Lawrence O’Donnell: ‘Our Country Wouldn’t Work Without’ Socialism

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 01: Lawrence O'Donnell attends the 11th Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball Honoring Orlando Bloom, Mindy Grossman And Edward G. Lloyd at Cipriani, Wall Street on December 1, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for UNICEF)
Jemal Countess/Getty Images for UNICEF

MSNBC primetime anchor Lawrence O’Donnell gave a full-throated defense of socialism during a Tuesday interview on C-SPAN, further signaling the far-left ideology’s resurgence in the Democratic party.

O’Donnell described Medicare as a “very smart socialistic program,” framed American opponents of “socialism” as broadly ignorant of economics, and advised viewers to “grow up” and accept state-driven centralized economic planning.

O’Donnell was also asked to clarify the differences, if any, between “socialism” and “democratic socialism.” He said the differences amount to “semantics.”

Medicare, O’Donnell’s example of “very smart” socialism, is racing towards oblivion. A June report from Medicare’s trustees projected the entitlement program will become insolvent by 2026.

Partial transcript below:

O’DONNELL: Socialism in the 1950s in America became a bad word, and we then became anti-intellectual about socialism. We, as a country, stopped thinking about what it actually is and just adopted, for the most part, a posture of fear against the word and concept [of] socialism. And so, when Medicare was proposed in the 1960s, the argument against it was, essentially, “It’s socialism.” That was the entire argument.

And it was kind surprising that that argument didn’t work, especially because it was true. Medicare is socialism, and everyone on Medicare in this country is a beneficiary of a very smart socialistic program called Medicare, and to deny that it’s socialism is to deny economic literacy. But that’s what our politics does, and so socialism, it turns out, is not terrifying if you know what it is.

The other thing about socialism is that it’s all around us in the United States and it has been for most of the twentieth century, and our country wouldn’t work without it. Every country in the world is now what economists call a mixed economy, meaning they are mixes to varying degrees of capitalism and socialism.

Think about our healthcare system. Almost half… of the spending in the American healthcare system is government spending. That is socialistic spending. Every single penny of it.

So, is our healthcare system socialist? No. Is our healthcare system capitalist? No. Is our healthcare system socialistic? Yes. Does our healthcare system have capitalistic elements? Yes, it does.

And so, people have to grow up. They have to drop their fear of the word. They have to look at the socialism that they like. They have to look at the socialism that they think is smart. They have to look at socialism like Social Security and other socialistic programs that they don’t even know are socialistic programs and relax about the word, and make adult decisions about just how much socialism is the right mix for this economy and how much capitalism is the right mix, and the truth of it is, we cannot run this country without both of them.

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