Stop ripping on socialism


by Colette Davidson • 10/23/08 • Hey! What’s so bad about socialism?

Lately, socialism has been getting a bad rap and I want to know why. I live in France, a country that prides itself on the socialist system and I have to say, socialism rocks.

Kolet ink is the blog of Colette Davidson, a freelance writer for the TC Daily Planet and a former assistant editor of the Uptown Neighborhood News. She recently moved to Perigueux, France to work as an assistant editor for the monthly English newspaper French News.

I have never had a better quality of life than I do here in France. I have housing support, full health and dental insurance for a very reasonable monthly price, and I can find a bottle of wine for less than two euros in the grocery store, even on Sundays. After all this overindulgence, I still have enough spending cash to jet off to London every few months. Oh, and by the way, I make the wages of a 15-year-old girl working at McDonald’s.

If I made my current French salary in America, I would probably have to live in my childhood bedroom in my parents’ house for the next four years to get out of the hole, paying THEM 100 bucks a month so they wouldn’t have to watch me rot on the street. With no health or dental insurance, I would have blown what little savings I had by now on x-rays and root canals. And believe me, these scenarios aren’t exactly hypothetical. Or really, at all.

Last week, in the dreaded “Joe the Plumber” incident, Obama got burned at the stake for alluding to the fact that redistributing the wealth in America might be a good idea. He dared to admit that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and that he wants the vicious cycle to stop. How can anyone chastise him for that?

Well, I, the big socialist, certainly will not. It’s true that France’s economy is in the toilet. Even though no French person I have come across actually thinks the financial crisis will ever affect them, they’re going to feel the heat eventually. Or maybe they’ve already had their turn at economic turbulence. How else do you explain that, like me, every journalist I know makes around 7.50 euros an hour after taxes, even those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees? Sure, we get benefits from the overly generous governmental welfare system, but in exchange, that same government gets stingy come tax time. France, like Belgium and Germany, pays some of the highest taxes in Europe – around 50% from their employment check each month. However, the benefits may outweigh the burden in terms of care.

In January 2008, the Census Bureau announced that 47 million Americans were living without health insurance. That’s 47 million. First of all, trying to imagine that number of people is unfathomable. Secondly, how did we let things get this way? And how can we turn it around? Certainly not with some socialist system where the government pays for everyone’s health care like they do it here in Europe, oh no! Because, as we’ve already mentioned, socialism is scary… almost as bad as communism in the eyes of some uninformed vice-presidential candidates.

I don’t know that, even if Obama intended to lay out a health care system similar to that of Europe, it would work. Americans are die-hard capitalists and want to do it their way and for themselves. There’s no sense of helping out your neighbor, or letting your neighbor help you once in awhile. And this from a country where anyone and everyone can volunteer, as opposed to France where you practically have to get your fingerprints taken to help out at the local animal shelter.

Before we put socialism behind bars with the commies, let’s first figure out what the heck we’re talking about. One of the tenets of socialism is creating a society where there is an equal distribution of wealth and power – virtually the opposite of capitalism, where people are encouraged to make as much bank as humanly possible. Part of socialism is making sure the rich don’t get too rich and the poor don’t fall too far down the economic ladder.

With this in mind, Americans need to recognize that helping a country’s vulnerable population is the job of each country and, subsequently, each country’s government. A country doesn’t function without some type of support or aid, and the only confusion should be to what extent a government gets involved, not if it should be done at all. And just so we’re clear, in order to receive benefits, you’ve got to pay taxes. There’s no such thing as free health care – it just seems free here in Europe when your money is taken out before you even open your paycheck.

In the end, many critics would argue that the socialism European countries employ has developed into a very loose definition of the word. And even if it does still exist in its original form, maybe it’s not the answer to America’s problems. But it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take some advice from the Europeans for once. After all, by the looks of the financial crisis, it sounds like they’ll soon be running the show.