Bernie and Socialism and how to Pay for that Stuff

First off, let me say I’m glad Bernie is running for president. Even if he doesn’t win the nomination, it gives the grownups a chance to talk about substantive issues and debate what economic path the US could pursue if it wasn’t being run by crooks and about to be overrun by crazies.

Bernie likes to talk about the ideal socialism, which is, more or less, everybody in a group making sure that everyone else in the group is taken care of. Families do it all the time. It’s not inherently a bad thing. But it’s expensive from a traditional government-does-it point of view, and we have to figure out how to pay for it.

Also, Everybody Knows™* that Socialism enables lazy people. More on that another day. Bernie’s supporters point to reasonably successful socialist governments over in Europe and say that it could be that way here, too. After all, they seem to be able to afford it. What’s the difference?

There’s something no one mentions. Not even Bernie. Your tax dollars and mine are supporting those lovely socialist nations in Europe. We pay for much of the defense and security of Europe, top to bottom, east to west. We took on the burden in a grandiose, “I am the king of the world!” period at the end of World War Two. And we did a damn good job of it, too. When was the last time Europe went seventy years without a major war? Never, that’s when. Seriously. Never.

Mission accomplished. You’re welcome, Europe!

But now as the economies of Europe become ever more integrated, maybe the mission isn’t the same as it was. Maybe those happy prosperous nations can pay for their own defense. Maybe we can turn some of that military money to achieving our own paradise. The simple fact is that we already help fund prosperous socialist countries. They’re just not this country.

I propose a fundamental change in mission for our nation’s military. For the last seven decades we have tasked ourselves with maintaining world peace, and we’ve done a pretty damn good job, overall. There are exceptions, but remember: seventy years with no major war in Europe. Boo-yah! High-five, all you who have served. But it’s time to let Europe and Japan look after themselves. It’s time stop subsidizing Toyota and Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz by lifting a load off their governments’ obligations. The money they don’t spend on tanks is money they spend on day care and gaining an advantage in the marketplace.

So we stop paying (as much) for their security. We take the money we save on tanks and airplanes, and spend it on day care, and health care, and veterans’ benefits. We have the money to put everyone through college. We can get homeless servicemen, the ones who achieved this incredible period of peace, and find shelter and medical care for them. The United States is wealthy enough to give everyone health care. It’s just that right now we spend the money on other stuff. On an obsolete military mandate.

But Bernie, EVEN BERNIE, can’t bring himself to suggest this out loud. He can’t even suggest that we might cut our losses on terrible weapon systems whose only mission is to cost money. (Watch this space for a special feature on the F-35 ‘Flying Turd’.)

And that’s why I have a hard time contemplating voting for Bernie. If he was really who he says he is, he’d have the balls to take on the completely corrupt defense procurement machine. If we only paid for the weapons that worked, we could cut our budget by hundreds of billions. HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS! And our military will still be just as mighty, because it would be using functional equipment! And Bernie should have the huevos to suggest that maybe Japan could pay for its own army. But he doesn’t. And until I find a candidate who has that resolve, I can’t take any of the other social reform promises seriously. Because until we stop spending so much on defending other countries, and we stop pouring money into flawed weapons, we simply can’t afford the other stuff, much as I wish we could.
* Many of the things that Everyone Knows are in fact false.


11 thoughts on “Bernie and Socialism and how to Pay for that Stuff

  1. I cannot believe you say something like that. I’m quite disappointed.

    First of all, your model is not cheaper than ours. To give you an example: EEUU is the country that spends the most in health system per person having a pretty bad one. Studying to be a doctor in Spain (10 years) costs around 100.000 USD, we don’t need medical insurance, everyone gets all the services (even cancer quimio, surgery, etc). You are paying a huge sector adding no value at all. So our social security is not just better, it is cheaper. In your health system there are more people working on the insurance companies than nurses.

