The Great Socialist

The Republican condemnation of Obama’s speech was predictable and tedious. Conservatives seem incapable of elucidating a fresh perspective on social and political issues, preferring instead to mire themselves in anachronistic paternalism and odes to tradition and extreme conservatism.

Republicans accused Obama of not being bipartisan, of trumpeting a liberal perspective to the world, or being the arch socialist, and of lauding government as the answer to all our ills. They also accused him of being a secularist, of destroying Christianity, and of not reaching across the aisle to Republicans.

For four long years, Obama has tried to coƶperate with conservatives, to compromise, to meet them halfway, and they have met his overtures with a relentless rigidity, a refusal to consider any and all propositions he may have made.

There is no way to compromise with the bull-headed stubbornness that emanates from the extreme right in this country, no meeting of the minds, no ideas to invigorate the debate and do the right thing for the people.

If Obama is a socialist, then I am too, and so too are the majority of people in this country, and they should be proud that they are. As the President said, “our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it”. The President is correct when he says that this nation was built on a strong Middle Class. As the Middle Class shrinks, and the wealthy take more of the spoils of the workers toil, so the country falters, and declines.

A strong working class leads to a more powerful union, a strong economy in which the workers can afford to buy the goods that they make. When that changes, the workers become a servant class, a peasant class, their labor only good enough to enrich the powerful and the wealthy.

Obama pointed out that when people are proud of their work, they can break free from the chains that bind them to endless toil, and produce an income that can elevate their families from grinding poverty. It is only when the hard work that one does can propel them to a better life that work and life become worthwhile.

When the spoils of ones labor accrue to someone else, there is little point in striving to be better, to innovate, or become enterprising. When labor receives too little to pay the rent, there is little point in working harder, or longer, or giving the fruit of ones mind to the corporate class.

The President’s image of the little girl born into poverty having the same chance to succeed as anyone else was a possible tribute to Sonya Sotomayor, the Supreme Court justice who grew up in precisely those circumstances, and made something of herself.

Her story is told too seldom, the chances of anyone moving from the tenements of Chicago or the poorest areas of the Bronx are very slim. The wealthy send their progeny to Ivy league schools, send them to Europe on vacation, to the opera and the symphony for recreation. They are able to send their children to Harvard and Stanford, as alumni themselves their young do not need to qualify.

The President intimates that he knows well that many government programs needs to be modernised to keep pace with the quickening changes that permeate our technological world.

He is correct in that we should look at the manner in which we are taxed and change the ease with which the wealthy are able to hide income, or mutate it to become dividends or capital gains.

Equally, our education system needs serious attention. The poor cannot succeed if their education is inadequate, if they attend schools that have little heat or air conditioning, if their teachers are absent or ill educated themselves. This nation needs an educated populace, or the pillars that keep democracy from tottering will vanish. The work and perseverance of people should be rewarded.

Obama spoke at length about the rising cost of health care, and he rejected the idea that we cannot both care for the generation that made this nation great, and for generations yet to come. There are ways to solve the rising cost of caring for our elderly, for our sick and disabled, that we can rein in the costs of that care.

If it means that government should take over the task of that care, then so be it. If insurance companies, hospitals and clinics are only there to enrich shareholders, and care little for the people whose lives they destroy, then we should sweep them from the playing board. If that means that we need socialized medicine, I am all for it.

The life and medical security of the people is far more important than a lust for ever greater profit. If that means higher taxes and fewer worthless tests for non-existent diseases, then we should be ready to shoulder that burden.

In stirring tones, Obama told his audience that “we do not believe that freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few”. Why should those that control the means of production take from the people who make it possible to have production at all. No person in this nation was able to build or produce anything without the aid of hundred, thousands, or millions of people.

As the President said, “any one of us may face a job loss, a sudden illness or a home swept away by a terrible storm”. Far too many people do not see that much of their success in life can be laid at the feet of good fortune, of being born to the right family, or in the right country, or speaking the right language, meeting the right people. While some of these things we can control to some extent, there is much that we cannot.

Events can sweep us away as the winds of war swept an entire generation  of young men from Europe during the two great wars that blighted the twentieth century. In all of our lives there are events large and small that shape us and make us who we are. We forget the old saying, “there, but for the grace of God go I”.

Obama made quite clear his commitment to programs that help the poor and Middle Class, like Medicare and Medicaid, the program for the very poorest. Social Security keeps millions from starvation and destitution. Republicans, predictably, want  to reform those programs, which usually mean gutting the programs, or privatising them, a disaster in the making. Entrusting our future to Wall Street is like entrusting your earnings to the casinos in Vegas or Atlantic City.

In a particularly sharply delivered thrust to the Tea Party scion, Paul Ryan, the President said, social programs, “these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take risks”. People that pay their entire lives into social programs are not takers, they earned those benefits.

To take them away is an act of brutality and expropriation. They do give us all the peace of mind of knowing that if we fail at whatever we do, we can pick ourselves up and at the very least, survive.

Obama made a great show of reminding us all that we cannot be responsible just to ourselves, but also to the great polity of people, and to the future.

The single most important issue of our time, of any people in human history, is our response to climate change. If we do not respond quickly, at this juncture, our civilisation will vanish into the shifting sands of a despoiled planet. We cannot wait for someone else to have the foresight and vision to save our planet, we need leadership, and Obama has shown that he wants to be that man.

It is doubtful that this incorrigible and incompetent Congress will oblige the president with a positive, rational response to the challenge of climate change. They will continue to bicker and whine and demand that their petty agenda be enacted instead of seizing the moment to do something great, and stop the destruction of our world.

As the President said, “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.” It still astounds me that in the face of overwhelming evidence, conservatives still refuse to acknowledge the reality of climate change, that without action, the world we leave behind for our children and theirs will be bleak indeed.

There are ways to create a sustainable future, and lead the world into that future, a way in which we can create the jobs necessary to secure that future. Conservatives are too busy clinging to their oil companies, afraid that someone will come and take away their gas guzzlers, or trucks belching smoke. We can invent the future, and still produce profits without destroying this planet for future generations.

If Obama is a socialist, then today, I too become a socialist. If he is a liberal, then I too become a liberal. If those things are true, the American people are liberal at heart.

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