Posts Tagged ‘Glen Beck

18
Aug
10

A Communist Look at Immigration

For people to be against illegal immigration is understandable- not necessarily commendable, but certainly understandable. Illegal immigrants may enjoy certain benefits from a nation while avoiding the responsibilities of citizenship (taxes, jury duty, the unlikely event of a draft, and so on). Being in a country illegally means that “illegals” (‘Unregistered’, as they prefer to be called) are not protected by labor laws and may be hired by companies and individuals to work long hours in dangerous conditions with little pay and no medical benefits- resulting in immigrants being hired for unskilled/manual labor and citizens being laid off. Now ignoring the fact that most immigrants leave their families and homelands behind, travel hundreds of miles in often dangerous conditions, sneak across the border, and allow themselves to be exploited and abused just to send money home- it’s easy to see why some people would be upset at illegal immigration.

But what we are currently seeing in both the US and in Europe isn’t mere, misguided anger at illegal immigration but at immigrants- legal or otherwise. The explosion of paranoia concerning ‘anchor-babies’- a derogatory term for the practice of gaining citizenship through having a child born in the US, as ensured by the 14th amendment (“All persons born or naturalized in the United States… are citizens of the United States…”). Now this isn’t illegal immigration- this is legitimate, protected not by law by the foundation of US government- yet there’s still an outcry against it, some even advocating the repeal of the 14th amendment.

Why? A number of reasons are given. Michelle Malkin, a commentator primarily for Fox News, argues that granted citizenship to those born in the US is detrimental to the “…integrity of citizenship-not to mention national security.”

Exactly how granting citizenship to those born in the US undermines the integrity of citizenship is a little confusing- citizenship is automatically granted to the children born in the US (to American parents), why is this less [supposedly] harmful? As for the issue of national security, immigrants are flooding into this country to take advantage of the freedoms and opportunities offered here- to suppose that immigrants would, en masse, attempt to overthrow or harm the nation they’re trying to be a part of is- to be blunt- idiocy.

Others, such as Glenn Beck, have claimed that the 14th amendment was intended only to protect the rights of former slaves freed after the civil war, and the amendment should not be applied to immigrants, going so far as to state “Slavery is a long time ago.”. Now with immigrants working for well below the minimum wage in often dangerous conditions (to say nothing of the number of genuine slaves in the country) one could easily retort that the need to protect the rights of slaves (wage-slaves and actual slaves) is needed now more than ever! Just because slavery has moved to the fruit orchards of California from the cotton fields of South Carolina doesn’t mean that’s gone. Not for Sale, an abolitionist organization estimates that there are 30 million slaves around the world.

The simple fact is that what we’re witnessing isn’t anti-illegal immigrant sentiment, but anti-immigrant feelings- something with far more disturbing implications.

Anti-immigrant sentiment stems from a number of factors, the foremost (in the US, anyways) is that immigrants rob citizens of their jobs. But what is forgotten too often is that we are all immigrants, that at some point all of our ancestors struggled for a new life- competition can to rear its ugly head anywhere- if you have an issue with it, take it up with Capitalism, not immigrants stuck in the same position as your grandparents once found themselves.

The fear of change is another- changes in culture, changes in demographics, changes in language and religions and so on. This fear is perhaps best exemplified in Britain, where anti-immigrant fear is has resulted in the creation of such groups as the English Defense League (EDL) and the British Nationalist Party (BNP). According to the official website of the BNP “All these facts point inexorably to the overwhelming and extinguishing of Britain and British identity under a tsunami of immigration.”

The idea that somehow culture is meant to remain stagnant is, of course, ridiculous. Cultures are in a constant state of flux, old traditions are abolished, new customs arise, and the mix of various cultures is an integral part of that. Has immigration into the US destroyed culture? On the contrary, immigration has increased the variety of foods we eat, beverages we drink, holidays we celebrate, and the ways we look at the world around us.

But nevertheless the bias remains in spite of these truths. Why?

Racism.

It’s ugly, it’s difficult to accept, but it’s there. Whether we’re walking basing our political campaigns on the promise to “Offer generous grants to those of foreign descent resident here who wish to leave permanently.” (As the BNP does) or considering repealing the 14th amendment (as some in the US have suggested) or subconsciously conjuring up the image of a minority stereotype when we hear of a crime that’s been committed, we are basing our actions on the idea that some people are worse than others because of the color of their skin, the size of their noses, the width between their eyes and so on. It’s not all our fault- crime, drugs, illiteracy, and ignorance are highest among the poor and working class- the vast majority of whom are immigrants and/or minorities. It’s easy to fall into the habit of associating crime/drugs/etc. not with poverty but with those who are unfortunate enough to be poor, and from this stems racism.

