Discourse on the USA and Socialism: Part 1

Response to Misconceptions Laid Out In “Socialism, the Snake with Blue Eyes”


“Socialism, the Snake with Blue Eyes” is a speech written by 2020 McQuaid Jesuit senior Aiden Nasca. It was uploaded to YouTube and won third place in the 2020 Senior Speech Competition. Clearly, the speech is about a complex and controversial issue.

This video prompted us to create a response, to analyze some of the points made, and add a level of nuance to a very misunderstood topic. These are responses to only a few of the very common claims that are made. In the future we may be analyzing other countries, historical events, or present-day political situations. In part 1 of this 2 part series, we will be focusing on claims made strictly about America, and in part 2 we will dive into broader claims.


Claim: The USA is the most prosperous, powerful, benevolent, and opportunity-laden nation.

Response: When talking about prosperity, it is important to recognize the many possible meanings of the term. The United States does have the highest GDP, although the USA comes in around 5th or 8th, depending on the source, when talking about per capita nominal GDP. The US falls short on many other standards, such as being 27th in social mobility, 18th in the World Happiness Report, usually around 17th in economic freedom, 6th in median income, 46th in life expectancy, and 125th in literacy. If you want to talk about what the United States is best at, you can look at 1st in incarceration, 1st in obesity, 1st in divorce rates, 1st in illegal drug use, 1st in car thefts, 1st in reported murders, 1st in total crimes, 1st in people on pharmaceutical drugs, 1st in percentage of women taking antidepressants, 1st in student loan debt, 1st in military spending, and 1st in national debt. Is this true prosperity?

America and benevolence should not be in the same sentence. When talking domestically, the United States does not provide a plethora of social programs that would be characterized by or expressing goodwill. When talking about the United States’ policies abroad, it is no surprise that many other parts of the world dislike us. 

Was it benevolent when we were late to banning slavery and then continued segregating the country by race for decades thereafter? Was it kind when we forced Native Americans into boarding schools which tore away their culture and way of living? Was it good when we put Japanese Americans in internment camps? When we deported 400,000-2,000,000 Mexican-Americans in the Mexican Repatriation, many of which were native-born citizens? During the pandemic, nearly 15 million Americans lost job-based healthcare. Over 500,000 people have died from COVID in America, more than any other country. At home, it is impossible to consider the American government compassionate, or benevolent.

As a misinformed American, it is even easier to see the United States as the carrier for good, and democracy around the world. The truth is that the United States has only backed its economic interests in other countries. We do not bring democracy to unstable nations: we bring capitalism, many times in the form of far-right dictatorships. We interfere with democratically elected leftist governments around the world with the explicit goal of causing instability. Since the 1990s, we have been involved in regime change in numerous ways. In 1991, we broadcast signals encouraging an uprising against Saddam Hussein and were involved in a coup in Haiti. In 1996 we got into Zaire. Following these were Indonesia, Yugoslavia, Venezuela, Iraq again, Palestine, Syria, Iran, Honduras, Libya, Yemen, and Venezuela again, many times backing fascists, drug lords, and terrorists alike. From 2001 – 2020, the “War on Terror” that the United States has instigated has cost around $2.4 trillion. The War in Iraq alone killed 4,419 U.S. soldiers and wounded 31,994 more. [Ed. Note—To say nothing of the at least quarter of a million Iraqis who have died as a fairly direct result of the invasion.] Is this the price all Americans must pay to be part of a “benevolent” nation? Is this us shaping the world to be a better place, or shaping it for our own benefit? Some may attempt to justify American imperialism and involvement in destabilizing other countries. My question is as Americans, should we really be bringing more evil and more hate into the world with our actions? Or should we let people have their freedoms and liberties as we cherish at home? Can we really tell people that if they don’t like it in America, they should go somewhere else, and then go cause instability, and change people’s way of life in other places, or is that hypocritical?

Even if America has benevolent intentions, doing something good for the world does not account for all of the mistakes and horrible atrocities committed in the name of those ideals. You can’t bribe your way out of genocide, or imperialism. 


Claim:  The great parts of American society and beliefs are not rooted in socialism and collectivism.

Response: This is true. Unfortunately, it doesn’t play perfectly into the right-wing narrative either. The United States was made into what it is now not upon traditionalist values or socialist values, but by liberalism and progressive action. American exceptionalism and ingenuity should not be in the same sentence as traditionalism or conservatism. We would argue that people love having food stamps if they can’t afford food, veterans appreciate aid via the VA, and people in dire need find it great that others might be kind enough to provide them with a meal or clothing. These are not individualist, capitalist values. In present-day America, people love social programs and the spirit of looking out for their neighbor. That is precisely the reason they advocate for more social programs.

People often talk about the American Dream, and how it has allowed for social, economic, political, and individual growth. The truth is that the present-day American Dream is just what it says in the name: a dream. As the Pew Research Center suggests, “The gaps in income between upper-income and middle- and lower-income households are rising, and the share held by middle-income households is falling.” The divide between classes is reaching insurmountable levels. The call for socialism and its return to modern-day politics is rooted in problems generated by capitalism, and the lack of solutions to said problems. Generational wealth, class immobility, the shrinking middle class, stagnant wages, and many people losing their jobs have shown many working-class people exactly what the failures of capitalism look like. 

