Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tomthemick@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Socialist Dreamers Still With Us


As a boy, I recall noticing something in the eyes of older people. It was a kind of acceptance, a wisdom, often a kindness habitually bestowed on kids like me because I reminded them of their own children and grandchildren. Growing up, we were taught to respect our elders, but that usually came naturally. Unlike people my parents’ age, they had time to talk, to answer questions. They had patience. They’d had children, grandchildren, and sometimes great-grandchildren, but average life expectancy was lower then and it was relatively rare to know one’s great-grandchildren.
My grandson Riley with his great-grandfather

As an adult, when people my parents’s age were elderly, that respect continued. They were the World War II generation, all of them touched by that war in some way whether they were in uniform or worrying about relatives who were. They’d known deprivation during the Depression as well as the suffering of war. They’d had decades to reflect on all that and it showed in their eyes. They’d long ago come to accept that the world was imperfect and always would be. They were proud of their country and grateful to have been born here.
As an older person myself now, I still see that elderly wisdom in some of my contemporaries, but not nearly to the extent I did in previous generations. Too many have carried an adolescent petulance through adulthood, middle age, and well into retirement. They have not accepted the world as it is and continue to carry a peevishness because they haven’t been able to make it perfect. They blame “corporate America” and “the rich” and “the Republicans,” thinking if it weren’t for them, we’d all be living in a utopia by now.
Many in my generation eschewed parenthood because of the commitment and the sacrifice it involved, because it cut into their endless quest to “find themselves.” They’re old, bald, pot-bellied, wrinkled and gray now. The look in their eyes mirrors a hollowness, a sense they have not found themselves after a lifetime of looking, and now lack the energy to continue the search. They seem to lack the serenity and wisdom I perceived in the eyes of most of the elderly when I was a child. They don’t take to children easily because they chose not to have any. Some who did had only one for whom they didn’t set up a stable household, drifting from partner to partner and dragging the child along. They’re responsible for many of the 55-60 million abortions in America since 1973. Some of them did finally grow up, but too many others did not.
They lived in a country that protected individual freedom enough for them to indulge nearly every whim, but they have little sense of history. They don’t seem to realize or appreciate that they lived most of their lives in a time and place of unprecedented security and prosperity during the post-WWII Pax Americana. They’re oblivious to the barbarity prevailing in the Middle East, north and central Africa, and just across our border in Mexico, not realizing such chaos has been more the norm than the exception for most in the world throughout history. To preserve their freedom, their fathers fought National Socialism in Germany, then endured the Cold War during which the communist dictatorship that was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics murdered 40-60 million. Communist China killed even more — during the lifetime of narcissistic baby boomers. Did they learn anything from all this? They don’t appear to have.
Their historical ignorance disposes them to magnify flaws in their own country, onto which they project their own. They voted to reelect the closet socialist President Obama who would continue to “fundamentally transform” the United States. Now they flock to the rallies of Senator Bernie Sanders because he “came out” as a socialist long ago. Despite the horrific record of socialist governments elsewhere in the world before and during their own lifetimes, they still believe socialism can work if only the “right” people run it. In the imagined utopia they expect will result, they hope to finally “find themselves.”
The Big Rock Candy Mountain

Will they? Not according to the evidence, but their endless quest will continue to weaken the country they disdain, because for them the perfect is the enemy of the good. They cannot accept that there will never be a perfect world this side of heaven. Their grandparents’ generation my have sung “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” along with Burl Ives, but they didn’t actually believe it existed. They accepted that neither human beings nor any political system they fashioned would be flawless. Baby boomers, however, continue to look for “the land of mild and honey, where a bum can stay for many a day, and he won’t need any money.”

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16 Comments:

Anonymous Alex said...

Meh, some oversimplifications here. I think the reason there is an increasing movement for Bernie (and a tidal wave for Trump) is less because of their policies and more because they are actually transparent. I obviously don't agree with Trump, but I believe his surge mirrors Bernie's (though it's obviously bigger, sorry Sanders Supporters) because people are tired of money buying our politicians. With Bernie, people are excited at the idea of limiting private contributions to campaigns, something that corrupts Republicans and Democrats alike. With Trump, well... he's just cutting out the middle man. Which I guess is better than blatantly lying while pledging to uphold the will of the people.

