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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.

Maury County Dems Heritage Dinner (HIGHLIGHTS)

Fiery speeches at the Heritage Dinner from Senate Candidate James Mackler, Rep. Mike Stewart, AJ Holmes, Chris Hale, Holler co-founder Justin Kanew, and historic Memphis Candidate Tami Sawyer!

RESPONSE: Mark Green & Co. Are the Real “Radicals”

Justin Kanew ran for Congress against Rep. Mark Green in the 7th District in 2018. He wrote this in response to Green’s op-ed in the Tennessean this week, where Green asked: “Are the Democrats Ok With The Party’s Leftward March?”

First of all – Hi, Mark! Been a while. I haven’t seen you since you were refusing to debate me in our congressional race.

Since then we saw each other in Franklin, where you accused me of falsely accusing you of leading the fight against Medicaid expansion (despite your own endorsement saying you did),  while also saying it was wrong of me to point out that you did it while declaring government programs like Medicaid “keep people from a saving knowledge of who God is”.

These “Radical” statements are all on video… the tape doesn’t lie…


What makes it even more unconscionable is that you yourself were on a state health care plan. But I digress.

I’m writing here to answer the question you just posed in the Tennessean, where you asked: “Are the Democrats Ok With The Party’s Leftward March?”

You must’ve sat down to write that after your grandstanding at the Michael Cohen hearing, where you oddly didn’t seem to care at all about the multiple crimes the president may have committed – which most Americans believe he has.

Sorry, there I go digressing again.

Ok, let’s get down to it. I’m here to address your question. In short, the answer is a resounding YES.

YES, I’m ok with Democrats attempting to address the very serious problems of Gilded Age levels of inequality and climate change, which your party continues to claim is a hoax on behalf of the billionaires who finance your campaigns despite the fact that their own science has been telling them climate change is real for decades.

(Say hi to the Kochs for me, by the way. Maybe you’ll see them at your next ALEC meeting.)

You and I both just ran for congress in TN-7. If you were looking out the window as you went from photo op to photo op you may have noticed the harsh truth that not every county in Tennessee is Williamson County.

Rural Tennessee is hurting. But instead of doing everything within your power to help keep uninsured Tennesseans and rural hospitals afloat through medicaid expansion, or extending a helping hand to regular folks through a living wage, real tax relief, standing with unions, etc. – you mock every effort to help everyday Tennesseans as “socialism”.

Let’s be clear: “Socialism” is literally “a government takeover of the means of production”.

Nobody is advocating for that.

What I and almost every progressive I know actually want is to level the playing field and stop the over-concentration of wealth and power you and your pals facilitate at every turn.

You mock the Green New Deal, but I’ll take an over-ambitious plan to deal with the harsh realities we face over a corrupt deal with the Big Everything devil any day of the week. (Reminder: One of us refused PAC money of any kind during our race, and it wasn’t you.)

One can only imagine what you would have said about FDR’s New Deal, which most of your constituents have greatly benefitted from for generations, which helped bring us OUT of the Great Depression – a depression outrageous levels of inequality and policies like the ones you support helped get us into.

A refresher: The New Deal included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Civil Works Administration (CWA), the Farm Security Administration (FSA), the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA)…

…It provided support for farmers, the unemployed, youth and the elderly…

…It included new constraints and safeguards on the banking industry… and efforts to re-inflate the economy after prices had fallen sharply…

You would’ve HATED it.

As for the specifics of the Green New Deal you mock, let’s talk about what you actually said:

“The visionaries behind this massive bill are hoping to eliminate air travel, gut and rebuild every building in America, eliminate 99% of cars, eliminate nuclear energy and ban affordable energies like natural gas.”

This is obviously a childish over-exaggeration and mischaracterizes it completely. Hard not to wonder if you’ve even actually read it.

The Green New Deal isn’t a bill. It’s a non-binding resolution. A set of goals. A starting point, and a good one.

It’s a broad outline of how to achieve objectively positive, popular outcomes like universal health care, truly full employment, and 100% renewable energy- lifting up people who need lifting up in very real ways.

And you’re against all of it.

Nobody is eliminating planes. Nobody is eliminating cars.

The fact that you have to resort to these untruths about what the Green New Deal actually is just goes to show how little the truth actually means to you.

On Universal Health Care, which every single industrialized nation has except for us, you seem to have no use for it whatsoever. There are a number of different ideas about how to get to Universal Health Care – where people would be able to see a doctor when they get sick rather than a bankruptcy attorney – and you support none of them.

Instead you talk about Health Savings Accounts, which sound nice but do nothing to cover more vulnerable Tennesseans, and you support Block Grants, which do nothing to help rural hospitals (and also happen to be illegal and are opposed by Children’s hospitals).

Meanwhile Tennessee loses nearly $4 Million every DAY by not expanding Medicaid, which was in large part your handiwork, keeping hundreds of thousands uninsured and letting rural hospitals close.

Governor Haslam calls it one of his biggest regrets.

Meanwhile, you mock others who try to actually address the problem.

