Posted Feb 24, 2020 by Michael L. Brown

Do you remember Peggy Joseph? She was the young voter who heard candidate Barack Obama speak in 2008 then said on camera, “I won’t have to worry about puttin’ gas in my car, I won’t have to worry about payin’ my mortgage.”

By 2013, Joseph’s tone had turned dramatically.

She was asked by filmmaker Joel Gilbert, “Did Obama pay for your mortgage and did he pay for your gas?”

She responded with a laugh: “Absolutely not! Mortgage got worse and gas prices got higher … At that time we needed a change but a change for the better not the worse.”

In her mind, President Obama was similar to the Wizard of Oz. Said Joseph, “I started getting a little more educated about politics, I started reading more. I learned never to trust the Wizard, it’s within ourselves.”

Of course, Barack Obama never promised to pay our mortgage and put gas in our tanks. It was just the feeling you could get when he painted a picture of how America would look under his leadership.

On the other hand, he did promise universal healthcare.

And there were the “free cell phone” claims that added to some of the mythology.

And Obama’s policies did trigger numerous articles over the years, with titles such as:

Other articles, however, strongly dismissed such accusations, mocking the idea that Obama was anything close to a socialist (see here and here).

In fact, Rich Rubino, writing in the Huffington Post in April, 2013 in an article titled, “Barack Obama: A Socialist He Is Definitely Not,” said this: “Critics of Barack Obama often label him as a socialist, a term of derision in American politics. Socialism is viewed by many Americans as an extreme brand of liberalism. Accordingly, as a political tactic, Republicans try to tether Democrats to this label, just as Democrats try their best, equally unfairly, to tether Republicans to the most extreme forms of conservatism.”

But today, “socialist” is not a term of derision used only by enemies of the Democratic party. It is a term of honor used by the Democratic presidential frontrunner, Bernie Sanders.

It is a term of pride. A calling-card. A foundational campaign philosophy.

Bernie Sanders is an out and proud socialist.

As Michael Kruse explained in Politico in 2015, Sanders, then 73, “has been preaching socialism for nearly half a century, and he cites Eugene Debs, the five-time presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America, as his hero. But he hasn’t always embraced the label.”

Back in 1976, Sanders said, “I myself don’t use the word socialism, because people have been brainwashed into thinking socialism automatically means slave-labor camps, dictatorship and lack of freedom of speech.”

And he reiterated that position in different forms in the years following. But by 1989, he said, “In Vermont, everybody knows that I am a socialist and that many people in our movement, not all, are socialists.”

Today, this Sanders quote sums things up well: “I am a socialist; of course I am a socialist. To hold a vision that society can be fundamentally different, to believe that all people can be equal - that is not a new idea.”

It is certainly not a new idea.

But it is a failed idea – that is, as far as the socialist method of making everyone equal.

Of course, the concept sounds grand and wonderful. As one professor described the Sanders’ vision, “What being a socialist means is … that you hold out … a vision of society where poverty is absolutely unnecessary, where international relations are not based on greed … but on cooperation … where human beings can own the means of production and work together rather than having to work as semi-slaves to other people who can hire and fire.”

And this is the concept that has gripped many of his devoted followers. Together, we can make the world a better place for everyone.

But let’s not fool ourselves. It is not so much a glorious, altruistic vision of equality that fuels the fire of many a Sanders voter. It is the promise of free college tuition. It is the prospect of taking money from the very rich and distributing it to the hardworking poor.

It is the idea that the custodian should sit on the board of the company that owns his building, lecturing the fat cats on the plight of the average Joe and Jane.

It is the lure of the free handout.

Free healthcare.

Free advanced education.

Maybe even your mortgage paid and gas in your car.

And who, pray tell, will pay for it? “They will!”

Unfortunately, “they” sounds great until you realize that “they” is me. And that’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where the “Bern” becomes the “burn.” And that’s where we must learn the lesson of history, even recent history.

In short, we do well to remember the story of Peggy Joseph.

A word to the wise is sufficient.


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texasaggie posted a comment · Feb 25, 2020
Swkh310, your comment is a little misleading. First taxes for last year aren't due until April 15 so you don't even know how much taxes they will pay. Because of the corporate tax cut, we are more competitive as a country and will reap more jobs here, and hence more tax paying employees, but we are still not the country with the lowest tax rate at 21%. Next, whatever the real owners of the company, the stockholders, make due to dividends or gains on the sale of the stock, they will pay taxes on. You too can become a stockholder in those companies if you think it is such a good deal. Seriously. In addition, no company has to pay taxes if they didn't make a profit or if they had high expenses, such as if they are investing in new equipment to expand or increase productivity, and consequently may be paying their people more or hiring more people. Hence more tax income to the government. Who do you work for Swkh310? If it's a company you better hope they are making a profit or they will be laying you off. If you work for the government we do need to decrease, not increase, its size to reduce the size of the deficits. The founders of the country originally envisioned limited government and a free self-governing people submitted to God.
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Swkh310 posted a comment · Feb 25, 2020
Only corporations get "free" stuff in this country. Guess how much taxes were paid by such biggies as Amazon, Exxon, AT&T and similar corporations last year? ZERO.
katmoncue posted a comment · Feb 25, 2020
A friend from Ukraine once gave me insight into "free" apartments, living wage jobs, etc. in a system where government has promised to provide these necessities. She said the waiting period for these promised benefits was years for just about everybody - sometimes extending to a lifespan. The free stuff is always on the horizon, just not immediately accessible to the average citizen. She also noted massive amounts of alcohol had become useful to combat the disappointment of many individuals who were depending on the free items and living wage jobs.