With the surging popularity and victories of Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, the Establishment is having a panic attack about more people riding the waves of populism into turbulent seas of Socialism. After Sanders’ victory in Nevada, MSNBC’s lead racist grandpa, Chris Matthews likened this to the Nazi Victory of France. Bernie Sanders is Jewish and had family that were killed in the Holocaust. On a recent debate on Democracy Now!, Economist Paul Krugman justified Matthews’ statement by saying it was an extreme reaction driven out of fear of what Sanders represents to these people. Yeah, it is a reaction of fear. Kinda like how concentration camps and the visceral hatred of the Jewish People was an extreme reaction based out of fear. So maybe the lesson to be learned here is that we should make less decisions out of fear and more decisions based on logic and humanity. 2 words that were removed from Chris Matthews’ vernacular when got his job at MSNBC!
But this notion of fear mongering over the term Socialism is the largest critiques that Krugman has of Bernie Sanders. To Krugman, the right and major Republicans have taken the term and demonized it to mean big government controlling your life! According to the Republicans, and most Centrist Democrats, Socialism is giving up your autonomy and the means of labor & production over a governing body. What Republicans, and most Centrist Democrats, don’t tell you is that they want you to give up your life, autonomy and the means of labor & production to a corporate entity run by a very rich and most likely white person! They don’t want big government but a private industry. And go figure, the side that believes in rugged individualism and machismo wants bigger privates.
Now Paul Krugman makes the argument that Bernie Sanders isn’t advocating for Socialism, or even a more specified Democratic Socialism, but for a Social Democracy. This would be the economic and cultural model of a country like Denmark that focuses it’s governing system on a social justice and decreasing inequality in their society. And Sanders is advocating for all those things, but the question proposed by Krugman is that he should leading his statements with the term “social democracy”. But I doubt leaders and their propagandists would feel better if the term “social democracy” was thrown around by the Sanders camp. They would still call him “socialist” and misdefine that word.
But in the same Debate, Marxist Economist & Professor Emeritus Dr. Richard Wolff points out the definition of what a socialist is has been in flux and debated since the idea’s inception. Dr. Wolff points out that the important aspect of the movement surrounding Bernie is more about criticizing the way Capitalism works and has been working. It has allowed us to question the powers that be and encouraged us to push back against an unequal system. But Krugman keeps sticking to his point that word ‘socialism’ or ‘socialist’ is too dangerous to use because the opposition has weaponized and demonized it.
Krugman is more focused on the label than the ideas. He deviates away from the conversation by dismissing ideas presented by Sanders, the Democratic Socialist of America and other socialist movements. By doing this he’s giving more weight to the critics of socialism and doesn’t give weight to how critical the socialist ideas are in combatting inequality driven by capitalism. It really shows the hyper tribalism that we as human beings have. During the entire conversation both Krugman and Wolff have a lot of moments of being on the same side but Krugman doesn’t seem like he’s able to let go of the label associated with the Sanders campaign.
But this superficiality is how most corporate mainstream media deals with Bernie Sanders. It’s virtually impossible to give his ideas any attention or credit. Even the Neo-Liberal Comedic Messiah Trevor Noah does this. In a recently published compilation video most of the jokes were at Bernie’s expense, particularly about his looks. Noah makes jokes about how he’s looked the same way for 30 years, his hair no longer being disheveled and so on. This is no different than the way CNN, MSNBC and Fox News calls him an angry old man. The 16 minute video focuses about 3 minutes on a joke made about how Bernie was born an old man and less time on the long form interview where Bernie explained what his ideas are.
During Warren & Bernie’s feud over Warren’s lie, Noah goes to called Warren a Socialist. WRONG! Warren has been a avid champion of Capitalism, and more importantly the way capitalism is currently working. She is for billionaires and called herself a Capitalist on the debate stage. Now if Krugman has a problem with the demonization of the word Socialism by the right, why wouldn’t he advise Warren from taking on the label of Capitalist since it’s got such a negative context from working class people and the activist community. It sounds like Krugman is more about placating to Republicans & Corporate Democrats than he is for ideas to help the people that represent this country!
