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Democratic socialism already part of American life
Imagine you went into a coma in 1986. It was morning in America, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, and the Evil Empire was only a few years from collapse with the end of the Soviet Union.
Now that you've miraculously regained consciousness, someone named Barack Hussein Obama is ready to complete his second term as president of the United States and the leading candidates to replace him are a boastful billionaire and a 74-year-old man who proudly describes himself as a democratic socialist.
The latter label would have been political suicide in the 1950s and '60s, and on into the 1990s when most voters still remembered those days, but Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign is gaining traction.
That's probably due, in large part, to the scandals dogging Hillary Clinton, but due to his basic honesty about his socialist leanings, a position that doesn't carry the stigma it once did.
Truth be told, America is already a democratic socialist country to a large extent.
That should be apparent to residents of McCook, home of Sen. George W. Norris, the father public power. His efforts led to some of the largest publicly-owned efforts in history, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Rural Electrification Administration, and Nebraska's entirely publicly-owned power system.
When it comes down to it, any program where voters, either directly or through their elected officials, choose to take money from taxpayers and spend it for specific purposes, is democratic socialism.
On the national level, Obamacare, supposedly universal health care, is the latest manifestation of democratic socialism.
But that's only the most recent. Most government programs are democratic socialist in nature -- national defense, roads and highways, postal service, student loans and grants, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Social Security, school lunch programs and large public works projects come to mind.
We've determined that it's in the national interest to have a strong agricultural industry and abundant food supply, so Nebraska farmers receive billions in subsidies -- $16.4 billion from 1995 to 2012.
There are many more examples at the state and local level.
Jails, prisons, law enforcement and the criminal justice system, child protective services and human services, health departments, public schools, snow removal, garbage collection, sewer and water can also be considered democratic socialism.
It would be a mistake to think that all of Bernie Sanders' supporters favor moving the United States farther down the road to complete democratic socialism.
It would also be a mistake the assume that his opponents favor expansion of the oligarchy where big business exerts undue influence on elected officials.
Let's hope leadership appears that can guide our ship of state safely through the rocky straits dividing the two extremes.