    Talking about security we need to talk about inner and outer security. Our inner security is way cheaper for 2 main reason, inequality is not that hard in Europe, so people are not willing to risk their safety to steal a wallet and; wait for it, we don’t allowed random people to have guns. Removing fire weapons from walmarts will saves you tons of money. Then we need to talk about outer security. Your WWII idea is pretty hollywood style. EEUU didn’t come to Europe until June, 1944, WWII started in September 1939, it ended in Sep 1945. As a matter of fact, EEUU didn’t join the war until Japan bombed Pearl Harbour, your main point was taking out of the equation Japan (which by the way you did trowing 2 nuclear bombs on 2 of the more crowded -civil- cities in Japan, yes, you were the only country that crossed that line). You did good helping the allies, but I’m pretty sure Fleming (english doctor) saved way more american lives. Seriously, check your history books, the WWII was won by the URSS, they just don’t appear at hollywood movies. EEUU army is bigger than all the other armies in the world (it must be expensive!), France, England and Italy have their own huge armies too, but there is no army in the world who can beat European armies combined (unless they are open to use nuclear force in that case none can do anything, not even EEUU). EEUU is not saving the world, they are not going across the world saving countries, on the contrary EEUU has started many wars just to get their resources. Doesn’t look weird that you do nothing against north Korea or Congo and you are all over the oil middle east countries? You can read also about how EEUU used its army to place themselves in a winning position all over south america, that’s quite a story too. All the crazy muslim crew murdering people all over the world were EEUU allies during cold war, when you finance them to create chaos on the socialist middle east countries, you don’t have to believe me, Rambo III is “Dedicated to the brave Mujaheddin fighters”. You trained Bin Laden. And last 75 years without wars in Europe because of you… I could say the same, las 75 years without war in EEUU is due to the magnificent European diplomacy :) EEUU army has no relevant presence in Europe (at least you were not taking care of the migrant crisis we are living right now, people running away from wars that you started btw).

    Thinking EEUU is the savior of the world is childish. EEUU army is that big because united states citizens are pretty paranoid and because of the weapon industry lobbying that finances much of the Republicans and Democrats campaigns (EEUU campaigns, another huge waste btw).

    Countries like Portugal, Spain, Italy, Hungry are paying “that stuff”, being EEUU one of the main potencies I’m pretty sure you could do way better. The only reason EEUU has worse poverty ratios, worse health system, worse education, and worse security is not that you are saving the world it is because there are people getting huge amounts of money out of that system and those people are the one financing the campaigns of your presidential candidates. Bernie wants to change that.

    Seriously, check all the info I mention, it is pretty scary how EEUU citizens know that little about the world and the regime they live in.

    I usually love your posts!

    • Thanks for the long comment, JP! I always like a good argument, but in this case we mostly agree. Maybe I pitched my tone to the American ear and neglected international readers.

      What I’m saying here is that the US spends tons of money keeping a military presence in Europe that is not necessary anymore. Hell, by treaty we won’t even let Japan have its own army (though it does now anyway); we insist on doing the job. Your argument that Europe is strong without the US being there just reinforces that. The current US strategy is based on cold-war thinking and the mission is obsolete.

      This isn’t about WWII, it’s about the cold war, which many over here have yet to realize is over. And some of the ones who do know it are disappointed, and constantly looking for a new enemy to play cold war with. It’s a little bit sad.

      I’m not even saying our army is the best one, but it is by far the MOST EXPENSIVE one. European military spending is a fraction of the US. That doesn’t make them weaker, it makes them smarter.

      I would also like our leaders to respect the lives of our soldiers enough to not send them off to get killed to keep oil prices down, but that’s a different argument for a different day. Today is about taking off the imaginary superhero cape that many Americans imagine we still wear, realize that the world has changed, and try maybe to be nice to our own citizens for once.

      Bernie does want to change that, but my main point is that even he isn’t willing to take on the ridiculous waste happening in the US military. If not even Bernie can do it, what hope is there?

    • Oh, and concerning your first point about how much better value for money Spain’s health care system offers, that very topic will be the subject of an upcoming post. It will also ask why a massive project in Barcelona cost only one-tenth what a similar project cost in Boston. Spain’s looking pretty good about now.

      So, yeah, if Trump gets elected, I might ask you to let me sleep on your couch for a few years.

      That was a joke, of course.