And yet the American Dream, and how one can simply work hard and achieve their dreams, is still being pushed. If the United States was a haven for hard work and being able to reach your desired outcome if you work hard enough, then why do we rank 27th in social mobility? While labor has become more efficient and profitable, why aren’t workers sharing in the wealth? As the Economic Policy Institute demonstrates, “in the three decades after World War II, for example, worker productivity and hourly wages rose in tandem. But from 1973 to 2013, worker pay rose just 9 percent, even though productivity increased by about 74 percent.” The truth is that the American Dream was abandoned long ago. This conservative point is commonly referred to as “bootstrapping,” or “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” and is entirely backed up on appealing to people’s presupposed biases about the poor and middle class. Do poor people want to be poor? Do people not want to work for a living wage? A report by the nonpartisan GAO (Government Accountability Office), found that around 70% of people on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamps and Medicaid work full-time. In the nine states responding about SNAP food stamps, Walmart employed about 14,500 workers receiving the benefit, and McDonald’s another 8,780. In six states that responded about Medicaid, Walmart was top with 10,350 employees, followed by McDonald’s with 4,600. The truth is that the rich are becoming more and more out of touch with the average American, and the national push for more left-wing policy is because more people are noting the inherent contradictions within the system they operate under. A vast amount of people face life or death struggles on a daily basis, and meanwhile, a right-wing Congress instead chose to make it easier for America’s wealthiest 0.2 percent to pay no tax on property transferred from the deceased to their heirs. It is important to recognize that with the growing gap between the rich and the rest of Americans, the more their views are represented in legislation, and government. If people do not gather and fight for their interests, a collective of the few will always rule. While lobbying and money in politics are tolerated, in no way will the interests or views of the working class ever be represented.


Claim: The American left says there should be no billionaires. They want socialist healthcare that doesn’t work!

Response: The entire point of the no-billionaire idea is not that liberals/leftists hate billionaires or rich people. It is that the wealth distribution in America allows for some Americans to not be able to afford food, quality healthcare, a home, and several other necessities, while others go on lavish vacations and profit off of their underpaid and overworked workers. The “no billionaire” movement has deep ties to “democratic socialism,” which is not some far left, communist agenda, as you might hear on Fox News. The main points are socializing medicine, providing higher education for those who desire it, and making sure the zip code you are born in doesn’t determine the outcome of your life. It might enrage some on the right that socialism is publicly acknowledged as an idea now, once people like Bernie Sanders brought the word and its ideas back into mainstream American politics. If a democracy is to work, then the bulk of people, the poor and middle class, should be winning every election.


What people don’t understand is that our healthcare system is already broken, and it’s not “just because of regulation.” Massive pharmaceutical corporations have already bought out many politicians on both sides, and end up profiting greatly off of the vast majority of Americans’ suffering. People will go to any lengths to pay for surgeries, or transplants for themselves or their families. It is very easy to try to end this idea of healthcare for all by calling it socialist, and using decades of American propaganda to further cause fear around the words socialism and communism. Although unfortunately, that tactic often works. In reality, there is a simple difference between people who believe in healthcare for all, and people who do not. Some people consider the military coups we partake in, and the mass bombings we do as a necessity, and completely within the range of what the government should be doing. Other people would consider healthcare a basic human right. If the military is going to “protect” us from other countries, then why should we not be protected from viruses and diseases at home? The “socialists” are not destroying the small business owners, or even the rich by raising taxes. If massive corporation owners cannot succeed without paying their workers livable wages and pay their fair share of taxes, then maybe they should not be operating in that fashion.


Claim: Those who argue for socialism in America do not understand history or economics. 

Response: People claim that what makes someone a socialist is demanding free healthcare, free college, and equal wages for everyone. He explains how they do no “math.” First of all, most of the people who make this claim about socialized medicine, and act as if it is not a necessity, also are the ones who are in favor of and advocate for a 700+ billion dollar military defense budget. If we are supposed to protect our people from foreign threats, why should we not do the best to protect the vulnerable from medical threats? Furthermore, in the ever-expanding and extremely competitive global economy, should Americans not have access to higher education unless they can pay the ridiculous prices? If we are truly to put “America first”, how will we do so if people don’t go to hospitals or ERs because of ridiculous prices, and if those who choose to strive for a higher level of education drown in debt that they have no way to get rid of.

Demanding healthcare for all does not inherently make you a socialist. It does not consolidate any means of production in the hands of the workers. Almost all the claims levied against “socialism” are basically against creating a society such as in the Scandinavian countries, which, can be considered either socialist or capitalist based on whatever definitions you choose. The truth of American intervention in socialist countries is that slaughter missions like “Operation Condor” are some of the leading causes of socialist countries failing, compounded with vicious trade embargoes.


Claim: America has the most innovation, and this is because of core capitalistic values.

Response: America has indeed come forth with much innovation, especially in science and technology. The truth is that most of these things have started with the government and publicly funded programs. Even the greatest technological advancement, the Internet on which you are reading these words, started with the government. The entire claim is completely divorced from reality, though. Even in a country like the USSR, we can point to an incredible amount of innovation. After the Russian Revolution, the entire country was an agricultural mess. It was a land of peasants, and it seemed as if there was no chance it could ever compete with large western forces. Interestingly, the Soviet Union made many advancements in art, especially before Stalin. There were also many advancements in the medical field. For example, the first kidney transplant, the first heart transplant, and the first lung transplant were all done in the USSR by Soviet doctors. The discovery of stem cells was by a Soviet scientist and nuclear power plants were started by the Soviet Union. Even the first person in space was Russian. The idea that no innovation occurs under socialism is completely untrue, but remains common due to a general lack of knowledge of how to respond.