8/25/15, 1:03 PM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

I agree with your analysis of Trump's appeal and Sanders' appeal being related. They're both direct and don't filter their remarks through their consultants. I was supposed to be on an interview team with Bernie yesterday at the Sun, but he postponed until his next trip through because he was running behind. I was ready to ask him if he could answer the question Chris Matthews put to Debbie Wasserman Shultz. As a socialist seeking the Democrat Party nomination, I would have asked, could you tell us what differences, if any, there are between socialism and the Democrat Party? Hope he comes around again soon.

Too many of the left-over hippies of my generation are really excited by Bernie and are untroubled by his being a socialist. What about you? Are you comfortable voting for a socialist for president? Doesn't the left read history? At my age, I've known a lot of people like Bernie. Heck, I was one myself, but I grew up. What's their excuse?

I covered a lot of ground here, granted, but it feels good having vented.

8/25/15, 1:42 PM  
OpenID bc64a9f8-765e-11e3-8683-000bcdcb2996 said...

Oh sure, I'd be HAPPY to have an open mind to listen to "new" ideas concerning
the even redistribution of wealth including the mandatory labor involved.
Sadly, after examination of history that ISN'T included in the "free" syllabi (by others) I've come to the conclusion that human nature will not allow the for the free riders that will exert more time, energy, and other peoples "share", than simply "Get 'er done" demands.
I've seen "modern day" failure to launch amongst the nice UVM folks around Burlington. I'm QUITE familiar with the "atmosphere" that (ie) Mr. Shumlin
gained his "fundimentals".
CaptDMO

8/26/15, 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Thanks for your response. I will be on the lookout for when he hopefully completes that interview with you all. Should be pretty interesting.

I think the points you've brought up about your generation and the generations before you being wary of socialism are completely valid. I haven't thoroughly researched Mr. Sanders' campaign, but from what I understand he is pretty quick to draw the line between socialism and communism, and has even branded himself more accurately as a "democratic socialist" or "european style socialist." I know the arguments against bringing Scandinavian socialism to the US, and also think that those have a good foundation in logic, and an understanding of US culture and history.

However, I personally agree with more things that Mr. Sanders is campaigning for than I do with the other candidates. Ideally, that's how elections should go, rather than sticking to your guns and only voting on party lines. I think we can benefit from some Scandinavian socialist ideals. But then again, I'm young, and have been in California for 5 years now, where I'm pretty sure they've put something in the water.

Lastly, part of why I would not fear voting for a "socialist" president is based in how our government is set up. I think the past 8 years have demonstrated quite clearly how little power (relative to perceived power) the president actually has. I don't see the Republican control of congress sharply going the complete opposite way anytime soon. Having a man like Mr. Sanders as president would not change us into a socialist country overnight. I don't think he would achieve that during the whole of his presidency. But I do feel that there would be a shift in the national attitude towards something better than what we have now.

Sorry for the long post, but all that being said, I don't think there's any chance that Sanders gets elected, haha.

8/26/15, 12:17 PM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

You're absolutely right about the Republicans in control of Congress not going in the opposite direction after promising to do so. It's pretty clear that both parties are responsible for, as one person said: "Obama put us in the toilet. Hillary will push the handle."

Boehner and McConnell are blowhards, interested only in keeping their positions. We the people who elect people like them are the problem. Maybe that's why so many are supporting outsiders like Trump, Carson, and Fiorina. Or Sanders for that matter. He's different, I'll give him that. He admits to being socialist while the rest don't. He's sincere at least, a rare commodity for anybody in Washington, DC.

No, I don't want to become a European Social Democrat country. That would mean an even bigger government which is exactly what we don't need. We should pull the Tenth Amendment out of mothballs and apply it vigorously turning power back to the states. If individual states like California want to go in that direction, fine. Let them.

8/26/15, 4:35 PM  
Blogger Edward Parsons said...

Tom, what do you think should be done to offset the imbalance of money distribution today? After all you are a member of the middle class. Are you ok with it shrinking so much? have you any ideas for remedying that? Also are you ok with the Koch contribution of 900 million for this election?

8/27/15, 6:28 AM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

You're implying, Ed, that government should decide how much this person should make or that person. That is dangerous territory. It's the business of business, not government.

Two Mexicans just installed a floor for me through Home Depot yesterday. They were from New Jersey, and only one spoke broken English. The other didn't speak any English at all. What are they doing in Lovell, Maine installing a floor? They're driving down wages for Americans, that's what, and there are 30 million illegal aliens in the country, not to mention millions of legal "refugees." Big tech companies are advertising for workers on foreign countries, not here. Between illegal immigrants, so-called refugees, and foreign trade agreements pushed by both Democrats and Republicans, lower class Americans don't have a chance, and the middle is shrinking.

