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Better Red than read, or something cleverer than that

John Scalzi posted Yet Another Reminder That When You Call Obama a Socialist Actual Socialists Think You’re Ignorant as a Gerbil, which linked to Ask the card-carrying socialists: Is Obama one of them? by John Blake. Gentle Readers of this blog will be unsurprised to discover that (a) people who call themselves socialists consider that socialist is a word with a meaning, and (2) they don’t consider that meaning applies well to Our Only President and his policies.

Surprise! I don’t particularly like Mr. Blake’s tone in the piece, which is a combination of isn’t that cute, an American Socialist and isn’t the tea party movement full of morons together with we’ll ask both sides and then shrug, as independent verification of a claim is beyond the purview or indeed abilities of a journalist. Still, I’m glad there’s something there, you know? The proverbial mainstream media (or corporate broadcast media, to use a more descriptive term) doesn’t often point out that there really are left-wingers in this country. We’re Here! We’re Red! We’re Not Going Shopping! In Fact, Many of us our Trouble by the Entire Concept of Personal Property! Although Others of our Brethren consider a well-regulated Market in Inessentials a Positive Thing!

Anyway, what struck me was this sentence about how the Health Care Plan is viewed as socialist by the Right, but that the Left doesn’t see it that way: They [socialists] wanted a national "single-payer" health insurance plan with a government option.

Now, if you are like me, the first thing that will strike you is that the sentence makes no sense. A single-payer system does not have a government “option”, it is a government insurance plan. It’s possible, I suppose, to have a single-payer plan with a private option, but I haven’t heard anybody talking about that.

The second thing, for me, was that I doubted the Socialists did support a single-payer system along the Canadian lines. That would still leave privately-owned hospitals and labs, profit-seeking doctors and clinics, and a dislocation between the workers and the means of production. In fact, when I looked up the platform of the Socialist Party on Health Care, it supports “salaried doctors and health care workers, and revenue derived from a steeply graduated income tax”. That is, socialized medicine. A National Health.

So is Mr. Blake simply wrong? I mean, how could a reporter who had a specific task to talk to socialists about their support or opposition to particular policies get this one so utterly wrong? Well, there is an answer: socialists, being people, are different one to another, which is what makes Party meetings so interesting and fun. Frank Llewellyn of the Democratic Socialists of America, in a note called Socialism And The Politics Of Fear says “American socialists (and many more non-socialists, including 86 members of Congress) support HR 676, John Conyers’ Medicare for All single-payer national health plan, which would replace the private insurance industry with a government agency but would preserve personal choice of physician and hospital care.” Well, there you go. Some people who call themselves socialists (admittedly, DS, which are like socialists who believe in—well, the old line is that if Socialists don’t like cats, then Democratic Socialists don’t like cats but are fond of kittens) are in favor of single-payer. Other than the oopsie about the option, Mr. Blake is OK. Which just goes to show.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,