No doubt capitalism and entrepreneurship are the backbone of our democracy. Ultimately, they can provide the means for everyone to live the American dream. But thinking about our everyday lives, we must not let democratic socialism be a scare word that has been hurled at every advance we the people have made in the last 75 years. The list is long on all the things that government provides in our day-to-day lives and in extraordinary times, like a global pandemic.
A few days ago we were able to get our second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. We had to drive 80 miles to a Minnesota community vaccine clinic, but it was worth it. Besides the medical staff that was contracted by the state, it was also staffed by members of the Minnesota National Guard. The Minnesota National Guard has been providing support to COVID-19 operations for months by providing staff and COVID-19 testing in long-term care facilities, and partnering on many of our COVID-19 community testing sites. The vaccine was given at no cost to the recipients.
As we traveled the route to the vaccine clinic, we couldn't help notice the things around us and the things we passed by. We drove on great roads that had been cleaned of snow and ice and were safe and dry. We drove past public schools that are now reopening and starting to function again. We drove past farms that now lie dormant, but where the owners are still collecting their farm price supports to get them through the winter. We drove past numerous businesses like small mom-and-pop shops, small businesses like auto repair shops, convenience stores, and large corporate companies like food processing centers, big-box stores and automobile dealers, to name a few. Many are surviving through this pandemic from government Payroll Protection Plans, stimulus payments, and unemployment insurance – whatever it takes to help the most vulnerable Americans who have lost jobs, homes or businesses to COVID-19. And it made us think how, as senior citizens, we are fortunate to maintain our lifestyle through this pandemic with our Social Security checks and continue our health care because of Medicare.
Socialism and capitalism are systems that, at the extreme, can be dysfunctional. With socialism, the countries of Venezuela and Cuba are thrown out as examples. But capitalism can have its flaws also. America’s capitalism has seen the richest 10 percent own more than 80 percent of U.S. stocks and their wealth more than triple in 30 years, while the bottom 50 percent, relying on their day jobs in real markets to survive, had zero gains.
So we need a system of capitalism that is more inclusive and provides an economic system that is fair, trustworthy and capable of addressing the most profound challenges facing humanity. Capitalism today needs to move from systems that insist on profit alone to those grounded in our shared humanity and the sustainability of the earth. And we have to rid us of the notion that democratic socialism will destroy our government and way of life.
If you agree, let your elected politicians know how you feel. And in the future, support candidates who will govern with this balance in mind.