by John Lawrence from the San Diego Free Press
Bernie Sanders has been drawing huge crowds to his rallies. The American media cannot ignore that. But they will never use the S word to describe Bernie even though that is how he describes himself. Bernie represents those who would tax Wall Street to preserve social security and a host of other common sense proposals. He dares to suggest that college should be free rather than the first stage of a life of indentured servitude and indebtedness.
People are listening - especially young people. Bernie has been saying these things for years but the media for the most part has been ignoring him. Now he has a bigger megaphone. His decision to run for President in order to get his message out there is paying off.
As Bernie himself has said: “the ideas and the points that we are making are reverberating very strongly with the American people.” Whoever would have thought that Bernie Sanders, Socialist, would be reverberating with the American people, the American people who love freedom and think that society should be set up in such a way that everybody has a chance, no matter how small, of getting rich?
On the other hand Bernie points out that social security is not in danger of running out of money. All you have to do is lift the cap and let rich people pay the same percentage of their income into it as do poor people. That is pretty reverberating if you can just get the message out. Bernie is getting the message out.
The media wants to call Bernie a "populist." Well, in this instance populism equals socialism. The notion that rich people should pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes as they did during the Eisenhauer administration, that there should be a tax on financial transactions and that taxes on the rich should support programs that aid the poor, is that populism or socialism, or both?
But then Americans have always been hypocritical about socialism. Even when they are enjoying the benefits from it, they don't want to acknowledge it. In an article in the New York Times, Socialism, American Style, Gar Alperovitz and Thomas M Hanna point out that socialism is a way of life in many American states including those that are considered "conservative." Only you can't call it that. That would not be politically correct.
Conservative Alaska is a Hotbed of Socialism
Take Alaska, for example. In this ultra conservative state there is a little socialist program known as The Alaska Permanent Fund. The Alaska Permanent Fund, established by a Republican governor in 1976, combines not one, but two socialist principles: public ownership and the provision of a basic income for all residents. The fund collects and invests proceeds from the extraction of oil and minerals in the state. Dividends are paid out annually to every man, woman and child in the state. Even Sarah Palin's family collects them.
This is from an article I wrote titled The Alaska Permanent Fund: Socialism in a Republican State:
Alaska is a land of rugged individualists - Republicans all the way. However, a little known fact is that Alaska taxes the oil and gas corporations operating there and distributes the proceeds on an annual basis equally among every man, woman and child living in the state. The biggest farce of all is that Tea Party touter, Governor Sarah Palin, slapped an excess profits tax on the state's oil companies in 2008, the year she ran for vice-President alongside John McCain, so that every person in Alaska received a dividend of $3269 that year. That was a pretty good haul for a family of four: $13,076. For Palin's family - husband Todd, sons Track and Trig and daughters Bristol, Willow and Piper - it came to an even better haul - $22,883!
We have also written about the Alaska Permanent Fund here. With global warming heating up the climate, more people will be moving to Alaska, not only in search of a moderate climate, but also to take advantage of the yearly stipend which might grow to the point that citizens of Alaska wouldn't have to work at all especially in view of the minerals that are becoming available due to the melting of the Arctic ice cap. Of course, that oil should stay in the ground if the earth has a chance of not warming up by 2 degrees C and causing widespread calamity.
Political correctness and hypocrisy demands that neither Palin nor any Republican politician mention the Alaska Permanent Fund nor any other socialist program from which money is taken from corporations and redistributed to the people. After all other states might get the idea that, if Alaska can do it, their state might be able to do the same thing. Well, in ultra conservative Texas, they've already figured that out: give lip service to conservative, rugged individualist principles while employing de facto socialist ones.
Texans Don't Mind Benefiting from a Socialist Policy
Texas is another example of conservative socialism in practice. Almost 150 years ago the Texas Permanent School Fund took control of roughly half of all the land and associated mineral rights still in the public domain. In 1953, coastal “submerged lands” were added after being relinquished by the federal government. Each year distributions from the fund go to support education; in 2014 alone it gave $838.7 million to state schools. Another fund, the $17.5 billion Permanent University Fund, owns more than two million acres of land, the proceeds of which help underwrite the state’s public university system.
You'd think that Bernie Sanders would have plenty of supporters in Texas, namely all those who benefit from the Texas Permanent School Fund and Permanent University Fund, but instead they're all supporters of ultra conservative Governor Rick Perry, at least the majority consisting of white Texans are. Again lip service to conservatism while the actual reality they benefit from is socialism.
It's the same with Obamacare. All those southern conservatives who are benefiting from it love the reality while at the same time calling for its repeal. As a Washington Post article stated: "When the political history of the Affordable Care Act is written, Kentucky will occupy a special place in the tale. The implementation of the ACA there has helped produce the second steepest drop in the uninsured rate of any state. Yet even though that’s occurring in one of the most unhealthy regions in the country, the general idea of 'Obamacare' remains deeply unpopular."