It’s not all our fault- but a lot of it still is. We know that brown and blue eyes squint at the same sun. We know that curly and straight hair will eventually turn gray. We know that beneath black and white and brown skin there’s the same bones and organs. In short, we know better.

So fight fear and racism and put yourself in the shoes of immigrants, legal and illegal alike. If roles were reversed, you’d have as much motivation to travel wherever you wanted in the world to make a better life for yourself. You’d have as much of a rights.

Offer generous grants to those of foreign descent resident here who wish to leave permanently
28
Jul
10

A Communist Response to the Tea Party

The Tea Party has made a point of lambasting the Communist movement. Pictures of Obama (for the last time- not a Communist) are adorned with the hammer-and-sickle emblem, or set up alongside pictures of Marx and Lenin. There are picket-signs with such slogans as “Revolt Against Socialism”-in short, it’s the largest anti-leftist movement since McCarthyism. And not without reason, either. It’s undeniable that there’s a certain appeal to the Tea Party movement. Joining the fight against the [alleged] looming threat of an authoritarian state, bringing the country back to its original values, lowering taxes for the middle-class-everyman- who wouldn’t want in? But as with every political/social/economic movement you have to cut through the buzz words and slogans and examine the core principals and goals.

The Tea Party seems to be focused around three central issues, (1) the limiting of government power, (2) the restoration of Free Market Capitalism, and (3) through these two goals bring America back to the values of the Founding Fathers. In and of themselves these principals seem perfectly reasonable- admirable even. Until you look at history.

Limiting government power? Hey- Communists are all for it. One of the principal goals of Marxism is the abolition of the state. Indeed, despite the Tea Party’s pictures of Democrat politicians with the hammer-and-sickle superimposed on them, Communists have more in common with Libertarians- as far as governmental issues anyways. The problem with the Tea Party is that there not against big government- they’re against big Democrat government. The Patriotic Act was one of the greatest expansions of government power since the Civil War- did the Tea Party protest then? In the Tea Party’s defense though- this is a problem on both sides of the political spectrum; those who protested the Patriot Act have remained strangely silent about the issue now that Obama is in power.

As for the restoration of Free Market Capitalism- there’s a reason regulatory laws and branches have been developed. Before the advent of market regulation, the state of things was appalling. Child labor, strike-breakers, low wages, dangerous work conditions, false advertising, a complete lack of product safety and quality control, rampant pollution- to put it mildly, it was nightmarish. And even despite regulatory laws, corporations continue to pollute and exploit- look at third-world sweatshops and the continued destruction of the environment! If things are bad now, how much worse will they be without laws to protect the workers and consumers?

And lastly and most importantly, there’s the issue of the founding fathers. If you listen to far-right pundits (Glen Beck would be a prime example), you’ll hear repeatedly that the US must be returned to the plans the founding fathers had for it. A closer look at the writings of America’s founders, however, suggest that they might not have been as wild about Capitalism as conservative pundits and Tea Party members make them out to be. Thomas Jefferson, for example, had this to say about private property:

It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land, for instance. By an [sic] universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it, but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it.

Or look at this statement by Thomas Paine (technically not a founding father, but his influence of the Revolutionary War and the formation of the American government is immeasurable):

Men did not make the earth… It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property… Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds.

and

…To pay as a remission of taxes to every poor family, out of the surplus taxes, and in room of poor-rates, four pounds a year for every child under fourteen years of age; enjoining the parents of such children to send them to school, to learn reading, writing, and common arithmetic; the ministers of every parish, of every denomination to certify jointly to an office, for that purpose, that this duty is performed… By adopting this method, not only the poverty of the parents will be relieved, but ignorance will be banished from the rising generation, and the number of poor will hereafter become less…

Even half a century later, Lincoln (not a founder, still an important figure in the shaping of American politics) gave us this warning:

As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

Quite simply, as far as the founders go, I doubt their ideologies would have mixed too well with those of the Tea Party.