Those trade agreements are enacted by the federal government. Illegal immigration is encouraged by the same government. Those are the biggest factors responsible for our situation. I say get government out of the picture. Don't increase its role in our economy.

8/27/15, 8:16 AM  
Anonymous Calvin said...

I have found that most people opposed to socialism want it both ways - they claim that socialism has never worked, and when shown the success that Nordic countries have had they claim that those countries aren't true socialist countries, and yet they claim somebody like Sanders would be a disaster because he is socialist, ignoring the fact that the ideas he has are almost exactly like those of a Norway, a mix of socialism and capitalism.

That is the problem with labels...they are misunderstood and tend to put people in a box that they don't quite fit into. Another label that seems more accurate for Bernie is "Eclecticist" which means that he is motivated to select the best and most effective ideas from various sources, countries, cultures with the idea of combining them, adjusting and adapting them to solve our problems, and creating a system of government that works effectively and efficiently for the majority of its people and in solving problems. That means he wants the dynamic of free markets, combined with the prudent restraints and regulations to keep it under some control, and to provide social benefits that ultimately boost the economy. Having a society where education is available to anyone who wants it, and having the worry and stress removed about what happens if you get sick can only help our economy and our society in the long run....as history has shown, and as many Northern European countries currently demonstrate. Do you know why you don't know who the presidents of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark are? Because they are only interested in working together to solve problems, instead of branding themselves to seek fame and power.

I think Sanders is a man of vision and integrity, one who wants the best for our Country and the people without selling his soul to the rich and powerful.

As for the idea that his brand of socialism means that the government should decide how much a person should make is not true, it simply means that those that make huge profits should put more back into the system that allowed them to get so wealthy in the first place.

Tom, do you really think that the vast accumulation of wealth in the top one-tenth of one percent of the population is not a problem? Having these few powerful families is almost like having kings or dictators, in control not because the people elected them but because of, in many cases, the families they were born into. Sanders is dead on in the regard that money should not be such a force in deciding our leaders.

8/28/15, 7:40 AM  
OpenID bc64a9f8-765e-11e3-8683-000bcdcb2996 said...

"As for the idea that his brand of socialism means that the government should decide how much a person should make is not true.."
And somehow, if you make "too much", your "extra" assets will pay for necessary "access" to "equality"?

And Poof! "Socialism" evolves into Fascism, in just a few paragraphs!
Gosh, THAT was easy.
I guess we'll just have to ban a superior private education, in ADDITION to payment of "free" public education "environment", for "our" children.
A pony, or "special" wedding, is OUT OF THE QUESTION.
BTW, as it stands, in the US the top 10% "gives" a VASTLY larger proportion of the treasure, into the treasury, because including, but certainly NOT limited to, those gub'mint administration provided SUVs in drought stricken California, used SOLELY for single occupant personnel on "the gub'mint job", aren't going to clean THEMSELVES 1-3 times a week at the non-recycled water car wash, on the apparently fungible "official gub'mint expense" card!
But, you probably didn't see that IN the paper, it SURE looked good ON paper though!
Again, I revisit: Human Nature will NOT ALLOW for the "legislated", (or dictated)lie of "equality in outcome".
CaptDMO

8/28/15, 8:17 AM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

If, as you say, "he wants the dynamic of free markets, combined with the prudent restraints and regulations to keep it under some control," then okay. But why does he call himself a socialist? by definition, socialism seeks public (read government) ownership of everything. It's a stage on the way to communism. If he's really a Social Democrat, why doesn't he say so?

He's for 90% tax rates, just as Scandinavian countries are. Is that what you want? I don't. They stifle growth. Our Constitution created a limited federal government, with all other power going to the states. If states like Vermont or California want to adopt a Scandinavian model, let them. Don't impose it on the entire country. That's unconstitutional. If states want to impose 90% tax rates, let them. They'll soon see companies leaving for other states as California is now.

"A republic, sir, if you can keep it." That what Benjamin Franklin said about the government he and other created. Let's keep it that way. Socialism at the federal level is antithetical to preserving our republic.

No. I don't worry about how much money some people have, as long as the rest of us have enough adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. The size of the economic pie is not fixed. It expands as long as the federal government stays out of the way.

8/28/15, 8:21 AM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

And Ed: Can we take a field trip to the Ossipee Mountains this fall?

