Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

“Socialism” Feels Different When You’re The One Needing Help, Huh?

“Socialism,” big-government solutions, safety nets, and financial handouts, feel a lot different when you’re the one desperately struggling and the check is made out to you.

I never though I would see the day when many conservative, red-hat wearing Americans, would so quickly do an about-face on so many of the core beliefs of modern conservatism– especially on socialism and some progressive ideas.

From long insisting that the free market is designed to self-correct without interference, talk of fiscal conservatism and avoiding deficits, distain for “big government” or looking to government to solve our problems, and an absolute disgust for “government handouts,” those wearing red hats in America are singing a different tune these days… even if they haven’t caught on to the song they’re singing yet.

Who would have thought that during an election year which was expected to be spent by republicans flogging anything that smelled of socialism or big government, that we’d find them so enthusiastically embracing it… at the hands of Trump, no less?

Goodbye days of, “Trump is gonna stop those stupid socialist libs from getting power and ruining the country by handing money out to people.”

Hello unexpected era of, “OMG, thank you Trump. When does my check come??”

On one hand this turn of events is the opposite of what we expected to see this election cycle. On the other hand, the fact that so many people can instantly change their tune on socialist or progressive ideals (even if they can’t yet see they’re embracing the very thing they claim to hate) is not surprising at all. And there’s a really good reason for that:

“Socialism,” big-government solutions, safety nets, and financial handouts, feel a lot different when you’re the one desperately struggling and the check is made out to you.

I think the current situation demonstrates a profound truth: most American’s feelings on government handouts, especially those who find themselves red-hat-socialists this morning, are probably less of a matter of unwavering principle, and far more situational.

Core principles don’t change just because society and the times change– that’s what the far right always taught me. Were those in red hats truly opposed to big government handouts on the principle of it, or principally opposed to government stepping in to control more of the economy instead of letting capitalism regulate itself, that core conviction would not change.

And yet, functionally speaking, it did.

That tells us it’s not about principle– it’s about empathy. Mostly a lack thereof.

So for those of you on the right who have spent your days opposing big government, for those who talk of socialism being ‘godless,’ or who previously never missed an opportunity to express disgust when the poor and vulnerable got money or assistance from the government, let me tell you a little secret:

You know that anxiety that set in when you found out you didn’t have a job to go to?

Do you remember the heaviness in your stomach when you realized that running out and getting another job or replacing income wasn’t something that was so simple to do?

What about the moment when you realized you might not have enough money to hold it all together between now and a return to employment, and that if anything else unexpected came up, you’d be totally screwed?

Can you remember those trips to the grocery store when that silent angst started to turn into a growing feeling of nauseous panic, because you realized that you did not have the power to buy everything your family actually needed?

And do you remember how hard it was to totally lie to your kids and tell them that you had everything under control, and they had no need to worry because everything was going to be fine?

Yeah– those feelings. Those moments. I want you to think about them.

I want you to remember them.

And then I want you to know this:

That’s exactly how America’s poor, unemployed, disabled, and vulnerable feel EVERY SINGLE MONTH– even without a national crisis to make it all worse.

So, yeah.

Socialism feels kinda different when you’re the one struggling and the check is made out to you, huh?

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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51 Responses

  1. In the UK the government has temporarily increased the amount one gets in its main unemployment benefit, Universal Credit, because it has had to admit that many people simply couldnt live on the current rate. But no doubt after this pandemic it will return to its previous rate.

  2. This blog post could have been written any day of the week, regardless of whether we’re in the midst of a pandemic and a government imposed shutdown of many parts of our economy. Nearly everyone who says “Socialism sucks” still supports things like socializing the costs of building roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. (Just like people who say “Capitalism sucks!” don’t want to get rid of every free market mechanism.) I don’t think this is quite the “gotcha” Mr. Corey thinks it is.

    In this situation, I think a case can be made that even people who generally do not want “big government action” or “safety nets” aren’t inconsistent in supporting such actions because the specific economic ills are partially the result of “big government action” in shutting parts of the economy down. It’d be like if a beetle infested a tree and government decided it had to be cut down to save other nearby trees, but in doing so it fell on a person’s fence and the government offered to help pay for the fence. Would the anti-socialist be inconsistent because she takes the money? It’s government mitigating the effects of government.

