Socialists believe that society is better off if the state controls the wealth and services of that society (to some degree, either completely controlling in the case of nationalizing or generally controlling through laws and restrictions). We, the people of the United States, believe in Socialism on both a federal and state level – to some degree.
I rent a trailer. I don’t pay a property tax. I don’t pay for sewage and water. I don’t pay anything but rent and utilities. The town I live in may receive some form of payment from my living here (after all, I assume my landlord pays for sewage and water) but not directly. However, if my trailer is robbed, I can call the police. The local police will visit me, take my statement, and probably pursue the robber as much as they can. What they won’t do is leave me a bill for their services. Their paycheck is paid by the town, and I’m not a local taxpayer.
If I’m visiting a city and my car is stolen, I can go to the police of that city and file a statement. Again, they won’t bill me, even though I’m not a resident or taxpayer of their city.
This is Socialism. The police are owned by the city. Taxpayers fund them (although in this example not entirely – they hand out fines as well) but anyone in their jurisdiction is welcome to them free of charge. The same is true of fire departments and public schools. You can be unemployed and living on a friend’s couch (or on the street) and still be eligible for your locally owned municipal services. These things are not privately owned.
On the federal level, we have Socialist items like the national military. You don’t have to be paying federal taxes to get federal protection from the military. Other examples that come to mind are Social Security and representation in the Senate/House. These things require money, and they get paid from federal taxes.
Many opponents of Socialism are upset about the idea of paying for nothing… after all, I pay for Medicare out of my paycheck every week and I’ve never drawn from it. While it may be unfair at some level that the rich pay for the poor, I believe our society feels that there are certain inalienable rights for all Americans beyond those mentioned in the Constitution – education, justice, and defense (and for some, health care) no matter how poor you are.
The latest debate over health care is who should pay for it and how. If everyone pays for it, despite how much personal benefit they get, isn’t that Socialism? I think we’ve discovered that Socialism is acceptable to everyone in one form of another. However, because of the major dissent from Republicans, the recent bill is not Socialist. Health care has been made available to everyone now (including the working poor, like me!) and for the most part it will get paid for by everyone except the unemployed, who were already covered under Medicaid before this bill.
Federal ownership of hospitals is Socialism. Strict control over how hospitals bill patients is Socialism. Hiring doctors through a government agency is Socialism. Universal coverage under a federal program is not Socialist – it’s just a new right. Let’s hope it’s inalienable.