8/28/15, 8:22 AM  
OpenID bc64a9f8-765e-11e3-8683-000bcdcb2996 said...

Silly me, I forgot:
"As for the idea that HIS brand of socialism means that..." It just hasn't been done RIGHT yet?
CaptDMO

8/28/15, 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Calvin said...

Sanders calls himself a "democratic socialist", and if you heard him out you would find that having dynamic free markets, combined with the prudent restraints and regulations to keep it under some control, is indeed what he wants.

Am I for 90% tax rates for the very wealthiest? Yes, indeed. This is what they were under Eisenhower, and are you claiming that there was not great growth during that time?

I'm not sure what you mean by it being unconstitutional for the government to incorporate parts of socialism that work.

You say that don't worry about how much money some people have, as long as the rest of us have enough adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. It seems to me that you should have changed "as long as the rest of us have..." to "as long as I have...". Do you really believe that all the rest of Americans have adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care? Surely you can not be that out of touch.

8/28/15, 1:26 PM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

Yes, Eisenhower allowed the 92% tax rates to continue, but he didn't institute them. There was enormous growth in the fifties because industrial capacity in the United States had been greatly expanded to crank out war materials and it was intact. The rest of the industrial world had been destroyed and was gradually rebuilding. We had very little competition for our manufactured goods until Eisenhower was out of office.

Then JFK lowered marginal rates claiming it would spur growth and "a rising tide will raise all boats." He was correct, of course, and the USA prospered. Until, that is, LBJ expanded the Vietnam War and simultaneously instituted his "War on Poverty." That put us in the tank until the Reagan Administration did the same thing Kennedy did and turned it around.

As for Americans having adequate food, clothing, shelter and medical care? They do, unless they're mentally ill and don't know how to access assistance programs. In the USA, even the poor are fat. Hunger isn't a problem, obesity is. They have microwaves, televisions, internet, cell phones, and usually cars. Illegal alien families on welfare in Massachusetts make the equivalent of $55,000 per year. That's why they're sneaking in here by the millions.

I don't know where you get your news, but if it's only the alphabet networks, Comedy Central, and the big-city broadsheets, you're only hearing what Media Matters wants you to hear and you're not well-informed, Calvin.

8/29/15, 7:18 AM  
Anonymous Calvin said...

http://www.businessinsider.com/study-tax-cuts-dont-lead-to-growth-2012-9

Tom, I am pretty darn sure that I use a much wider variety of news sources then you do, and it appears that you yourself need to get better informed.


Undocumented immigrants do not even qualify for welfare.
http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/20/news/economy/immigration-myths/

http://www.factcheck.org/2009/04/cost-of-illegal-immigrants/


As for poor Americans, you are living in La La Land, sucked in by what the Heritage Foundation has been spoon feeding you.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2013/05/13/millions-of-americans-live-in-extreme-poverty-heres-how-they-get-by/

Do you really not know why many poor people are fat? It is because it is much cheaper to eat fast food and other cheap processed foods than to eat good, fresh, nutritious foods. Yes, Obesity in this country is a big problem.

And these families living in poverty are only surviving because of "socialist" type programs that give them a safety net.

8/29/15, 11:24 AM  
OpenID bc64a9f8-765e-11e3-8683-000bcdcb2996 said...

"Undocumented immigrants do not even qualify for welfare."
By that, I assume you mean illegal aliens, and if they "mysteriously" garner a social security number.....they most certainly do!
Does "free" (ie) public school count as welfare?
And if they don't, do tax free "off the books" paychecks count as welfare?
Let's put the "fun" back in fungible!
Popular economics (and PoliSci opinion) "sources" tend to overlook those.
In fairness, I agree that Tom has been lax in his political/economic Political Science history timeline above.
Mindful that time, and space, are money, and casting pearls before swine is futile, I'm not seeing the names Wilson,Smith/Keynes ANYWHERE. The "temporary" nature of Income Tax (JUST for the duration of the war!)
And, of course, how/why Employer provided health "insurance" came to be!
But, one ISN'T going to see stuff like that in ANY number of "popular" outlets subject to "Dear Colleague..." um...nudging. I NEVER see "the personal consequences for either simply wrong, or outright lying,(including "by omission"), have been..." in popular/"official" sources and "Academic" instructional institutions" including "free" education text books.
SEE: Jurno List, Operation Choke Point, and of course, "Unnamed Insider" from the Department of (x)" citations.
CaptDMO

8/30/15, 10:57 AM  

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