I got into an e-mail conversation recently with a former CIA officer and ex-Marine, who, in horror at the Obama administration, went into a Tea Partyist fit denouncing the “communists, socialists, wealth redistribution folks, Democrats in Congress.” This was not his usual lucid style (he has helped me as a source on several stories), and he seemed to have momentarily lost his mind in considering the matter, or, at least, that part of the mind wherein a cold assessment of facts might operate. I wrote him back: “Where are these communist/socialist/wealth-redistribution folks? I see none of their ilk anywhere in Congress.” He never replied.
Perhaps that’s because the “right-wing” types such as my good pal refuse to recognize – or perhaps recognize all too well, and therefore don’t want to talk about it – that whenever wealth needs to be redistributed for the benefit of corporate personhood, our Congress goose-steps to the line. It’s “socialism” for the rich, the powerful, the influential, those able to marshal cash incentives to get their cats’ paws to pass laws that favor their interests, for the doling out of public funds for private benefit. It’s socialism for banks and automakers and big pharma and big agribusiness and the behemoths in energy and defense, and on and on. So much for the glorious independence and striving of the perceived paragons of the free market. The derangement of so many rightists in this country – viz. the dingbat Tea Partiers – is clear: They fail to understand that when large corporations hold sway over government there is no “capitalism” and no “free market,” certainly not as Adam Smith imagined it in The Wealth of Nations. And as businesses grow bigger to capture government, so does government grow when captured – how else could it service big business?
Then again, my ex-CIA/ex-Marine source may be on to something about the socialist menace – as he would know all about it, having been trained, directed, housed and pensioned by a grossly expanding branch of government for most of his working life. Consider the path to happiness paved by the bomb-makers and the aircraft and tank and battleship manufacturers and the makers of grenades and rifles and teargas and bullets, and all the ancillaries of the military industrial complex, the “counterterror” thinktanks and mercenary contractors and intelligence-surveillance-security firms. These would not, could not, survive without government contracts, government intervention, government swaddling and succoring and snuggling, and, of course, the perpetual preparation for and making of government-run wars that feed their industries. The imperial war-machine is the great socialist enterprise of our time.
Indeed, if we want real socialism for actual persons, we should all join the US military: Everything is socialized in the military, the personnel getting socialized medicine and socialized housing and socialized transport and much else (socialized bullets and bombs), the ideal and modus operandi being one of purest collectivism, the training the kind that teaches recognition of hierarchies and obedience in that long chain of command – chain is the operative word – wherein you do what you’re told, you listen to the boss, you don’t question, you don’t fend for yourself, you don’t step out of line. How totally un-American. Thus does the military man, having given up the struggle for self-command and self-reliance, receive diapering and feeding and care, ideally from cradle to grave, never opting to grow up and survive in the rigors of the marketplace. Those filthy pinko-commies in the US Army! Who woulda thunk it!
It’s astonishing, though, that these same government-trained and -paid personnel so often are to be found griping about the shape and size of the tit that keeps them alive. I have a close relative, for example, who talks the hard-core right-winger line, complaining endlessly about big government and “socialism” – yet he works for the ever-metastasizing State Department. When he calls me a “leftist,” I like to tell him I have never worked for government, never gotten a government paycheck, nor any grant or subsidy from government, nor any loans, never profited from government personally (as opposed, say, to profiting from government roads), never gotten food stamps or welfare or Medicaid or workman’s compensation or unemployment insurance, nor cashed in my Social Security benefits (forced to pay for them in the first place), nor received any other scrap of so-called “wealth redistribution.” What a leftist I must be.
CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM, a freelance writer in Brooklyn, NY, is working on a book about U.S. secession movements. Find more of his work at www.christopherketcham.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.