To the editor:
As the 2020 election campaign cycle revs up, I have been disappointed by the predictably strident and angry cries of “socialism” made by individuals who often have little idea as to what the term actually means. Strictly speaking, socialism implies that industries are owned and overseen by the community as a whole and not by stockholders and investors. With the exception of tax-exempt not-for-profit organizations, all for-profit industries in the U.S. are privately or publicly held by individuals or investors.
What the state and federal government does is regulate how these industries work to ensure that they serve the greater good and not merely the small number of majority investors.
There are a number of examples throughout history whereby the state and federal governments stepped in to regulate private and public industry to benefit the public at large:
• Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie hatched the idea of health-care insurance when their labor forces were decimated during the influenza pandemic of 1918 that killed 50 to 100-million people worldwide and a large number of young able-bodied American workers. This provides a safety net for both employers and employees.
• Franklin Roosevelt brought the idea of social security from Germany to the United States in the 1930s when there was a significant spike in malnutrition and suicide during the Great Depression among working Americans as a safety net for retirees.
• Lyndon Johnson and Wilbur Mills introduced Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s because almost 75 percent of retired Americans died in poverty due to the crippling costs of health care later in life.
• Both the president and Congress would like to regulate the pharmaceutical industry so that Americans stop paying 200-400 percent more than other countries for the same medications.
• Many members of Congress would like to ensure that young people have access to at least a free vocational education so that they can earn a living wage, contribute to our communities and our economy and avoid going onto welfare rolls.
Let’s go into the 2020 election season with thoughtful ideas of how best to regulate industry, whether it be health care, pharmaceuticals or gun safety, and not slide into the angry and fearful rhetoric of “socialism.” Elections should be about coming together to exercise our system of democracy and not alienating each other through the use of inflammatory sound bites served to us on cable news networks.
We all want a nation under our Constitution that balances individual rights with collective needs and there are legitimate differences of opinion over where to draw the line. That is an important conversation worth having as we seek individuals to represent us in Concord and beyond.
Jon Burroughs, M.D., MBA