck to healthcare, and then not have any money to pay for getting sick when they decide not to cover you.

Here is what would happen if we did in fact have a public option (It appears that Obama is scrapping the idea). For starters, it would only be available to a small percentage of Americans. Because of its limited size, (Jeff Sher estimates on counterpunch that it will cover about 10 million people Jeff Sher: Making a Mess of Health Care Reform) most Americans would be forced to buy private insurance. However, the existence of both options, along with the government being unable to negotiate drug prices, would increase costs instead of reducing them. Of course, these costs would be put on the backs of American workers, because they would be forced to buy insurance under Obama's plan. When Hillary Clinton came up with a similar idea, I felt that this was worse than the current system, and I still do. At least when you pay taxes, it is supposed to go toward the public good. As a general principle, I don't think this is necessarily true, seeing as nearly half of our tax dollars go towards the military. However, in other countries, it has been proven that a single payer system works as a public good.

On the other hand, forcing people to buy private insurance is no different than if the government decided to force everyone to buy a Nintendo Wii. I use this example, because most people who are 30 or over don't want a video game system. The public is no longer pooling their goods together, rather, the government is forcing people to buy a private good. This doesn't fit into a liberal ideology of the government providing for the public good, or a conservative free market ideology of keeping the government out of the market. Personally, I see the government helping the corporations as the anti-democratic status quo.

The government forcing you to buy health insurance is not the only problem with Obama's plan. He is suggesting that he will cut costs. This effectively means that the government would cut medicare and medicaid. Conservatives would suggest that this is likely because government is evil. I will suggest that this is likely because 1. The elite tends to use recessions as an excuse to "cut spending" which always refers to important social spending. 2. Obama can get away with it because he is not a Republican. When liberals complement Clinton on "balancing the budget," do they notice that he did it by cutting social spending, ie. "ending welfare as we know it?" Worse still, I would bet that this would occur regardless of whether health reform passes. In other words, the real "rationing" is completely unrelated to the health reform being proposed.

The cost cutting and forcing everyone to buy insurance appears to still be on the table. The public option does not. Obama has been backing away from the public option over the past weekend. The important thing to understand is that this has nothing to do with public opinion, and certainly nothing to do with spinelessness. If Obama decides not to put a public option in the final bill, it is because he never intended to have it in the first place. This is an old game the Democrats are playing. They put something on the table, let the Republicans rant and rave, and then say that because of Republican ranting and raving, they can't do what they set out to do. From 2004-2006, they complained that they needed a simple majority in Congress, then, when they got that, they complained that they needed 60 Senators, and the presidency, and now that they have that, they claim that there are "blue dog" Democrats who are really Republicans, and that they need a super duper progressive majority and the end of the Republican Party.

Why are the Democrats really siding with the insurance industry? It's because they get the same donations the Republicans who are ranting about socialism get. It's because Obama himself has been bought by big business, and in this case, the insurance industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics Obama has received $19,462,986 from the Health Sector (Top Contributors to Barack Obama | OpenSecrets). When we realize the obvious, easily researchable truth that it is not just Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats being bought off by the insurance industry, it should be obvious that all the politicians do their bidding. To assume otherwise is to believe that while Republicans are heavily influenced by campaign contributions, Democrats are somehow immune. The reality is that both Obama's "reform" and the status quo serves the health care industry and hurts the American people.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Rule: Thinking You're Smarter Than Everyone Else Doesn't Make it So

This was too long to post on the huffington post. I imagine that this "new rule" is the one that Bill Maher will do tonight on his show. Anyway, here is a link to it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-maher/new-rule-smart-president_b_253996.html

He basically says that Americans are stupid, and that the "founding fathers" were wise to oppose democracy. I sometimes like what Bill Maher says, and at least he speaks his mind. But I've always been annoyed when he insists that the American people are the problem, and not the elites who control them. And when I look at what is on the news, and what people are told, I'm impressed that people are as skeptical as they are. Here is what I was going to write:

It is elitist to sit there, and find the worst polls, claim that America is stupid, and then suggest that the framers were right to oppose democracy. Ask most Americans, and I think you will find they have some interesting things to say. The trick is that you have to look under the surface. Which statement is more insightful: "Iraq is located next to Iran," or "Both political parties are corrupt?" I would say the second. Even though the second statement fails to explain how or why, the first statement is simply trivia and provides no insight at all. Regarding Iraq, it is more important to oppose the American occupation than it is to locate it on a map. You are not intellligent if you can find it on the map, name all the cities, cite the history, and then conclude that democracy can created at the barrel of a gun.

