With the Occupy movement now losing traction, one should look at the reason for the collapse of what seemed like the only “left” economic movement since the global financial crisis. The critics of this protest stated they were against a lot of things, but didn’t really stand for anything. In other words, they don’t offer any viable solutions to our current capitalist system. I think these protests would be an excellent platform for a movement that I have been wanting for some time now, a democratic socialist-progressive movement. The Occupy movement must come up with something quick before it reaches the point of dissolution.
When average Americans hear the word socialism, they tremble. They associate the word socialism with the word communism, which is simply a delusion. I think Americans love socialism; we just don’t know anything about it besides that it is bad. This ignorance is a major issue. We want to have the cake and eat it too. We are a welfare state, but we can’t sustain it because of the indefinite effort by American politicians to cut taxes, and the refusal to raise taxes from the American right. The misunderstanding is that social security, Medicare, Medicaid, the FDA regulating food and the effectiveness of prescription drugs, public safety, public education, Pell grants, the EPA, unemployment benefits, farm subsidies, small business subsidies, etc. are all forms of social welfare, and things most of us would not give up.
When you think of the main issues in the current American economy, a few different problems seem very consistent. One would be the gap between the rich and the poor. There is a very small upper class, a small middle class, and a large lower class. This would be fixed by a socialist system. In socialist countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway, etc. the gap between the rich and the poor is among the lowest in the world due to high tax rates (between 57 percent – 61 percent in Sweden) and the effectiveness of their tax codes. Another problem is the obvious issue of jobs; or lack thereof. When the public owns the means of production, as in most socialist systems, the issue of outsourcing, merging, cutting thousands of jobs while the top takes record pay raises, etc. is virtually eliminated. While America is haunted by a massive deficit, and the countries of the Euro Zone are in austerity mode, socialist countries like Sweden have gone virtually unaffected by the global financial crisis. Their governments are rich, and their citizens are ranked at the top of the Human Development Index, and the Happy Planet Index.
The truth is all modern governments are hybrids of socialism. The issue is that America is trying to play both sides of the field. On one side we are drooling over our free-market capitalist system and on the other we want a welfare state but we don’t want to pay for it. America needs to confront its fear of taxes, and build a strong foundation for our welfare state so that it is sustainable, and not tenuous like it currently is due to cuts in taxes and entitlements being at the center of deficit reduction debates.
These reasons are why I am calling for a socialist-progressive movement in America. This movement will counter the Tea Party movement and the injustices of the capitalist system. The Occupy Wall Street protests are an excellent platform to gain some momentum to push into a democratic-socialist system. It will give the protesters something to stand for and the protests an end game. It is time for America to get over its fear of the “S” word and decide our fate.