    1. From the point of view of Strict Constructionists in the United States, it should be remembered that the Constitution specifically grants the government the right to establish postal routes. Thus, the Federal government can build roads for the post office to use. The best way to fund those roads is to let everyone uses them and tax them for the privilege, but the roads exist for the benefit of the Postal Service, not the general public.

      Similarly, the state roads exist for the benefit of police, state militia, and fire brigades, not the general public. But, the best way to fund those roads is to let the general public use them and tax them for it’s use. The Romans basically did the same thing. The roads existed for the use of the armies defending/expanding the empire, but the best way to support those roads was to let everyone use them.

      Thus, the roads are not strictly a socialist construction. They serve essential government functions, and the rest of us just get to piggy back off that.

  3. The article states:
    “”“Socialism,” big-government solutions, safety nets, and financial handouts, feel a lot different when you’re the one desperately struggling and the check is made out to you.””

    What you describe is neither “socialism” as a form of government, nor “socialism” as an economic system. (Since you quoted it, it seems as if you are definining it).

    I realize the word is used that way colloquially, however, it’s taken differently by different people.

    I’m on an apparently losing campaign to get people to stop using the word. A substantial subset of the population can’t, or won’t, take the time to educate themselves about intended meanings, and will immediately associate that word with what happened in Venezuela. This provides an easy target for false advertisements, and the evidence is that these advertisemens are effective.

    I have seen numerous people claim that Bernie Sanders would lead to the collapse of society. While I’m not for everything he proposes, I do realize that claim is ridiculous.

    Sweden, Denmark, and other countries with tax-funded social programs have capitalist economies, and neither the governments, nor the economic systems, are “socialist.”

    1. The funny thing is, those who fulminate against socialism, who condemn it at every opportunity, are the reason we use such a broad colloquial definition of “socialism.”

      You’re right, of course: social safety nets and public spending are not socialism. But American conservatives, in attempting to smear everything they don’t like as “socialism,” have, ironically, raised a generation of post-Cold-war adults who look at things like universal public health care or expanded unemployment benefits, and go “Huh. That’s socialism? Cool! Yay socialism!”

  4. I disagree. Two of the government’s main responsibilities are common defense and general Welfare. For those who question that:
    “The purpose of our Federal Government, as found in the Preamble of the Constitution, is to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

    You say the Right hates big government taking control of the economy and you are correct. That is why Obama’s Obamacare was anathema. A pure takeover of 1/12th of the economy. A Pandemic is totally and completely different. The government is not taking over the health care system rather it is helping the States to procure tests and needed supplies to deal with the virus. The massive stimulus package was passed to protect the American workers who have been laid off while the virus is contained and to make sure the economy can ramp up again when the people go back to work.

    When you say, “America’s poor, unemployed, disabled, and vulnerable,” do you not understand we were essentially at Zero unemployment before the Pandemic? We have programs in place to assist the poor and disabled. This is not socialism it is the result of capitalism.

    1. Government programs = socialism derp.

      I’m glad our government runs our health system.

      You know the one Trump said is so much better than yours.

      At half the cost per person.

    2. Bob, the number of unemployment was low, not the lowest, before Covid-19. The number of homeless, the vast majority not accounted for as unemployed, was higher in the USA than since before the “Great Depression”.

      “General Welfare”??? What could be more important to the general welfare of our nation than all of it’s citizens are socially, physically and spiritually healthy and as educated as much as each can bear? Your conservative politics supports your, and yours’, social, physical, education and spirit health as a competition of survival of the fittest, not a governmentally coordinated investment into a more perfect union of the most healthy citizens that we can bear to share with all of mankind, regardless of race, creed, religion, gender, sexuality, or degree of supposed maximum individual constructive potentiality. Your conservative government supports competition between all differences of mankind to determine fitness for each individual or collective to be considered more than equal to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Your “always perfect” conservative leader supports a no oversight, no check and balance, autocracy which is even less socially considerate than the conservative Republican party supported as an oligarchy. Neither an oligarchy or an autocracy supports the “general welfare” for all of a United States declaring independence for it’s citizens having the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When a healthy, educated populous governs as a democracy (majority rule), maintaining the principles of a republic (supporting the minority), it does regulate the effective good of its economy, including supporting healthy competition, for the general welfare of all, not just a few winning competitors of different races, creeds, religions, genders, sexualities, and achievable potential.