The second problem is what people have been taught. For example, I think that people believe in creationism because they haven't been taught evolution properly. It is usually thought of the way Lamarck conceived of it, not Darwin. Lamarck thought that giraffes gradually grew longer necks because they stretched them in order to reach the tall trees. Darwin argued that instead, the giraffes with shorter necks died off, because they couldn't reach the trees, while a few who happened to have longer necks due to a mutation survived.

Whose fault is that? How many people who bought Lamarck's theory did so because they weren't taught the proper theory of evolution?

And then of course, we can't forget apathy. The intuition that politicians are corrupt, while simplistic, is correct. This causes people to give up, because they have been persuaded there is no alternative. Consequently, they don't pay attention to politics, and therefore don't know anything.

We ultimately have a choice. Either we can have an elite that looks out for their own interests at the expense of everyone else, or we can have democracy. What we can't have is an elite that looks out for the people's best interest instead of their own.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

This is a test of the email subscription service

Apparently, people who were subscribed to my blog did not get my last post via email. I'm not sure if it is working now (supposedly its based on what day it was written). If you receive this email check out my blog (http://thesocialistidealist.blogspot.com/) to see yesterday's post. If not, well, I'm still working on it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Obama is as Bad as Bush But....

To Sum Up:

If A and B, then C. That is how a philosophical argument works. Premise A is that Obama's policies are as bad as Bush's. Premise B is that Bush's policies were so immoral that he must be opposed at all costs. The conclusion, or C, is that Obama must be opposed at all costs.

Many progressives disagree with premise A, while conservatives disagree with premise B. However, what I'm arguing against is people that agree with both premises, and then create the conclusion that they must support Obama, by adding that premise A isn't quite true, Obama is a tiny bit better than Bush and the Republicans.

If you'd like to see what I wrote in response to a article that seemed to fit this "Obama is as bad as Bush, but, argument, read on. Otherwise, skip to the comments.

This post that will apply to some audiences more than others. Some (and some who read this) still actually believe in Obama's policies. They think that Obama's policies have been progressive thus far. I will discuss Obama's actual policies in other posts.

However, there are others, some who are liberal Democrats, and some to the left of liberal Democrats, who are dissillusioned with Obama. They see regressive policies instead of the progressive policies they thought that they were voting for.

One of the people who fall into the second group is David Michael Green. In past articles, he has mostly talked about how evil the Republicans are, and that the Democrats are the lesser of the evils. In his latest article on Common Dreams, he lists a series of Obama's policies that sound like they should have come from the Bush administration. However, several of the commenters, including me, felt that he was trying to rationalize voting for Obama in 2008, and doing it again in 2012. Here is a link to the article: Hey, Did You Hear That Democrats Won The Election? | CommonDreams.org

Many of the commenters, who supported a third party candidate, basically said "I told you so." I've certainly done that before. But I wrote something slightly different in response to this article. Here it is:

"I would like a liberal to just once, admit that it was a mistake voting for Obama. But they can't, because at the very least, they want to "vote against" a Republican in 2012.

People are afraid to leave, afraid to abandon positions they've held for so long. But I did. Back in 2004, I was a loyal Democrat supporting John Kerry. But then I started reading good websites instead of the lying New York Times, and I started to think about what it all really meant. By 2006, I was one of these disillusioned Democrats, still willing to vote for them. It was (and is) the last time. I have since realized that we have to criticize the entire economic and political system. I have realized that their aren't these rogue lunatics out there promoting fascism, but that the Republicans were working within the rules of the establishment.

It's not just my voting habits, but my political views themselves that have changed radically. I was a liberal, I am now a radical, a socialist.

And I am sorry, indeed ashamed, both of the positions I've held in the past, and the fact that I supported John Kerry and when I became old enough, voted for Democrats.

There, was that so hard?"

I can type and think pretty fast, and therefore, I wrote a large response in a few minutes. But you do not have to do that in the comments, some comments are a phrase or a sentence. So feel free to comment on my posts!