Contrary to popular belief, the military, law enforcement agencies and fire departments of the United States of America are among the world's most socialist institutions.
I kid you not.
The heart of Democratic Socialism is the willingness of the individual members of a society to make voluntary sacrifices to advance the greater good. Whereas the heart of Savage Capitalism is the exploitation of the weak by the strong.
These social distinctions are often lost in the dense economic discussions about who owns what in these dueling belief systems. Even though the 1 Percent habitually defends predatory business conduct on the grounds that it's part and parcel of Savage Capitalism.
Bottom line, when Medal of Honor Recipient Dakota Meyer risked his life to rescue 12 wounded comrades in Afghanistan in 2009 he was engaging in a classic form of Democratic Socialist conduct. Had the 21-year-old Marine stopped to monetize each rescue by negotiating payment from the wounded he would have been engaging in a classic form of Savage Capitalism.
But he didn't.
Meyer may think he's a conservative when he's lying in bed next to his wife Bristol, the wealthy daughter of conservative icon Sarah Palin. However, his willingness to risk his safety for others is as Socialist as Bernie Sanders.
Why does this pain you?
It pains you because U.S. citizens have been programmed to demonize Democratic Socialism and to view our nation as a capitalist institution. Without ever being told that slavery and piracy are legitimate forms of Savage Capitalism. As are for-profit prisons, child labor, prostitution, drug dealing, for-profit colleges, payday lending, the denial of medical care to the poor, predatory mortgage lending, insider trading, political corruption, and mercenary outfits like the one formerly known as Blackwater.
When you unintentionally write a check for $60 on the wrong bank account and get hit with $180 in late payment and overdraft fees that's savage capitalism. Same goes for paying a $17.50 toll to cross the bridge into New York City. Or more than $1,000 for a tow.
This kind of legalized gouging is not about cost. It's about bleeding the poor and faltering middle class. And it's the main reason many Americans are now giving Europe's brand of Democratic Socialism a closer look in the wake of Sanders' principled performance in the 2016 presidential race.
The junior senator from Vermont ran as a Democrat, but is a Democratic Socialist.
We’ve been taught since grade school to erroneously equate Democratic Socialism with Communism. We've also been taught to tolerate patently indefensible corporate misconduct and political corruption on the grounds that we live in a Capitalist county. One which has taken a sharp turn toward Savage Capitalism in recent years at the expense of many of its own people.
What we haven’t been told is that the idea of someone risking their life to protect members of the same society is pure Democratic Socialism. Because Democratic Socialism is about advancing the greater good.
The idea that people should use force to rape, rob and enslave whoever and whatever they can overpower is pure Savage Capitalism. Because Savage Capitalism is about advancing self.
The elite secret society at Yale called "The Skull and Bones" chose that name in a nod to Capitalism's roots in piracy. And the pirate mantra that they should be able to take whatever they can overpower.
The Skulls have produced many of the so-called "leaders" who now reside in the immoral swamp of Washington, D.C. Including former President George W. Bush and his daddy.
In short, being a mercenary, pirate or corrupt police officer is being a Savage Capitalist. Same goes for hedge fund or private equity executives who cheerfully lay off thousands of their fellow Americans to modestly boost profit growth.
By contrast, a police officer, firefighter, park ranger, soldier, Marine, airman, Coast Guard member, or sailor who truly “protects and serves” is a Democratic Socialist. Whether they like it or not.
Because they are engaged in advancing the greater good and that is a very Democratic Socialist thing to do.
Superman, Spiderman, Capt. America, and Aquaman are all Democratic Socialists. As are Jesus Christ and Neo from the Matrix Trilogy.
Meanwhile, almost all of the villains in popular culture are Savage Capitalists. Just like the mutli-millionaires who claim to represent decent working people in our Korrupt Korporate Kongress.
The predatory aliens depicted in the films Armageddon and The War of The Worlds are also classic Savage Capitalists.
Google it if you don't believe me. This painful truth is not a secret.
It's just something the Predatory 1 Percent and their political hookers do not permit to be taught in the U.S. public school system. Meanwhile, they send their own children to elite private schools where such inconvenient truths are taught.
This disconnect is one of the reasons veteran suicide rates are so high. We imbue service members with the high-minded ideals of duty, honor and sacrifice, then send them into a corporate world which prizes backstabbers, liars and turncoats.
Is it any wonder that approximately 22 military veterans are now taking their lives every day? Versus a daily death rate of just 0.8 during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The definition of a functional society as "a group of people working together to advance their common goals" is often lost in the debate over the very different economic implications of Democratic Socialism and Savage Capitalism. Even though it's much more understandable for the average person.
