The United States Is More Socialist Than You Know

| Podcast

Compared to other wealthy countries, large sectors of the US economy are more socialized than is realized. From energy to water to transportation, land and more, and from cities and states to the nation, there is public ownership and control. The neo-liberal era of privatization is winding down. This has particularly accelerated following the 2008 financial crash. We speak with Thomas Hanna, author of “Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States,” about reclaiming public goods and how to prepare for the next financial crash. Plus, we put the current news in the context of the bigger picture.


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Thomas M. Hanna joined The Democracy Collaborative in 2010 as a research assistant to Gar Alperovitz and became Research Director in 2015. He received his M.A. and B.A. degrees in History from Virginia Commonwealth University. Thomas’ areas of expertise include public ownership, privatization, local government, democratic ownership, and banking, among others. He is the author of Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States (Manchester University Press, 2018), co-editor the e-book Scaling Up the Cooperative Movement, and has published articles in popular and academic journals including The New York TimesThe NationTruthoutYes! MagazineAlternetOpenDemocracyRenewalIPPR Progressive ReviewThe Independent, and The Good Society. He has provided research support for various Democracy Collaborative and Next System Project reports as well as the 2011 second edition of America Beyond Capitalism and 2013’s What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution

  • jemcgloin

    Please print transcripts of these shows. Reading is far faster.

  • Alan MacDonald

    Socialist democracy over Empire!!

  • Unfettered Fire

    Both parties have been captured by the Libertarian agenda, so we might as well just call it the One Libertarian Party! They hate government, want to dismantle all the agencies, privatize social services and let the private banking industry (mis)manage government finance, when only fiscal policy can improve the real economy.

    We’ve had this single objective for nearly 50 years now and it’s demolished the middle class because all that the commercial banks care about is the finance sector! Trillions from the 2008 bailout and trillions in QE has gone into speculation bubbles, stock buybacks, asset-purchasing sprees and new financial products of fraud.

    The private sector war on the nation-state has not delivered a better alternative, only a massive increase in wealth inequality, which was its intention all along, as Lewis Lapham said, “to restore wealth to its proper place”. When it comes to restoring the health of the industrial economy, the private bankers who appoint every presidential cabinet ensure that fiscal policy is inadequately used, when used at all. The right has fallen for this false mantra that “government is the problem” precisely because it’s been taken over and made it dysfunctional in order for private vulture capitalists to swoop in and “rescue it”.

    Neoliberalism is an ideology founded by libertarian economist and Austrian aristocrat, Freidrich von Hayek and promoted by libertarians Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, the Koch brothers and others. They would prefer to replace national borders with property lines and end the very concept of “citizenship”:

    “In a libertarian society, there is no commons or public space. There are property lines, not borders. When it comes to real property and physical movement across such real property, there are owners, guests, licensees, business invitees and trespassers – not legal and illegal immigrants.” ~ Jeff Deist, president of the Mises Institute

    They’ve discredited themselves in the eyes of the world, not only by the 2008 financial crash, but by basing their foundation on the economic illiteracy of “balancing the budget” (a myth later admitted to by Paul Samuelson), which is not how government works:

    “The Government is not like a household. A government is like a bank. And a government running a balanced budget is like a bank that simply lends back as much as it gets in repayments, therefore the money supply never grows and without that, you don’t have a growing economy.

    It’s one of two ways to create money, and if you don’t let government create money by spending more than they take back in taxation (fiscal policy), you have to rely on the private banking system to create the money in the form of credit (monetary policy) and you therefore get private debt bubbles.” ~ Prof. Steve Keen

    We should not repeat the bailout mistake of 2008, now that we know better:

    MARC STEINER: So where does the money come from, then, to invest in infrastructure, in new businesses, and whatever else has to be invested in?

    MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, banks don’t invest. That’s a myth. The pretense is that rescuing the banks rescued the economy. But the banks don’t make loans to the economy. Banks don’t make loans to fund factories. They don’t make loans for infrastructure. They make loans to buy assets already in place. They’re privatizing the structure to take it private, raise the rates the people have to pay for services.

    Essentially they lend to raiders taking over corporations. They won’t help a corporation put in more equipment and hire more people, but they’ll lend to a raider to break up a corporation, downsize the labor force, smash it up and leave it a bankrupt shell. That’s the financial management plan. That’s what they teach in business schools.

    So the financial management philosophy that we have is diametrically opposed to what’s needed for economic growth. That should be what people are talking about, because more and more economists are warning that given the rising debt ratios, there’s going to be another crisis. What we should be talking about when we look back on the anniversary of Lehman’s bankruptcy is how to handle the next crisis in a way that doesn’t bail out banks, that bails out the economy by writing down the debts.

    If banks have bad debts, they’ve made bad loans. Banks used to be conservative and prudent. But if they make imprudent loans and they say, we don’t care the borrower can’t pay because we’ve sold the whole loan off to a pension fund or a German Landesbank, and somebody else is going to take the loss, you have to restructure the banking system and the financial management, and take it out of the hands of bankers to manage.

    If you leave the Treasury Department and the Justice Department and the bank regulators in the hands of bankers, they’re going to loot the rest of the economy. They’re going to take everything they can. So you want someone who’s not a banker to actually do the regulation.

    “Government exists to spend. The purpose of government is to serve the general welfare of the citizens, not just the military-industrial complex and the financial class. Didn’t we have a stimulus, oh, eight years ago? It was tiny and has not been entirely spent. As Yellen implied, we need more spending of the non-military kind (what Barney Frank memorably called “weaponized Keynesianism” doesn’t stimulate).”

    “It is one thing to oppose intrusive government surveillance or the overreach of federal programs. It is another to call for the evisceration of government itself. Let’s put radical libertarianism into the dustbin of history, along with its cousin communism.”