Noah also points a long form New York Times interview that was done with all the Candidates, except Tulsi Gabbard, but did include Deval Patrick. I guess with Bernie’s inclusion having Tulsi Gabbard on too, would be an overwhelming amount of truth to put out for New York Times, which tells you it’s a beacon of journalism, but in reality is just part of the propaganda wing of American War Economy. They asked Bernie about what his weaknesses are, like it was a job interview. And lets be honest, the Presidential Campaigns are kinda like a job interview for the highest office in the land and if Democracy worked the right way we’d be the CEOs of that. Bernie responded, he’s not good at small talk, pleasantries and the societal norms like wishing people Happy Birthday all the time. If you’re a full grown adult human working in Congress to lead your constituents and someone doesn’t wish you Happy Birthday and that offends you…quit your job and go work for the New York Times so you can stand on your ego, complain and lie about people because you’re a child!
I’m not a big fan of pleasantries, small talk and societal norms and I do just fine getting along with people. But when there’s a job to be done, let’s do that damn job. Which means that we need our politicians to be legislating and creating better laws to make a fair & just society instead of asking about the weather. And if the answer isn’t that Climate Change is a problem we need to fix, then you’re not doing your job right.
The coup de gras of the Trevor Noah video is taking out of context clips of Bernie Sander’s public access as Television show where he sometimes talked to kids about the goings on in Burlington. In the clip it shows Bernie having an open discussion about drugs like cocaine with some kids in a park, which is probably better than the discussions they would’ve had with a DARE officer. At least with Bernie you know you’re going to sound and reasonable answer of the positive and negative effects of these drugs and their addictive qualities. Plus you’ll get a history of how & why the Drug War failed in America. And sure the kids aren’t going to actually understand this information but it’ll be in their brains for later.
After Noah made fun of how Bernie was trying to score drugs from kids, which makes no sense even in the most hyperbolic of contexts, he shows Bernie calling a child dumb. What that clip doesn’t show is the discussion Bernie engaged in with the kids about why they need education. Sanders goes on to encourage the child to continue pursuing an education and not give up on himself. Meanwhile Noah doesn’t show that part of the clip because it doesn’t feed into the NeoLiberal joke narrative of superficiality that he is told to create.
The reason that it’s hard to say anything substantial about the ideas that have been ignited by Bernie Sanders is related what Dr. Richard Wolff mentions in the Democracy Now! debate. Dr. Wolff points that politics has shifted further to the left and what Americans want are ideas like Medicare For All, Public education and other ideas of the like that are deemed Socialist. True change takes risks. Risks that Establishment Elites are not willing to take so they keep trying old tricks of using their news anchors to liken candidates that stand up for people to authoritarians and use their comedians to attack the way they look. They’re running out of lies and tricks to confuse the American populous because we did listen to Bernie Sanders and educated ourselves. And now we’re not giving up on ourselves either.
Dr. Wolff goes on to say that we’re not looking for compromises from the corporate sector which is what Obamacare became. Sure there were about 20 million additional people that received healthcare because of this program, but hundreds of million of people still don’t have healthcare because of it. Not just that, but they were penalized for not having healthcare they couldn’t afford! Hope & Change was very quickly changed to Punish & Familiar! So ideas like Medicare For All can be a system where we’re all taken care of and without compromising the people for profitability. It’s more or less a matter of how.
And therein lies a bulk of the argument. How are we going to achieve these large ideas that Socialism talks about. A lot of people are putting their faith in a Sanders Presidency, and not be a pessimist or a nay sayer here, but we can’t put it on that one man’s shoulders. I mean sure we can and maybe the weight and pressure of the Working Class’ dreams will crush him in the most perfect diamond that we can use to pay for Medicare For All, Public Education and defunding the military, but I’m not waiting for that option. The reality is with the DNC and it’s court of propaganda at MSNBC and CNN mixed with a large populous that remains unread on the issues, Sanders might fail.
