The Comfort of Capitalism: A Perspective From A Soldier

There has been much praise of socialism, type democratic lately.  I would try to say its the young millenials which has raised this concept to olympic heights, but honestly, its just as much of a thing with my generation, and even those before us.  There seems to be no end to people who wish to change our economic structure to that of socialism, type democratic.  I’m willing to guess that these people, in all of their life experience have never had to live their lives dictated by a government entity, otherwise they would sing a different tune.  The freedoms they enjoy under a free market, capitalist society have, apparently, been forgotten in the wake of the promise of more money per hour of work, free healthcare, and free college.  I’ll forego the concept of “No Free Lunch” in this post; its not my focus.  What I intend to discuss is how under socialism, type democratic, which so many people are willing to sell themselves to without a bit of understanding the effects, will change many of your modern concepts of choice and freedom.  As well, I will discuss how, as an American, it should be your nature to resist such a concept as socialism, type democratic.

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Let me start by offering perspective on socialism in general.  Simply defined by Merriam-Webster socialism is “a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies”.  So lets talk on this real quick.  Government will control companies.  Government.  The same people who run things like the United States Department of Veterans Affairs where people die waiting for medical appointments and there have been on-going problems for the last 8 years,
http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/23/health/veterans-dying-health-care-delays/
the Environmental Protection Agency which polluted the Colorado River,
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/08/07/colorado-river-epa-mine-wastewater-spill/31320641/
the Secret Service which is just stellar,
http://www.washingtonian.com/2013/03/25/secret-service-prostitution-scandal-one-year-later/
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fence-jumper-made-it-further-in-white-house-than-secret-service-let-on/
and the Bureau of Land Management which has been using imminent domain to remove people from their land.  Each one of these organizations has been a black eye for the government as of late for their own reasons that I outlined, but these are all well oiled machines the government runs; clearly they work effectively.

Let’s delve even further into this.  What people don’t get to see in their personal lives are the corners the government will cut to save cents instead of getting the effective product.  I’ll attempt to illustrate it for you.  We have these things called field rations.  Formerly, we were supposed to get them in the field for all three meals with the exception of when we were too busy to take a minute to stop and eat.  Since these good ol’ days, the government has decided that, even when available, soldiers will only get two hot meals, max.  Your lunch will at least be an MRE, even if you’re sitting your ass right next to the chow tent all day, all just so they can shave a few bucks off the top.  Doesn’t sound like much, yeah, sure there’s still food in prepackaged, dehydrated, cook it yo damn self form food.  When you actually do work in the field for a living, you’re likely (from first hand experience) going to wind up getting two total hot meals in an 18 day period.  Not too bad I suppose, you know, at least you’re getting good food, right?  HA!  Eat MRE’s for 3 meals a day for 18 days and let me know how you like em!  You’ll shit bricks.

Which brings me to my next point – food quality and selection.  You virtually get no say in what you are eating.  When it comes to field rats, you get the choice of whether you want an item on your tray or not.  That’s about all the selection you get.  There’s a meat, a vegetable, and a starch, and then usually some bread and maybe a dessert.  All quantities are limited.  You get your scoop, you move the fuck on.  That’s it.  That’s free lunch under the government.  You don’t get to say shit like, “I’m not feeling BBQ beef tips for the 3rd time this week, I’ll have some chicken instead”.  Nope, you get your daily dose of chewy, fatty beef tip or you get no meat.  That is government logistics.  They still offered you a hot meal, you just declined to eat it.  Its now your problem, not theirs.  Your personal freedom of selection is limited to the option that is given to you, unlike in a free market, you can choose what you want to eat for lunch with a plethora of options available to you from pizza to filet mignon.

As I mentioned, as a soldier, you will eat MRE’s.  Its unavoidable.  Generally with MRE’s its first come first serve and you get what you pick up. Its a game of russian roulette to see who ends up with the vegetable lasagna or the cheese omelet.  Let me assure you, those sound better on paper than they taste in your mouth.  This keeps everything equal so that no one person monopolizes getting the better meals each time.  You get what you get in your package of food and have no real say in what is handed to you… except here’s the catch, you can barter the entire meal, or at least parts of it once its been handed to you.  That barter can be dictated by supply and demand for certain items (jalapeno cheese) which are peoples’ favorites. But wait a sec, bartering?  Unregulated trade?  That’s….THAT’S CAPITALISM!  Amazing how in the end the capitalist system breaks through a socialist design.
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Another element of the socialist, type democratic design that you’ll get to endure would be issues involving toilet paper.  I suppose I should say, the lack there of, actually.  If you caught any of my rants before, you might have ran across my one where I went on about people thinking the military and DOD budget should be lessened.  If you didn’t catch it by chance, then allow me to back brief you a little.  When civilians decide that the military’s budget should be cut, you aren’t voting to cut ridiculously expensive and wasteful programs like the F(ailure)-35, that won’t even be combat ready until (last estimate I saw) 2022.  In fact, those programs will stay in place regardless of how you vote.  What does get cut are programs that help soldiers and their families to adjust and move when they get orders to somewhere else.  What does get cut is money for repairs on the equipment we already have – like the ramp of the stryker I have that hasn’t been able to raise or lower the entire time I’ve been here.  What does get cut are supplies that we need for our office work that is necessary to keep everything operational; which also includes stuff like printer ink, paper for the printer, and toilet paper for people to actually be able to take a shit at work.