This is what you – a doctor – had to say about Bernie’s “Medicare For All” plan, which is just one of a number of ideas about how to get to universal coverage:

“Cautious estimates of the cost of Sanders’ plan start at $32.6 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Even if we implement the most aggressive tax plan to seize and redistribute wealth from the top 1 percent we only raise $720 billion over 10 years, or 2 percent of what Medicare for All costs. And, keep in mind our revenue over that same period will only be approximately $40 trillion – unless, of course, this bill is passed and we tailspin towards a second Great Depression.”

Newsflash Doc, much of this country is already hurting. I know you spent much of our race in hiding, but if you had come to Columbia when Remote Area Medical was in town you would’ve seen hundreds of people lined up in a parking lot at 5AM just to see a doctor- because they literally couldn’t afford to get care any other way.

Remote Area Medical visited Knoxville recently too:

Over half this country can’t withstand a $400 emergency without going broke.

This is not how it should be in the richest country in the world. I challenge you to go to one of these RAM sites and tell these families you’re the one who “led the fight” to keep them from having health coverage.

As for the cost of Medicare For All – you convenienently left out that it would mean NO MORE PREMIUMS OR DEDUCTIBLES, and that what we have now is ALREADY too expensive.

We spend 18% of our GDP on Health Care while the next highest country spends 12%, and that $32.6 Trillion number you cited is actually LESS than the estimates of what our current system costs, according to a conservative think tank’s estimate.

Another gross mischaracterization.

Not to mention the savings that would come from suffering Tennesseans being able to see a doctor before their ailments get worse and more expensive.

I happen to believe we need something like our education system, where everyone has access to a baseline of Medicare or something like it (a la public schools), and then those who can afford it can buy private insurance for themselves (a la private schools).

But we need to cover everyone. It’s time.

Which brings us to your first point, which I’m saving for last because I find it the most gruesome. This is what you said about the Democratic position on “late-term abortion”:

“Let’s begin with infanticide. Are Democrats truly accepting killing babies outside the womb now? A Democrat head of a state, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, last month casually defended it.

He explained to radio listeners that an infant already delivered “would be kept comfortable” while a mother and doctor discussed letting the child die. When pressed for clarification, he explained that the scenario he envisioned involved a baby with deformities.

Assuming he meant Down syndrome or something similar – this is an outrageous claim. If you go and ask people with Down syndrome – they think they’re life is worth living.”

I’ll start with a concession: Northam’s words were clumsy.

No, Democrats should not be for “killing babies outside the womb”, as you put it. And they are not. No Democrat I know is for infanticide.

But nonviable births are not “infanticide”.

Do you know a mother who has gone through something like that, Mark? I do. A good friend of mine.

I challenge you to call her a murderer to her face, if that’s what you believe. She’s in Lawrenceburg. She lives with the pain of losing a child every single day. You’ve met her.

You say “assuming he meant Down syndrome or something similar” – that’s one HELL of an assumption, doc. For a doctor, no less.

You know damn well that’s not what a nonviable birth is.

So yes, Democrats are AGAINST “killing babies outside the womb” and “late term abortions”.

We’re also AGAINST forcing women who have been raped to carry their rapist’s baby to term… and FOR expanding medicaid… and FOR common sense gun safety legislation… and FOR making birth control available… and FOR subsidizing day care for low income women… and FOR raising the wage to a living one… and FOR real tax reform that will put more money in the pockets of your constituents rather than corporations and the wealthy.

These are all “pro-life” positions. You’re against ALL of them.

And every last one of them has the support of a vast majority of Americans.

Who’s the “Radical” again?

You mock these ideas as “socialism”, which either means you failed civics, or you’re not quite as committed to the truth as you say you’d like Michael Cohen to be.

You also mock the idea of giving jobs to those willing to work to rebuild our country, which is another popular idea (as is The Green New Deal by the way!) and you do it in the name of *fiscal responsibility*  while the president you refuse to criticize has exploded the deficit to hand tax cuts to people who need it the least – like him, and you.

So in summation: If a “leftward march” means supporting health care for the people of our district, dealing with inequality in a real way to help real Tennesseans, and addressing the issue of climate change head-on for the sake of our children rather than burying our heads in the sand at the behest of the Koch brothers… then count me all the way in.

It’s not a “leftward” march. It’s a forward march.

I’ll take progress over greed any day of the week.

As this country gets younger and more inclusive, this is what the people want. Just because you call it “socialism” doesn’t make it so.

In the meantime, enjoy the $8 Billion farmer bailout that you for some reason don’t count as “socialism”, and the constitution-shredding *national emergency* you support. I’m sure the Fort Campbell School and other Clarksville-area projects it would take $132 Million from will be just fine.

So if by “Radical” you mean we support drastic measures to address the significant challenges we face, then yes we’re the radicals. But if by “Radical” you mean extremely out of step with the majority of this country – and yes, Tennessee – on most of these issues, then it’s you who is the “Radical”, sir.

Wanting to help people isn’t “Radical”, Mark. “Radical” is blocking medicaid expansion while saying government programs give suffering Tennesseans the opportunity to know God.

And history will not remember the Radical things you’re doing here kindly.

(P. S. – I enjoy that you cited Obama as a centrist at the end of your op-ed. Nice to see you’ve dropped your birtherism act. You, sir, are no John Mccain  – no wonder he helped block your Army Secretary bid. Not even getting to a senate hearing with a Republican-controlled congress? Talk about “Radical”.)