To summarize, the Tea Party may have a heroic and patriotic veneer, but that’s all that there is- catchphrases, dire warnings about an apocalyptic future, and desperate attempts to restore a past that never existed. And the truly tragic thing is there’s a lot in the Tea Party that could be used for the betterment of the American public. The rejection of big government is admirable- just make sure that you’re not substituting one lack of liberty for another. The desire to restore prosperity is good- Capitalism isn’t the way. The attempt to restore the country to the principals of the founding fathers is commendable- but only so long as you know what those principals were.

26
Jun
09

In Defense of Free Healthcare

One of President Obama’s campaign promises was major healthcare reform and lately, that promise has been repeatedly referenced in the news (primarily on Fox). While opinions on the subject are vary, in general they have tended towards the negative- a common fear voiced is that a “bureaucrat” will be placed between the patient and the doctor (though others have submitted that they’d rather have a bureaucrat between them and their doctors than an insurance company). Conservative icon Glen Beck, for example, argues that this reform will be costly and inefficient in a brief animated video (linked here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkGhn3LfbyM&feature=related). The video depicts a man who, after being hit on the head by a falling anvil, has to wait six weeks for treatment due to free healthcare. The clip ends with the warning “Offer applies after voting Democrat and not listening to the Glen Beck Program”. Some might call this video a patriotic attempt to maintain an effective and productive system.

I call it propaganda.

What we are actually presented with is an exaggerated and implausible scenario which the creator threatens will happen unless we abstain from the Democrat party and watch his program. Now, purely for the sake of the argument, let’s ignore the insultingly simplistic message and focus on the admonition. Firstly, we are told not to vote Democrat (or risk waiting six weeks for medical attention). People have been voting Democrat for over a century now and no free healthcare system has been implemented. Millions of Americans do not watch the Glen Beck program (some shameless self-advertising), and nationalized healthcare yet to be instated.

“True,” one might argue, “It’s fear-mongering and agitprop, but the core principle is true- free healthcare would be expensive and unproductive.” Now granted, free healthcare would mean that it would take longer to see a doctor however, to say that it would take “six weeks” is simple misrepresentation. Hospitals do have their busy days, but it’s nothing like the crowded mayhem represented by television dramas. In the US, there are hundreds of thousands of public and private hospitals, not to mention an almost countless number of private clinics. Yes, with free healthcare the numbers of people seeking medical attention would skyrocket, but almost assuredly not beyond the country’s capacity to help.

Besides, even if hospitals do become more crowded, how is that a bad thing? More patients don’t mean more disease but more coverage. Those who were unable to afford medical attention before are now able to seek treatment- universal coverage means universal treatment which means a healthier, more productive society (for anyone who isn’t satisfied with the fact that more people are being given medical care).  As for the wait- I’d rather wait six weeks for free medical care than be turned away instantly because I’m not wealthy enough.

And that of course leads us to an important question: why should only the wealthy be healthy? We live in an age of medical miracles that before the 20th century would’ve been inconceivable. We’ve developed vaccines, medicines, and antibiotics to fight off or even cure us of diseases and infections that would otherwise kill us. We’ve created artificial limbs to replace severed ones, and with artificial respirators and pacemakers we can keep humans alive well into their nineties.

If you’re wealthy, that is.

The poor are lucky to benefit from these miracles. If a wealthy man loses an arm, he can purchase an artificial one. If a poor man loses an arm, then there’s nothing that can be done about. If a wealthy woman has complications with her pregnancy, she can hire a midwife, a private physician and so on. If a poor woman has complications with her pregnancy then there’s nothing that can be done about it.

And why is this? When did the wealthy become entitled to longer, healthier lives? Why should the number of green cotton-papers a person has determine when and whether he gets to live or die?

Maybe some of the rich worked hard for their wealth. Maybe some inherited it. Maybe of the poor are poor because they’re lazy. Maybe some were born poor, and for all their hard work remain poor. Sure, the advocates of Capitalism will tell you that the poor can work hard, seize opportunities, move up in life. So if a man works hard his whole life, but his alarm clock’s battery dies and he’s late to work and his co-worker (who works just as hard, but was lucky enough to have a better clock) gets that promotion (and the money for better healthcare) instead of the man who was late, does that mean the late man is somehow less deserving of decent medical attention? Are those who simply missed opportunities (or never had opportunities presented) somehow less-than-human? The Declaration of Independence states that among humanity’s inalienable rights is “the right to life“! How then can we demand that the poor, the wealthy- anyone– pay for life? I defy even the most brutal Capitalist or Social Darwinist to look a person in the eye and tell him that he’s not wealthy enough to deserve good healthcare.

