Back to the Future

I stumbled into a time warp this weekend over in the comments section at Calpundit.

In this post Kevin Drum merely echoed words spoken by every bar band and lounge act in America every night: "Hey folks, take care of your waitresses and bartenders."

He was responding to the effort by some chain McRestaurants to cut their costs by trimming the already-sub-minimum-wages they pay tipped employees.

Scrolling through the comments to Kevin's post, I felt like Marty McFly, stumbling out of the DeLorean and into some weird Cold War past of 1985 or 1955. For daring to defend the idea of a minimum wage, Kevin was accused of advocating "socialism."

No, really, they said "socialism." There are still people who talk like that. People with a binary, laissez-faire/Stalinism view of the world, still clinging to this view on the very weekend that Pope John Paul II was celebrating his 25th year of pointing out how foolish and inhuman this dubious dichotomy is.

Where do you even begin with such people? It's 2003. The Berlin Wall is a souvenir stand. The signature achievement of America's one, nominally "socialist" member of Congress is legislation requiring the disclosure of ATM fees. (Banks are still free to charge you $2 to access $20 of your own money, but thanks to Bernie Sanders, they have to tell you about it. Workers of the world unite!)

Can't we — like Marty McFly, finally leave the '50s behind? Haven't we already done so?

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  • jackson

    Wow, you’re right……I never thought about that before. Why does anyone make this argument anymore? Communism certainly never worked, and when was the last time socialists were anything but a fringe group? Besides, I have a feeling that if socialism ever became a significant political movement again, it would look very different than the kind wingnuts rail about.

  • Tlachtga

    Man, more and more people seem to be trotting this out. I recently had an argument with my stepfather about WWII–he said we shouldn’t have sided with Stalin. That it was better to side with the fascists than the communists, and besides, Stalin killed a lot of people too. Naturally, then, he’s worse than Hitler.
    Yeah, he doesn’t believe in the minimum wage, either.
    I once heard a guy on the radio–NPR, not regular right-wing radio–accuse people who provide public assistance to children of being communists. Th commentators were naturally taken aback. There was a definite social-dawrinist thing going on with this caller. And that’s what it comes down to–a neo-social-darwinism rearing its ugly head. Sharing is communism. Stealing, cheating, taking what you can and screw the rest is what good citizens do in their eyes.
    Seems they forgot about the preamble of the constitution:
    We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
    Heh. Just a thought. But that’s commie-talk.

  • Tim

    A guy I work with, a financial anylist, thinks public schooling is communism. He asked me, “Why should I pay for your child’s schooling?” And I said something about that’s what cooperative societies do and he said “but that’s communal, that’s communism.” I said, huh? Have you read Marx? He says yeah, so I say “then you should know the vast difference between Marxism, communism as it has been practiced like in the Soviet Union, and public schooling.”
    Apparently he didn’t.
    Yeah, I’ve noticed over the last 3 years everything that has to do with the social contract has been becoming “communist” and “socialist”. I think it’s because the folks behind the conservative movement know that stupid people think in binary terms, they love to define themselves by whom they hate, and the further apart the chasm between their base and their perceived enemies the better.
    It’s fanatic farming.
    Fanatics by definition aren’t reasonable and that’s what they want. With fanatics as your base you’re able to run on a platform of lies and get away with it because fanatics don’t question- they follow.
    That’s why.

  • Tim

    That’s “analyst”. I’m not completely stupid.

  • Tlachtga

    I’m not completely stupid.
    Didn’t get the impression that you were at all.
    But yes–the idea of social contract, upon which our society is supposed to be based, what with Lockian ideals and the Enlightenment, is being completely tarred as “Communist” and thus Stalinist and thus evil. Frightening.
    Sadly, they don’t look at the big picture, which explains why, for example, an educated population is for the good of the entire population.

  • Linnaeus

    Wow..the fact that some would view public schooling as “communism” is pretty frightening. Thing is, public schooling in this country predates Marx. In the Ordinance of 1785, which established a system for subdividing our country’s then-western territories, there is a clause that stipulates that at least a portion of a township should be set aside for the support of a school. Looks like those communists were infiltrating our government even then!

  • Tim

    What’s really scary is he’s a smart guy.
    He’s educated, makes good money, got a couple kids, lives in a big metropolis, lived in other metropoliseseses… he’s not an idiot yet all of his political ideas are just utterly moronic. Funny thing is, his favorite prez is Teddy Roosevelt, who was quite progressive for his time and looks like Ralph Nader compared to Bush.
    I don’t understand why, I think maybe he’s just fallen for the line the movement conservatives push that liberals want to rule your life, etc., so now he hates liberals and forms all of his political ideas on that basis.

  • Flaffer

    What bothers me even more about black-and-white “socialist vs. capatalist” rhetoric is that ALL democracies have elemtents of socialism embedded in their policies. Look at labor unions (who gave us the weekend, worker’s rights in the workplace, et al), social security, tax loopholes, et al.

  • Jorge

    Now that Movement Communism is all but dead, Socialism has become the new hateword because after all, “weren’t the Nazis Socialist?” Well,no actually they weren’t. They were Totalitarian Corporatists, masquerading as Socialists, no more Socialist then Cuba is Communist. For a working hybrid of a Capitalist/Socialist model all you have to do is look at Canada or any member of the EU. Pure Socialism would never work, for exactly the same reasons Marxism doesn’t work and our own homegrown, Darwinian Capitalism is rapidly failing us.