Many countries employ the same principles, but without the hypocrisy. These funds are called sovereign wealth funds. Norway imposes a 50% tax on oil extraction which is put into its sovereign wealth fund which provides pensions and benefits for the Norwegian people. There's no talk there of "ending social security" because they don't have the money. Norwegians have plenty of money since they have profited from their co-owned public wealth in the form of oil extraction.
Only in America is there talk about the nonviability of social security. Most people don't even realize that if the rich paid into social security at the same rate as the poor, social security would be overfunded not underfunded and senior citizens could get a nice raise especially the needy ones.
Frank Thomas has written knowledgeably about Norway's sovereign wealth fund here:
The sovereign wealth fund in which Norway saves its oil-gas income is invested internationally primarily in stocks, bonds, and, starting recently, real estate. The strict primary goal is to save for future generations, when hydrocarbons run out. Investing abroad also helps to avoid overheating the Norwegian economy. In 2009, the fund advanced 34% to recover most of the bubble losses.The fund now owns more than 1% of the world’s shares in over 8000 companies. It is Europe’s biggest equity investor. Strategically, the fund takes a 30 year investment horizon. Thus, not surprisingly,the fund is currently investing aggressively in green industries. Helped by the past 30 year petroleum revenues that have been well-invested, Norway has become the 2nd richest nation per capita.
What if California Had Invested in a Sovereign Wealth Fund?
What if California would have taken control of its oil and gas revenues and invested in a sovereign wealth fund? There would be no budget problems today and there would be plenty of money to invest in infrastructure like desalination plants. California would have had the money to deal with its water shortage problems. Instead it became a debt based economy owing what amounts to a mortgage to Wall Street.
Another example: The Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund, with a market value of more than $7 billion accumulated from mineral extraction, has helped to eliminate income taxes in the state. The basic principle is that the mineral resources of the state belong to the citizens of that state not some private corporation. The idea is that the state should endeavor to enter into a relationship that adequately compensates the citizens for the extraction of their property.
One of the largest “socialist” enterprises in the nation is the Tennessee Valley Authority, a publicly owned company with $11 billion in sales revenue, nine million customers and 11,260 employees that produces electricity and helps manage the Tennessee River system. It seems that some socialist enterprises are not only very successful but are also very popular with the citizens who collectively profit from such enterprises.
Another example is publicly owned utilities. There are, in fact, already more than 2,000 publicly owned electric utilities that, along with cooperatives, supply more than 25 percent of the country’s electricity, now operating throughout the United States. In one of the most conservative states, Nebraska, every single resident and business receives electricity from publicly owned utilities, cooperatives or public power districts. Partly as a result, Nebraskans pay one of the lowest rates for electricity in the nation.
Perhaps the best example of public ownership or socialism, if you will, is the Public Bank of North Dakota (BND). Instead of shipping money to Wall Street, North Dakota uses the profits from its state owned bank to reduce taxes, invest in infrastructure and provide reasonable student loans. Many cities, counties and states are waking up to the fact that the profits that have heretofore been reaped by Wall Street from operations in their states should instead be reinvested in the state or public entity itself. The BND is serving as an example for them to follow. Private profit that goes into out of state investors' pockets is replaced by public profit which benefits citizens locally whether in a state or a city or other public entity.
The American People Should Derive Part of their Income From Public Wealth
As I said in the aforementioned article: Rich people live off of dividends, rent or interest paid to them in one form or other from their accumulated wealth. Public wealth is owned by the citizens of the US collectively. To receive a dividend from their co-owned wealth would tend to ameliorate the growing inequality of wealth ownership in the US and supplement poor and middle class incomes. Every citizen should be in a position of deriving at least a part of their income from co-owned wealth, especially since income from jobs is going downhill due to automation and outsourcing. This would eliminate poverty, provide a basic income guarantee, stimulate the economic system from the bottom up and restore the middle class.
The US is a debt based country which by virtue of the dollar's place as the world's reserve currency can continue to go into debt. Most other countries don't have this luxury so they start sovereign wealth funds which invest in American debt among other things so that their citizens are in the position of being investors while American citizens are essentially debtors for whom the chickens have not yet come home to roost.
Bernie Sanders' message is starting to make good sense to thousands of American people who are fed up with the BS Republicans have been feeding them. They are listening to Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, the Pope and the Dalai Lama and beginning to take seriously the facts of climate change, free public education up to the university level, Medicare for all and a beefed up social security program. Ownership of wealth and assets should not be only for the rich. Socialism provides that public wealth shall be redistributed to the poor and middle class as well.