      Something for you to think about: what happens if we humans succeed in our efforts to automate our entire production, organization and delivery of necessary food, shelter, clothing, education services, health services and recreation? Do we cease to live because none of us need to be competitive to survive; no homeless who want a home, no hungry who do not wish to be hungry, no sick, none illiterate? Is that what you see is the destiny of mankind? Does your religious vision of heaven govern itself as an oligarchy/autocracy? Why do you insist that we conservatively strive for governing ourselves as a competitive survival of the fittest system rather than a more perfect union, for all of mankind, where we each love our all with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, with all our mind as we would have our all love us each?

  5. It’s not a failure of Capitalism when the government, for safeties sake, shuts down the economy. Capitalism is not at fault. Socialist lose what little credibility they have when they blame Capitalism for a virus that originated from a Socialist/Communist country.

    It’s great to see our country under the leadership of the Trump administration temporarily give America financial help. But it can’t become the fulfillment of a Socialist dream of an America welfare state. The welfare we have now is paid for by Capitalism. Capitalism provides the money that provides the free stuff. Socialists actually believe that they will receive more free stuff when Capitalism is destroyed.

    1. Yeah remember when they had to bail out Wall Street.

      Capitalism worked wonders.

      It’s good to see Americans embracing socialism.

      Maybe you could spend some of that money making f35s and bombs into buying respirators.

  6. I had my free pneumonia shot yesterday. (yeah that’s communism in the usa)

    Our government’s response to tens of thousands losing their jobs overnight was to double the unemployment benefit. The virus doesn’t seem too concerned about capitalism, economics or your politics.

    Apparently the economy needs people to spend.

    Go socialism!

  7. The stimulus bills aren’t socialist. Not having toilet paper, bread, and other things in stores right now is socialism.

    If you love socialism, enjoy not having toilet paper ever again. Good luck finding your next meal. Socialism still sucks.

    1. “The stimulus bills aren’t socialist. Not having toilet paper, bread, and other things in stores right now is socialism.”
      I am slightly puzzled as to what you think the word “socialism” means, because the above sentence makes no sense.

        1. So your “argument” is that the shelves emptied in a capitalist country because the market failed to ensure sufficient supplies because of panic buying and therefore socialism is bad. You don’t really understand how logic works, do you?

          1. What I’m saying is empty shelves and lack of various things are examples of life under socialism. People panic buying isn’t socialist. Currently having little access to toilet paper, bread, and hand sanitizer is.

            The people who support/defend socialism don’t understand logic.

            1. Derp it wouldn’t be a problem if the US didn’t embargo socialist countries. Of course countries like Uruguay show you’re talking shit.

              Latin America embraced socialism for a reason.

          2. I understand logic. You don’t. I (and capitalism as a whole) won the argument. You lost.

            Something tells me you didn’t watch the video. Socialism never was nor will it ever be a system worth turning to.

            1. The makers of the video understand perfectly that “democratic socialism” (as propounded by Sanders and other leftist US politicians) refers to the highly successful Scandanavian model, and the model of most of the leftist parties throughout the world other than the US, of a mixed economy with a heavily regulated free market combined with extensive social provision and publicly funded services, not the state communism of, say, the former USSR, nor any of the confiscation of private businesses that occurred in Venezuela, but pretend they are the same thing to suckers such as yourself raised on Fox News and ignorance, so that you produce the nonsensical garbage you have thus far been spouting. You collude with them to keep yourself in complete ignorance so that all you understand about “socialism” is it is a bad boogie-man word that has something to do with not having goods in supermarkets for reasons you really don’t understand.

          3. Reed’s words, much like darel’s are also but the squealings of a pig.

            Cast not you pearls before swine.

            (Over on Slacktivist, we learned that if we steadfastly ignore the trolls, eventually they get bored enough to stop posting. Except for Guthum. What a champ).

        2. In the past, thinking adults practiced critical thinking. Reading lots of perspectives before forming an argument. Today most folk have a view and then go to blogs or YouTube to support their position. I am not a socialist, but know there is nothing inherently evil about socialism. What is evil is a system which deprives the weak and powerless of their very basic needs. I’m not talking about the 32 YO male at the intersection with a dog, who specifies how much we should give them (usually 50c).