Toilet paper might not seem like much of an issue, in fact, I would wager that there are some of you who might not have a job that actually provides it in its restrooms; though I’m going to guess those numbers are low.  What I’m getting at by discussing toilet paper, is that while a socialist system of government may seem appealing to someone, somewhere, when you are needing to take a shit and relying on the government to budget and regulate what items are considered necessary, don’t be surprised when you get single ply, barely there, ass-wipery, if you get that at all.  You know, since the government doesn’t even hardly provide that for its own employees, and what you do get is hardly Charmin.  Think more along the lines of wiping with a brown paper towel (we don’t get those either, by the way) that your finger will punch through at the slightest point of pressure.  Walking away with a piece still wedged between your cheeks in hopes that it will stop the bleeding that has resulted from the course grit sandpaper you just had to use which takes a layer of skin away each wipe.  Speaking of all of this, I need to bring another roll from home tomorrow while I’m thinking about it.
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Still not decided that government regulating things is a bad idea?  Lets discuss living quarters that are provided by the government.  The barracks.  Oh boy, the barracks.  They are either so ancient that they are still lined with lead paint and asbestos (try and say otherwise because they just had to re-do the pipes in our office, which hosted occupied barracks rooms as well, because they were found to be lined with asbestos) or they are new and so hastily built that it falls apart all the time.  Prime example, the barracks my soldiers live in now, the stairs collapsed under a guy last year.  These barracks were finished being built in 2013.  The water heater for the entire building (which houses close to 300 people) went out for a week before it was replaced.  And that’s not just a localized problem either.  Issues like this and worse happen across the entire military.

Barracks aren’t the only victim to such substandard work either.  The on post housing, where families live are typically not much better.  One needs only to look up Camp Lejeune water toxicity from the 50’s to the 80’s.  Everyone is all pissy about Flint, Michigan?  That’s standard practice when it comes to military bases.  One company, the lowest bidder, will provide services.  Water aside, the housing itself is as often as possible duplex style homes and in some cases quadraplex style homes – crammed as tightly in together as possible to maximize the efficiency of the buildings and space, while costing you much more than you would pay out in town for the same thing.  You want to live on post?  You want to live closer to your work so you don’t have to commute?  Well, you get two viewings of houses available.  Don’t like either one of those?  They don’t fit your lifestyle?  Too bad.  You get this one, or that one, and that’s it.  And that’s when you get to the point that there is housing available.  Often wait lists are 3 or more months out.  Good luck finding somewhere to live in the meantime.
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And of course we have the ever-sounding cry of socialism, type democratic – paid school!  Boy, oh boy, will that ever not be what you want it to be!  You can look at this two ways.  In the form of military training schools, you will get limited funds to be applied to this budget.  No, civilians, not everyone can just miraculously get whatever training they would like to try their hand at in the military.  For anyone who isn’t special forces or special operations, getting a school is about 75% dumb luck and 25% incessant pestering after about 10 times of being denied, and then some more luck.  If it is something you personally deem as a sexy school, you’re probably going to get denied.  If it is something that sounds completely worthless and fun-sucking like bus driver, or ammo handler, then you’ll probably get to go to that.
The other type of schooling that you can expect under socialism, type democratic is what we get in the military called tuition assistance.  You can literally put the given money towards whatever courses you want… not really.  It has to fit certain criteria like being local, being nationally accredited (sorry Devry and Phoenix), having a track record of supporting the military, and other factors that are on a whim of what ever counselor you talk to at the time.  Oh, and did I mention you have to be working full time and then you get to do your classes on your own time.  Good luck fitting in any sort of life with that.  And if you happen to fail any of these classes for any reason that “free” money you got has to be paid back out of pocket.  No pressure or anything.  But if you keep up the good work, you’ll be able to chip away enough credits to get a degree in about 10-15 years, as you work and pay in to the same fund that pays for your own college any ways the whole time.
Why is that?  Why would it be like this under socialism, type democratic?  It sounds like such a perfect system to just be given repurposed tax money and to go to school.  Well the government likes to use you for what IT needs, not what you would enjoy.  It wants people to be useful.  Let’s analyze that.  Do you really think that liberal arts degree is that useful?  What is the practicality of gender studies?  More than likely the schooling that the government will want their money going towards is something along the lines of business management, medical (though as little as is sufficient to be useful), and criminal justice / law enforcement.  Practicality.  Simple practicality.  That is what you will get under socialist education.  Jobs that will lead back to contributing to the greater good.  And that’s if you are lucky.  More practical blue collar technical certifications are going to be what gets pushed, especially since that’s what they push already for soldiers departing from the service during their transition.  Hope you enjoy welding, or pipe fitting, or ditch digging.  That’s likely your future education under socialism.

But what about “free” healthcare?!  I still pay a monthly stippend kiddos; it ain’t free.  As for my family, they are taken care of medically, but when it comes to things such as glasses and dental, well, they’re pretty much shit out of luck.  Generally, our healthcare is at best considered “sufficient”.  We are provided for, but that doesn’t mean its great.  I say that knowing a few people in the military medical profession, and while I have confidence in their abilities, that doesn’t mean that this applies to every single medical person the military employs.  You are likely going to be seen by the lowest level of care you can possibly be handled with.  In many cases its going to be so minimal that you’re likely going to have to go back for the same problem about 3-4 times before they take it seriously.  And then, its just as easy to remove you from service as opposed to continue to care for you, because ultimately, what use are you if you are too injured to do your job?  You’re dead weight and excused as efficiently as possible with as little compensation as possible.  And if mentioning the VA and their healthcare debacles earlier didn’t clue you in on how the systems are ran when the government runs it, well, then you’re not paying much attention.

So before you want to preach to me all of the awesome constructs and great benefits I can expect from socialism, type democratic, please know that I’ve had over 10 years of living and working with socialist constructs, and to tell you the truth, I’m not impressed.  I don’t think most of you asking for it will be either.

 

 

 

 

 

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