So why would anyone oppose free healthcare? Who in their right mind would trade a little wait for free and universal healthcare?

The answer can be found in another Glen Beck clip (linked here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mq9zfTEtfI)

The clip, while short, is telling. The show’s guest, Dr. Steve Neeleman- after criticizing America’s “addiction to HMOs”- goes on to describe the virtues of his own company, HealthEquity. What the show doesn’t mention is that HealthEquity is simply another insurance company- and it’s insurance companies that stand to lose the most through universal healthcare. In the interests of full disclosure, it should be mentioned, the subject of the show was Hilary Clinton’s proposed healthcare plan- not free healthcare, but nevertheless the clip serves an excellent example of why insurance companies so staunchly oppose free healthcare. Why would the public pay for something they can get for free? What Glen Beck has done here would be the equivalent of interviewing a horse-and-buggy company owner on the evils of Henry Ford’s Model-T automobile.

In conclusion, yes, free and universal healthcare does have disadvantages. Some taxes would have to be raised and in some places, waiting lines would increase. Nonetheless, the benefits of free healthcare greatly outweigh the disadvantages. Yes, insurance companies would be virtually wiped out, but how does that measure in comparison with the countless lives that could be saved?

It just doesn’t.

11
Jun
09

Government Motors?

There’s been a lot of talk recently on the government takeover of GM. Some, such as members of the Obama administration, believe that this will save jobs and- eventually- revitalize the company. Others, such as Fox News’s Glen Beck, claim that this is an abomination and an “attack on Capitalism”.

So what is it really? Good? Bad? Apocalyptic? An attack on Capitalism or the US constitution?

From a Communist point of view, it’s hard to say.

We can determine that a government takeover, with the consent of the owners of the company (as is the case with GM, is not a breach of the Constitution. Those who would claim otherwise could technically claim that this is an infringement on the right to free enterprise, but considering that GM was handed over willingly, this would be a hard position to argue from. Apocalyptic? Hardly. Nowhere in any world religion is government ownership of car companies listed as a sign of the end of the world.

That leaves good or bad, and as I’ve said, it’s not easy to tell which is right.

From a Communist perspective, the government takeover has saved thousands of jobs for autoworkers- a good thing. At the same time, this decision was made more or less without the consensus of the public- a bad thing. All in all, we now have a government-owned car company, something that could be either good or bad- predicting which is going to be hard.

On one hand, state-ownership of transport hasn’t proven detrimental for many countries. On the contrary, state-ownership has often been beneficial for countries, providing an inexpensive form of transport for the general public. At the same time, we must keep in mind that this isn’t about taxis, busses, and trains- this is about cars. How will the government (or at least, a company heavily influenced by the government) make private cars? Again, it’s hard to say. Some postulate that a new generation of fuel-efficient “green” cars will be created, others claim that a car created by committees and bureaucrats will be costly and inefficient. All in all, the Communist perspective is more or less neutral, since this is neither an attack on Capitalism or a movement towards Communism.

It does, however, raise an important point in the difference between Communism and Socialism: the difference between public and state property.

Now one must remember that originally, Socialism referred to the socio-political aspect of Marxism (Communism referring to the economic-political aspect). However, like many words, the definition of “Socialism” has changed dramatically. Currently, Socialism is used to refer to a “middle-ground” between Capitalism and Communism. Essentially, Socialism is an economic system where large portions of the economy are owned or controlled by the state. Too often, this is confused with Communism- largely due to the USSR and other pseudo-Communist states replacing private property with state property, rather than public property. Simplified, the differences can best be explained by an example using land. In the US, there are three types of land-ownership, private, state, and public. Private property (in regards to land) is land owned purely by a single person for that person’s own use. State property is property which belongs solely to the state and whatever sub-department the land is run by. Public property is property that belongs to everyone, for whatever (legal) use chosen (streets and roads, for example, are public property). With GM, the US moves towards Socialism not Communism (though since the US government tends to regulate, rather than own, the US remains primarily Capitalist). There are even some who blame the fall of the Soviet Union not on corruption and dictatorship but on the fact the private property was turned into state property, rather than public property, as demanded in Marx’s works.

In short, even if the US is moving towards Socialism (and it still has a long, long way to go before that happens), it is important to keep in mind that this does not mean the US is moving towards Communism.