      1. Lain, not having tp is pure and simple greed and selfish behavior. These human traits are not assigned to a social system (and NO, I am not a socialist)

    2. Good luck with your shithouse health system.

      You’re going to need it.

      I can’t wait for you to extol the virtues of capitalism when they can’t find you a respirator.

  8. Ben as a former Fuller grad. in Psych. I do not always agree on your conclusions but am very supportive of your evidence gathering and fairness to the socio-political-religious divide in Western Democracies mostly in the USA. I applaud your recent article on the support or attack on Socialism particularly the social welfare safety net depending on your financial needs. This needed to be said by a person like you because as a Humanist Chaplain, my opinion is devalued before I type it. I won’t go into the long history of how governments support the wealthy and corporations and it is called “in defense of capitalism and free markets” with tax breaks, trade embargos, corp bailouts,Central bank policies, but this Covid-19 is a leveller. A few people who are afraid that all movement to the left in terms of socially fair and sharing solutions is a unbroken march to Communism, are not well informed and never tasted the bitter fruit of poverty and eating the crumbs from the rich man’s table. Again your article needed to be written. Thanks for your insights and sense of justice. Go Fuller! Even if we don’t have sport teams. We have colleagues all over the world.

    1. ……as a Humanist Chaplain,….

      Yikes! The only meaning of a Humanist that I am aware of is that they are atheist. If you are an atheist, do you only “minister” to those who know you are an atheist? If not, then how do you answer one who asks you to pray.

        1. Why did you rush so to reveal your ignorance?


          Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good.

          Roughly speaking, the word humanist has come to mean someone who:makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals
          believes that, in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe, human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.

          The Humanist magazine applies humanism—a rational philosophy without theism or other supernatural beliefs

            1. Actually I didn’t ask a stranger for a definition. Look at what I wrote.

              However, I did solve your ignorance of Humanists being atheist.
              You are most welcome!

                1. NO!

                  They are not my definitions, but they both deny the existence of God. According to those definitions, humanists are atheist.

                  You just thought you found something that you liked.

            2. I’ve only been bopping around the comments on one thread here before coming to this one and… don’t even bother with “darel.” He’s a troll and basically… I’m glossing over his posts for cheap entertainment at this point.

              Because with everything he types, I mentally hear but the squealings of a pig.

                1. Are you still looking for Obama’s birth certificate, Bob?

                  The number of dead because of Trump has now passed the number of Hilary’s missing emails.

                  Shows how big a fraud and coward you are.

              1. I’ve only been bopping around the comments on one thread here before coming to this one and… don’t even bother with “Shadsie.” He’s a troll and basically… I’m glossing over his posts for cheap entertainment at this point.

                Because with everything he types, I mentally hear but the squealings of a pig.

                Back at you.

  9. Sadly, some might see those who normally need handouts as morally deficient, whereas coronavirus is unavoidable, shutdowns were dropped on them by government. This might be too large of an empathetic leap.

    1. “I am one of the good ones. I DESERVE the help!” and “Rights for me and not for thee” is the standard operating proceedure for such folks.

      Nothing will change. A few might learn, but I am not holding my breath.

  10. Another point too: when it comes to developing a cure/vaccine/whatever for something as deadly as this, all of a sudden Big Pharma doesn’t seem like such a monster after all…

    And I also wonder if any anti-vaxxers will repent now there’s something really nasty going round? 😉

    1. Not the one I know. She has no plans to get a shot if one becomes available. She has a strong, almost religious belief in her alternative-med practices.

      1. Exactly. The anti-vaxxers will use their alternative cures and MLM products…essential oils, or whatever other snake oil they are touting this month.

    2. The short answer is “No.”

      The long answer is that I’ve already seen a fundamentalist nut on Right Wing Watch announce that any vaccine for Covid was evil because it would come with public records and nanomachines to track our every move and that taking the vaccine is taking the Mark of the Beast.

      So… sadly, some of the anti-vaxxers are already coming up with as*sinine conspiracy theories. At this point, I don’t know if they actually actively want to kill people or if they’re just aggressively willfully stupid.

    3. Except it isnt just ‘big pharma’ that is doing research, many universities and other facilities are doing their own research. Bt big pharma has shown itself to be a monster yet again by alllowing the US government to buy 100% of the next 3 month’s supply of a drug being used to alleviate symptoms of the virus. Both pharma and the US are showing themselves to be monstrous.

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