Most Americans want to live in a functional society, free of fear and want. Someplace where they can have some dignity in the workplace and feed, clothe and educate their loved ones. Regardless of who or what owns the means of production.
If they can't be Capitalists any more because Kountry Klub Kommandos like Donnie Trump, the Koch Brothers and Michael Bloomberg think they're not getting enough attention, they'll be something else.
The painful truth is that other belief systems begin to look pretty good to those of us with a sense of self preservation as Trump and his ilk use Savage Capitalism to justify their looting of the faltering middle class. None of them is as compatible with the American Dream as Democratic Socialism.
So, please, allow me to bring the pain.
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Welfare, free school lunches, food stamps, Immigration, FEMA, TSA, FBI, NSA, ATF, Customs, and the National Institutes of Health are all inherently Socialist programs. Because they advance the greater good. Whereas denying medical care to your fellow Americans when they cannot afford it is Savage Capitalism in action.
In a nutshell: Democratic Socialism encourages the powerful to make sacrifices to help the needy. While Savage Capitalism encourages the powerful to tyrannize over the needy.
We've been taught the totalitarian regimes of Communist Russian and Communism China represent mainstream Socialism.
This knowing lie is akin to pretending mainstream Capitalism is represented by the Banana Republics which once plagued Latin America and the Middle East on behalf of United Fruit and Standard Oil.
Former U.S. Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) epitomized this willful misrepresentation in 2012 when he erroneously described the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus as Communists during his only term in office.
The truth is both Socialism and Capitalism are represented by a wide spectrum of variable behavior.
The middle of the Bell Curve for both belief systems is represented by the Democratic Socialist nations of Europe. These highly evolved societies include just about every one of our closest allies. Among them Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, and Sweden.
They're also capitalists. Just not savage capitalists.
Savage Capitalism is to Capitalism what Communism is to Socialism and Al Quaeda is to Islam.
On the far right of the Bell Curve is the United States, which embraces some forms of Democratic Socialism but is increasingly a corporate oligarchy which worships quarterly corporate profit growth. Which is why our increasingly dysfunctional society is being left behind by the rest of the civilized world.
Our decline began in 1980, when former President Ronald Reagan began combating the so-called Vietnam Syndrome by pushing us to the right of the Bell Curve. He put us on the path to being a police state ruled by savage capitalists.
On the far left is the absolutism of the former Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics and Red China.
The latter is now our No. 1 trading partner.
Because Savage Capitalism has no moral compass and no principles, beyond the idea that "might makes right." Meaning money.
Most modern industrialized societies mix Socialism and Capitalism in ratios akin to the combination of fuel and oxygen in an internal combustion engine.
When the mix is too rich with Capitalism the poor and middle class suffer. Too much Socialism and the Predatory 1 Percent derives less pleasure from their relative wealth.
Clearly, our own mix is now far too heavy with the hate, greed and hubris of Savage Capitalism.
“More tears have been shed over prayers granted than prayers ignored,” St. Theresa of Avila famously said in the 1500s.
It’s hard not to think of that warning in the context of the steady erosion of the ideals which defined the United States before 1980, when our mix of socialism and capitalism was healthier.
We lost a little bit of our national mojo when we became the world’s only superpower in 1990, and again after the brutal attacks of 9/11.
In that time we’ve morphed from a country wary of foreign conflicts into the world’s leading military empire, with more than 900 overseas bases; from a society built on immigration, which cherished the world’s needy, into a plantation nation geared to the very rich; from a place where people tolerated ideas other than their own, into a police state which embraces the knowing lies, half truths and sins of omission of the Right Wing Noise Machine; and from a nation with a vibrant free press comprised of hundreds of family owned news organizations into a nation where six huge multinationals control almost everything we read, see and hear.
What's the moral of the story?
There's a big difference between putting yourself in harm's way for something and doing it for nothing, Doing it to serve and protect those like you is something, doing it to insulate a Predatory 1 Percent that lies to you and laughs at you is nothing.
Less than nothing.
Because the Predatory 1 Percent view the faltering middle class as office equipment at worst, and as loyal dogs as best. Not as their equals, their betters, or their fellow Americans.
What's the moral of the story?
If the Predatory 1 Percent won't let decent working families thrive any more in this great nation, then maybe it's time we followed Europe's example and traded in their brand of Savage Capitalism for some Democratic Socialism.
It can't be any worse than the Too Big To Fail corporate tyranny we're living with right now.
The author is neither a military veteran nor a political scientist, but he is a patriotic American devoted to the faltering middle class and a former civilian employee of the U.S. Department of Defense.