Candidate makes ‘socialist’ straw man

To the editor:

Thanks to Staff Writer Matt Turner for the excellent interview of Joe Gilbert, the self-proclaimed Tea Party congressional candidate. Mr. Gilbert and all who unselfishly serve their country and community deserve our respect and appreciation.

It’s disturbing that Mr. Gilbert’s comments on the role of government seem to be aimed at emotional and thoughtless voters. If so, I hope there are not enough of them to elect him. Specifically, he asserts, with no proof, that the U.S. is “headed down the socialist path,” defining socialism as what he observed in East Germany. Using this straw man fallacy, he attacks it. We the people deserve more deliberative thought.

Socialism, according to Webster’s and Wikipedia, involves social (government) ownership of the means of production. By that definition, socialism is ubiquitous, and it effectively co-exists alongside capitalism in the U.S. One example, which ought to be obvious to a veteran such as Mr. Gilbert, is our armed forces – military assets are owned and operated by the government. Other examples are public schools, police and fire departments, libraries and the post office. Some of these organizations are successful, some are not, similar to capitalistic ventures.

Many countries (such as unified Germany, by the way) have more socialistic enterprises than we do. Germany has a vibrant economy and a lower unemployment rate than the U.S. – but they’ve had socialized medicine and pensions for 130 years. Germany’s life expectancy is higher than that of the U.S. at a fraction of our per-capita health care cost.

By singling out East Germany as an example, Mr. Gilbert ignores many other countries with successful socialized enterprises such as Canada, France and Sweden. Everything in these countries isn’t gray and polluted, and their citizens aren’t oppressed. Dismissing socialism by equating it with East Germany is as simple minded as dismissing free-market capitalism by equating it with Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It makes a good sound bite, but we deserve better.

If not just a slogan, then Mr. Gilbert owes us specifics on which socialistic programs he’d eliminate. Will he include his (government) customers in the “crisis response industry”?

Repealing the president’s health care plan is a priority with him, so Mr. Gilbert should provide his replacement plan. What is it? Does he expect our health care system to turn away people who are ill because they have no insurance? Is it acceptable for medical bills to be our number-one cause of personal bankruptcy? Lacking details, opting out of Social Security and Medicare are simply throwaway slogans, seemingly designed for mass emotional appeal.

As a veteran, I’d like to vote for someone like Mr. Gilbert who knows firsthand the consequences of military action. Given Mr. Gilbert’s thoughtful stance on Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s possible that he has specific ideas on health care, Social Security, Medicare and immigration. I hope the Adirondack Daily Enterprise will investigate further and reveal his specific plans to us.


Frank Pagano