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Opinion

Shocked, shocked to find socialism in America

Do critics of Obama's health reforms realize how socialistic we already are?

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Opponents of the White House healthcare plans deliberately distort the extent of government involvement in such programs, when the only thing to be "socialized" was the so-called public option health insurance plan – and that may be dropped. Doctors and hospitals would remain private. Critics appear to have deliberately polarized public opinion to scuttle President Obama's initiatives.

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Meanwhile, members of Congress enjoy "cradle to grave" socialist medical and retirement benefits that outstrip those of the old Soviet Central Committee members.

Many thousands of the poorest Americans and illegal aliens already have access to taxpayer-funded socialized medicine and hospitals through existing Medicaid benefits. One physician tells me that Medicaid recipients get free hospital care plus stipends at taxpayers' expense. Yet tens of millions of working Americans whose taxes subsidize Medicaid have no access to any health insurance of their own.

Particularly lame are the complaints of healthcare critics in the southeastern US who benefit from the regional socialism of the Tennessee Valley Authority, a government-owned-and-operated supplier of electricity for tens of millions.

America's Social Security program is Bismarckian socialism. Medicare, especially with its prescription drug benefit program is socialistic. Government aid to parochial schools is sleight-of-hand socialism.

Socialism's most vocal critics are often beneficiaries of corporate welfare with all its perks: expense account meals, free NFL box seats, free corporate cellphone use. One firm for which I worked held foreign correspondent meetings in Rome, enabling the executives to visit tailors and shop for Christmas presents in Italy. Exploiting US tax codes, corporate America has long enjoyed its own brand of socialism subsidized by taxpayers.

Like most Americans, I am not overly keen on socialism. History shows that it can curb important personal freedoms and stultify entire economies. But it is not inherently evil. And by the way, if you enjoy your 40-hour workweek, with weekends off, you owe those to an earlier generation of socialist-leaning labor leaders who championed that and so much more that Americans now take for granted.

Walter Rodgers is a former senior international correspondent for CNN. He writes a biweekly column for the Monitor's weekly print edition.

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