KANEW: “What Republicans Really Mean By Socialism”

This op-ed by Holler co-founder Justin Kanew first appeared in the Tennessean.

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WHAT REPUBLICANS MEAN BY “SOCIALISM”

The Tennessean recently published an op-ed from mega-rich Republican donor Lee Beaman saying we should be “concerned” a recent Gallup poll shows 4 in 10 Americans now “consider socialism a good thing”.

Setting aside the goings-on in Beaman’s personal life that may or may not have made publishing his musings on socialism – or anything, for that matter – the morally decent thing to do, Beaman’s article provides an opportunity to define what he and other Republicans mean when they attack everything they don’t like as “socialism”.

“Socialism is not merely free healthcare and education,” Beaman richsplains, it “causes hunger and economic instability.”

But here’s the problem – when Americans “consider socialism to be a good thing,” they’re not talking about “government-owned and operated businesses” – Venzuela-style SOCIALISM, as Beaman implies.

They’re talking about “democratic socialism” (or “democratic capitalism” as Pete Buttigieg calls it), adding elements that work in other democracies to balance the runaway greed and corporate takeover of our government – as evidenced by the outsized influence Beaman himself has over our TN legislature – to meet public needs, rather than profits for a few.

The decision is not between “CAPITALISM” and “SOCIALISM”, as they’d have you believe. There’s a spectrum. Having free public libraries is a “socialist” idea, but it doesn’t make us a socialist country. Nor does having public roads, or public schools, or a fire department, or a military, etc.

It’s about balance. The middle class is disappearing. Tennessee leads the nation in medical bankruptcies, rural hospital closures, opioid abuse, % of minimum wage jobs, and we rank near the bottom in health care access, infant mortality, mental health facilities, life expectancy, obesity, per pupil spending, poverty…. the list goes on.

This is the real state of the state – the utopia the “Greed Over People” GOP supermajority has led us to. Republicans brag about our fiscal stability ranking, but they never mention these.

Medicaid expansion would help 300,000 Tennesseans get health insurance. They call it “socialism”, yet don’t attribute the same tag to the $16 Billion farmer bailout to ease the pain Trump’s Tariffs have caused – bailout money that comes from FDR’s New Deal, which provided support for the unemployed, youth, the elderly, and included new constraints on the banking industry and efforts to re-inflate the economy after prices had fallen.

Think these same Republicans would’ve called the New Deal “Socialism”? Of course they would have.

Beaman describes “socialism” as standing in opposition to “freedom”, but what he really means is the freedom to maximize profits no matter the cost:

Regulations to protect our children from dangerous chemicals? “SOCIALISM!”

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect us from predatory lenders? “SOCIALISM!”

Medicaid expansion/Universal Care to protect our vulnerable & control costs? “SOCIALISM!”

Minimum wage increase to help those who work to support their families? “SOCIALISM!”

Paid family leave to help new parents? “SOCIALISM!”

Unions to help workers protect themselves? “SOCIALISM!”

The list goes on. It has lost its meaning.

But these ideas are not “socialism” or “communism” (Beaman conflates the two, either out of ignorance or intentionally). These are programs that work in other democracies, and they’re the path to a better America – an America that works for more than just those at the top.

We’ve entered a second Gilded Age – to Beaman’s benefit – but America wasn’t founded on unbridled greed and concentrated power and wealth, it was founded IN OPPOSITION TO THOSE THINGS.

So when Americans “consider socialism a good thing”, it’s not because they’re un-American or against freedom or hard work, it’s because we now have a rigged system where the government responds to the needs of big donors rather than those of the people.

That’s the real “insult to those who’ve given their lives to protect our freedoms”.

America has evolved over the years, and she will continue to. By pushing back against that evolution, Beaman isn’t “standing beside her and guiding her”, he’s trying to control her and maintain power over her.

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