      • :)

        Got it, I understand and agree with that. Bernie is not a magical creature and changing the EEUU system will take a lot, but all the other candidates are more of the same. Well, but Trump, Trump is like voting for a monkey with a gun, but instead of a monkey a crazy maniac and changing the gun for nuclear weapons (you can count on my couch, bring blankets for the nuclear winter). Hopefully you will finally get Hillary, she is too much House of Cards for me, but at least she won’t decimate the world.

    • I’ll see if I can get the code-generator thingie working this weekend. I haven’t managed to compile it for a 64-bit processor. The crypto library is uses is a bit out of date.

  2. Too much of what I hear in this election cycle is “I really like this candidate, but they’re imperfect and/or unelectable, so I’ll vote pragmatically or just stay home.” I say vote no matter what, and vote for the candidate that’s “best” by whatever your metrics are, so we can at least figure out where the country sits. Right now, my metrics are skewing heavily towards candidates relatively uninfluenced by the “1 dollar, 1 vote” paradigm, and/which are candidates that will do what you expect them to once elected (e.g. ones that want to govern, not run for office). I can think of only 2 politicians that just don’t seem to give a frack about much more than what they think is best for the country: Barbara Lee and Bernie Sanders. Maybe Howard Dean was one. Obama tried to appear to be not worried about appearances, which probably explains much of what followed (I’m particularly thinking of constitutional violations by the constitutional scholar). I’m guessing there are others out there who are hard to find specifically because they aren’t chronically running high-dollar influence-driven campaigns, but I don’t know about them. And really, what’s your alternative? The publicans are putting together a circus act, and while I wouldn’t mind Hillary (especially with Bill as veep), she’s in it for herself, and possibly whoever will help push her there. If your personal needs as a citizen kept her from getting elected, you’d better be shiv-proof.

    Cutting defense (i.e. being “weak”) is a 3rd rail right now, especially with the fascist-friendly poor, undereducated or overreligious whitey-righties scared into 1930’s Italy/Germany mode. A candidate that makes that a plank of their platform and wins would be even more astounding than a socialist jew winning.

    • The irony that cutting some weapons programs would actually make our military more effective is a tough one to sell these days, but I’m setting up to take a shot at it.

      I don’t think we’ve had a Bernie-like candidate that was a real contender since Jimmy Carter, who got into the White House promising not to play those corrupt Washington insider games. And he didn’t, mostly.

      Hillary is the poster child for those games, of getting things done using the system, rather than despite the system. That is by no means an endorsement of Hillary.

      I like the debate when Bernie is around. In the corner of the room where the grown-ups are still talking in civil voices, Bernie pushes the discussion to substantive issues that will shape our nation for the next generation. If Washington was populated primarily by grown-ups, he would be the ideal president. My own dilemma is whether it is better to get more done the wrong way (Hillary), or take a long shot on Bernie being able bring constructive debate to our legislators despite Fox Noise.

  3. Rambling response…

    Well, I think your proposal is pretty dang good. The military is an untapped resource of excess money. But how to convince ourselves of that. We’ve got reall, hardcore domestic problems, and we need to look inward for a little while.

    We like to pat ourselves on the back for rebuilding europe and bringing it peace, and JPs response does show perhaps we should be a bit more modest about that. But only a bit. The USSR did a HUGE amount to win WWII, and that isn’t taught so well over here. Nevertheless, post war activities on the two sides of the iron curtain have resulted in one side much better off. QED. Dropping the bombs on Japan? A complex issue that can’t be distilled into a simplistic “nukes are bad, America sucks” canard.

    I like Bernie. Sure he’s a one issue candidate, but WHADDA an issue. Right now it means everything (just about). The 99% are drowning and nobody in DC is doing much about it. I will/am doing worse than my parents, and expect to not enjoy retirement as much or as long. Cut the F35 program and put that money in my pocket.

    To be fair to Hillary – while too cozy with wall strreet, too arrogant with email security – I do like her resume: first lady, senator, secy of state. She would bring a lot of gravitas, and I feell like I have a deep bench for november – I will be happy to vote for either B or H.

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