“Their socialist agenda would make everything – from health care, to college, and more – government-provided, devastating the nation.”

~ U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, 2-12-20

I also received a flyer with Rep. Ferguson’s picture on it from a shadowy group called “stopMedicaretakeover.org” saying that liberals are planning to “bring socialism to America,” resulting in a “devastating bureaucratic takeover” of Medicare.

If these folks were not serious, their pamphlet would be hilarious. “Socialist” Medicare was established by Democrats and Republicans over 50 years ago. Seniors love Medicare, run by government, much more than private insurance, per survey research. Plus, Medicare overhead is 2 percent versus 12 percent for private insurance.

I’m a capitalist who worked for decades as a VP and SVP for national healthcare corporations. My business success enabled me to retire in a large house on a lake very comfortably at 55. 

But I also worked for government, both as an employee and as a fiscally-conservative Republican elected official, before and after going into the for-profit world. 

I have many friends and acquaintances in Georgia who are Trump supporters. They thoroughly dislike that horrible word “socialism” and government being in our lives. However, strangely enough, many are/have been government employees.

Hypocritical law enforcement personnel, public school/college teachers, military people, etc. say they’re against government expenditures and socialism. Public schools/colleges are by definition “socialist.” The $20 billion raised by the GA Lottery that went towards college scholarships is socialist.

So are state and local police departments, as well as our well-funded (and constantly increasing) military. They work for government, their salaries coming from your tax money. Ferguson and similar conservatives don’t acknowledge this obvious fact.

The “socialism” they’re referring to is “welfare” and “those people” who receive it. This peculiar attitude infects their view of all social programs, except the ones that they receive. A long-time friend in Alabama, a lifelong conservative and big Trump supporter, recently sent out a Facebook picture of his latest grandchild. His unmarried, unemployed daughter delivered the baby, but Alabama Medicaid paid the bill. Oh, and he has been on SSDI disability for many years.

Of course, it’s not socialism if he or his family is getting it. Then, it’s just an insurance program that’s run by Washington or Montgomery. And, according to him he’s been paying for it via his taxes (even though he hasn’t worked in many years).

In reality, all democracies are a mixture of free enterprise and socialism. FDR and LBJ were not traditional socialists, nor was Congress in the 30s and 60s, but some of the most popular “socialist” programs we now have were proposed and passed by FDR, LBJ, the Senate and the House, and both parties voted for them. These programs include Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which all passed with significant GOP support, although some conservative politicians (like Reagan) said they were socialistic. These are now among our most popular governmental programs.

There are right wingers who seek to equate communism, an impractical and thoroughly discredited social and economic philosophy, with democratic socialism. Democratic socialism has worked well around the world. Income inequality is much less in more socialistic European nations than here. 

Let’s look at national income inequality in democracies using well-accepted OECD data (data.OECD.org). What we find is that we have much more inequality than any of the European nations. Only five OECD countries, including South Africa and Turkey, have more inequality.

What these figures tell me is that we should at least consider more social programs rather than less. 

For example, every major democracy except the USA has universal health insurance, the subject of the shadowy group’s Ferguson pamphlet. We do not, although our per capita healthcare expenses are much higher than anywhere else in the world (double Canada’s, triple Israel’s). 

Further, as stated above, our current private health insurance model is inherently inefficient, something the private sector and their political apologists and TV ads never mention. Citizens of these nations have lower mortality and morbidity rates and greater satisfaction scores than the USA. 

Clearly, the only thing stopping Medicare for All or something like it is corporate opposition (insurance execs are making tens of millions annually) and misguided politicians promulgating incorrect and misguided right-wing ideology, like in this pamphlet and Ferguson’s recent email.

In summary, it does little good to throw around words like “socialism” without understanding that all democracies have socialistic aspects to them. The worth of each governmental effort must be determined based both on the quantifiable direct and indirect costs and benefits of that specific program, and universal health insurance and free public college are worthy goals for the USA.

Jack Bernard, a retired SVP with a large national healthcare firm, has worked extensively with hospitals across the nation regarding cost containment and insurance. He was also the first Director of Health Planning for Georgia.