If you had your ear cupped just right and were listening closely Sunday afternoon, you might have heard my head explode.
The pressure inside the old noggin has been building for months, thanks to what can be called politics as usual in Washington, D.C., and Des Moines. So, my friends and relatives were not surprised by what occurred about 2 o’clock Sunday.
My cranium could not contain the buildup any longer when I read that U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes of California was fuming about his visit to a restaurant in that state.
Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He is a former editorial page editor and assistant managing editor of The Des Moines Register. Opinions are his own.
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The waitress asked the congressman if he wanted a straw with his beverage. She explained that she now has to ask that question to remain on good terms with “the straw police.”
It was Nunes’ next comment that lit my fuse: “Welcome to socialism in California.”
Nunes wasn’t the first politician — and he will not be the last — to drag our nation into the quagmire known as the Socialism vs. Capitalism debate.
During his State of the Union speech in January, President Donald Trump said, “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
Afterward, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas contributed this to the discussion: “Socialism may begin with the best of intentions, but it always ends with the Gestapo.”
It’s not just Trump and the Republicans who are stoking this debate.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist from Vermont, has pitched gallons of fuel onto this fire with his proposals for taxpayer-paid college educations for everyone and for businesses to be required to provide every employee with 10 days of paid vacation each year, plus 12 weeks of paid family leave annually to care for a new baby, a sick relative or themselves.
Before Americans ever heard of the Gestapo, Congress created Social Security in 1935 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The monthly government checks were a way to provide modest assistance to the elderly, many of whom lived in extreme poverty.
Thirty years later, during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, Congress created Medicare to address the nagging issue of people over age 65 often finding it virtually impossible to buy health insurance.
Those two programs sound a lot like socialism, with the federal government collectively providing for the health and welfare of the American people.
But even our current president, who was sounding the alarm about socialism when he spoke to the joint session of Congress in January, has promised to protect Social Security and Medicare. He knows Americans have grown to love the two programs, even though critics at the time they were created warned that the programs amounted to the dreaded “S” word.
Let’s get back to Devin Nunes and his drinking straws.
The California legislature passed a bill in 2018 that requires restaurants in that state to ask if diners want straws with their drinks, rather than automatically providing straws without being asked. The purpose of the law is to combat the growing problem of plastic waste polluting the Pacific Ocean, endangering whales and fish.
While Nunes was on Twitter complaining about the law, he was silent on other examples of what some might view as government programs having a decided socialistic flavor:
Such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s protections for dairy farmers (such as Nunes’ parents and his brother, who moved their dairy operation from California to Sibley, Iowa, in 2006).
Or, such as the federal government’s taxpayer subsidized insurance that protects farmers from losses resulting from natural disasters that reduce their crop yields or from falling commodity prices that reduce their income.
As my head recovers from the silliness about Devin Nunes and the drinking straws, can we set aside this nonsensical Socialism vs. Capitalism debate and, instead, have a serious discussion about real issues facing our nation and planet Earth and the various ways the government of the United States might deal with these problems?
Let’s not waste our time trying to pin the “racist” label on Donald Trump or the “hates America” label on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Do you hear me, political candidates and media pundits? Let’s talk about issues and stop with the labeling.
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Randy Evans can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com.