But the hope lies in us. We the people can and have been inspired by Bernie Sanders enough that we can get organized and mobilize to fight for these ideas. So when people like Krugman point out that a President Sanders can’t get his ideas pushed through Congress because of all the opposition he’d face, we can reinforce that we need more grassroots activism and organizing for these ideas. The Black Panthers did it, which is carried on by several other movements including the Black Lives Matter movement. The Democratic Socialist Of America are doing it. And there’s litany of organizations that are pushing and organizing for a variety of leadership & programs that can make these ideas a reality.
Krugman goes on to talk about debt in our current system. His point is that debt is not that big of a deal in our society and we’re obsessed with it. Yes, Mr. Krugman, we are obsessed with it, because every average working class person in America is in some kind of debt. Would you tell a person drowning that they’re obsessed with water because they don’t want to drown? Would you say Americans in debt are obsessed with Debt in the same capacity as Krugman is obsessed with the term “socialism”! Paul Krugman points out that our perspective on debt changes depending on what party is in power.
In his podcast Democracy At Work, Dr. Richard Wolff addresses how Debt is a form of social control. And it most certainly is. If you’re in any kind of debt, you need to get a job to pay that debt off. Any job, not the job you want. The freedom of pursuing your passion as your career is not available to you when you are in constant worry of paying off the debt. We are a generation living in survival mode, not in freedom and it doesn’t matter what party is power. Both sides like to use debt to control the populous.
And this goes into the final point that was brought up in the debate; billionaires aren’t evil. According to Krugman, having billionaires isn’t particularly a bad thing because they’re not evil. They’re just a class of people that can literally buy anything they want and anytime because they’re the shining example that money matters more than people. That’s not evil, just good business practices.
But that’s a class of people that have and never will be in survival mode. There’s never a point in their life where they have to worry about their next meal, paying their bills or hoping they get through the week on $20. So their psychology is equipped to understand or empathize what the average working class citizen is going through.
Billionaires have to worry about how to spend that extra $100k they got from purchasing and rewriting the tax code. “Do I buy a piece of an island in the South Pacific or a new jet that can break the sound barrier, or do I just bathe in the money and post it on instagram!?” Frivolity is not a challenge or a matter of survival. You can’t eat a jet or instagram likes. But then again, these billionaires don’t have to worry about what they are going to eat. This creates a major level of distance between an ultra rich person and we the people. These billionaires look at regular people struggling and say “Why can’t they just work hard and make the same level of money as I did?! I worked hard at stomping on the throats of my fellow man and rose up the ranks to exploit someone else’s work!” And thus through ego and rugged individualism, births the “pull yourself up by your bootstrap” argument that has been failing since it’s inception.
Dr. Wolff points out that after World War 2 was over, the New Deal was disbanded and with that the social safety nets that were built in to protect the working class from frivolous greed met the same fate. The question isn’t are billionaires evil, it’s whether we need to have billionaires in our society at all! In a society driven out of compassion AND logic, the conclusion would be NO! Look if you have more currencies than people on the planet there’s a problem. And it only exponentially gets worse if you have more currencies than bugs on the planet.
These are the ideas that term ‘Socialism’ addresses. It talks about the ways we can take care of each other as a society, while understanding and appreciating each other’s differences as strengths. These ideas look at the whole instead of just one part. This movement is about all of us coming together not for the sake a billion dollars but for 7 billion people. It would push into a completely change the way we interact with the world around us. Dr Richard Wolff says he’s proud to be a part of the Socialist movement and so am I!
The most famous of all Socialist Political figures, Eugene Debs once said that “voting for Socialism is just as much socialism as a menu is a meal!” Bernie Sanders isn’t the be all, end all of this movement. Sander’s campaign slogan is “Not Me, Us” and we should take that to heart. Paul Krugman can’t back a candidate because of the label associated with him rather the ideas. And his fickleness means that if the label gets associated with the ideas he supports, perhaps he’ll give up on it too. The label of Socialism is just like the idea of Sanders. It’s not the be all, end all. The ideas and how we get them to fruition is the important part of it. So lets keep the movement going, whatever you want to call it. I stand with the people and the ideas that are going to help better all our lives, not a label or just one person.
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!