When I was growing up, socialism was a dirty word. I was told it meant the end of freedom and the state would own all means of production.

A funny thing happened on my way to maturity. When I visited so-called socialist countries such as Norway or Sweden, I saw private industry and free people enjoying a good quality of life. What’s going on? Why is socialism, even today, so frightening to many Americans?  Social Security and Medicare are both socialistic programs but most people, Republicans included, want and are grateful for these programs.

In the 1920’s the United States had an active Socialist Party & ran a candidate in the 1928 Presidential election. It may be hard to believe but their party platform that year has by and large been adopted and is a part of our national fabric.

wpaPrinted below is that platform and an explanation of each plank:

1 “Nationalization of our natural resources, beginning with the coal mines and water sites, particularly at Boulder Dam an Muscle Shoals.” (Boulder Dam, renamed Hoover Damn, and Muscle Shoals are now both federal government projects.)

2 “A publicly owned giant power system under which the federal government shall cooperate with the states and municipalities in the distribution of electrical energy to the people at cost.” (This is a generally accepted process across the country.)

3 “National ownership and democratic management of railroads and other means of transportation and communication.” (Railroad passenger service is completely nationalized through Amtrak. Some freight service is nationalized through Conrail. Private railroads are strictly regulated by the Federal Government. The FCC controls communications by telephone, telegraph, radio, and television.)

4 “An adequate national program for flood control, flood relief, reforestation, irrigation, and reclamation.” (Government expenditures for these purposes are currently in the many billions of dollars.)

5 “Immediate governmental relief of the unemployed by the extension of all public works and a program of long range planning of public works . . .” (In the 1930s, WPA and PWA were a direct counterpart; now, a wide variety of other programs are.) “All persons thus employed to be engaged at hours and wages fixed by bona-fide labor unions.” (The Davis-Bacon and Walsh-Healey Acts require contractors with government contracts to pay “prevailing wages,” generally interpreted as highest union wages – also the national minimum wage.)

6 “Loans to states and municipalities without interest for the purpose of carrying on public works and the taking of such other measures as will lessen widespread misery.”

(Federal grants in aid to states and local municipalities currently total tens of billions of dollars a year.)

7 “A system of unemployment insurance.” (Part of Social Security system.)

8 “The nation-wide extension of public employment agencies in cooperation with city federations of labor.”

(U.S. Employment Service and affiliated state employment services administer a network of about 2,500 local employment offices.)

9 “A system of health and accident insurance and of old age pensions as well as unemployment insurance.” (Part of Social Security. Full global health insurance proposed widely.)

10 “Shortening the workday” and “Securing every worker a rest period of no less than two days in each week.” (Legislated by wages and hours laws that require overtime for more than forty hours of work per week.)

11 “Enacting of an adequate federal anti-child labor amendment.” (Not achieved as amendment, but essence incorporated into various legislative acts.)

12 “Abolition of the brutal exploitation of convicts under the contract system and substitution of a cooperative organization of industries in penitentiaries and workshops for the benefit of convicts and their dependents.” (Partly achieved, partly not.)

13 “Increase taxation on high income levels, of corporation taxes and inheritance taxes, the proceeds to be used for old age pensions and other forms of social insurance.” (In 1928, highest personal income tax rate, 25 percent; in 2008, 35 percent, above 40 percent proposed by Obama; in 1928, corporate tax rate, 12 percent; in 2008, 35-39% percent with proposed increases by Obama; in 1928, top federal estate tax rate, 20 percent; in 2008, 48% with proposed increases by Obama.)

14 “Appropriation by taxation of the annual rental value of all land held for speculation.” (Not achieved in this form, but property taxes have risen drastically.)

Ron Mandelbaum, President Coronado Democratic Club

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