The Social Democrat's Song - (2008)
text by the composer
for medium voice and piano
We'll love to tell you what to do, after the coup!
Up till that time we shan't give a clue.
Listing all of society's ills:
That's how we get our political thrills.
We'll surely tell you what to do, after you vote.
Mostly our interest is what we'll promote.
Squeezing the middle class to funnel their wealth,
the most for the Social Democrat's health.
We'll gather up whatever you haven't yet paid,
By hook or by crook, as it takes to persuade.
Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme.
We're going to take things away from you
on behalf of the common good. [ 1 ]
O gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme.
Someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie
so that someone else can have more. [ 2 ] More?
Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme.
Let's spread your wealth around a bit, that's what we say;
Spreading your wealth, we've found, pays us today.
More for the common good is less for each man.
More for our government's most Socialist plan!
Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme.
From each according to his abilities
To each according to his needs. [ 3 ]
Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme.
[ 6 pages, circa 2' 25" ]
"With Adolf Hitler 'Yes' for Equal Rights and Peace"
When first in Germany for an extended period of time, I was fascinated by the politics of the nation, as with all of Europe. Of course, one cannot think of Germany without thinking of the historical "elephant in the room" - National Socialism. The picture above comes from a larger photo, and is a campaign banner for the upcoming election when Hitler came to power. It reads, as noted in the caption, "With Adolf Hitler, 'Yes' for Equal rights and peace." [ 4 ] It is important to repeat this lesson of history, that the Nazi Party campaigned on a platform of equal rights, peace and (not shown in the above banner) disarmament. All of these under a banner of National Socialism.
Among Germany's several political parties is the SPD, Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, which was led for a term by ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. I chanced to look at the founding principles of this party, as I did with others from a variety of nations, to understand more about them. The German Social Democrats, or SPD, were structured with the express purpose of arriving at socialism by democratic means. Previously Germany and all the world had suffered under the German National Socialist Party, which was abbreviated as "Nazi." Indeed, in bookstores here in Berlin, that section which deals with the history of this time is properly labeled as "National Socialism." Modern socialists run from association with the Nazis, of course, and yet one may point to Hitler's own written assertion that he was a socialist.
Arguing terms does not alter facts. Among other facts is that there are so many definitions for the term, socialism, that it almost means little, except perhaps varying degrees and scopes of the social welfare government in all its permutations. [ 5 ]
Given that the failed USSR was properly known in English as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, one finds the word, socialism, associated with some rather heinous regimes. Even in this day, the horrors and utter economic failure of Zimbabwe, once known as the "bread basket of Africa," stem from the megalomaniacal leadership of Robert Mugabe, an avowed Marxist. Moreover the toppled regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq was formed under the mantle of the Baath Party in 1947, with the specific purpose of creating an Arab socialist society. With such histories attached to the word, socialism, I wondered why this political concept still retains its cachet today in the Western world, except that it has repeatedly promised far more than it has delivered. As a matter of marketing, its sales have been spectacularly brilliant; its after-market warranties have been mostly meaningless if not outright fabrications. One must believe in socialism, for its promises yet to be fulfilled in the long term, while its horrors have been so consistently documented that its marketing and self-promotion must be the greatest factor in its favor.
Therefore the lyric came to me, as I noticed with so many others the similarity between political rhetoric in the United States, wherein politicians argue that they know best how to spend money, and therefore the public was expected to "pony up" more through higher taxes. One sees this in the current campaigns, just as one saw it last year in Germany with a three percent increase in the value-added taxes. There comes a time when voters no longer will respond to political rhetoric, but rather to the dwindling contents of their wallets and bank accounts.
Which brings me back to Gerhard Schröder, the ex-chancellor who led the Social Democrats. In retirement and with an income provided in part by the German people, he also heads up a commercial consortium related to Russia's Gazprom working towards an undersea pipeline from Russia to Germany. Given the "socialist" stance of his party, his own political rhetoric, I find it amusing that he, as with so many other "social" politicians, amass much greater wealth than the average citizen. Might one opine that, according to the quote by Marx above, his "needs" are greater than the average German, thereby justifying his much greater wealth? But one might as easily examine the millions and millions of pounds Tony Blair has surfeited away, or the enormous wealth amassed by ex-Vice President Gore, as other poster children of "raking it in with both hands."
Just so for the Clintons, one example among the many, as they became multi-millionaires after the last Clinton administration. Are their "needs" so great that tax dollars from low wage earners' "abilities" go to fund those "needs?" They say yes, and did she in justifying her riches at a press conference. The salary of a senator is many times that of the average worker. The irony of the political rhetoric of the Social Democrat -- by any name -- is that it services gaining a position from which the politician then gains much as measured by amassed capital through capitalist mechanisms, all the while speaking grandly of socialism. In fact, it is enlightening to wonder why so many rich people campaign to severely "tax the rich" all the while remaining so wealthy; my amateur judgment is that it is all "smoke and mirrors" as one sees socialist after socialist rise to acquire so much more capital than their average fellow citizens. [ 6 ]
My conclusion is that socialism all too often funds its own high-ranking proponents quite well. Being a Social Democrat politician -- indeed being a politician of most any party these days -- is a pathway to the real end goal of capitalism -- the amassing of wealth from the "little guy." [ 7 ] Socialism as we have seen and continue to see it practiced is simply and unalterably a political lie in the guise of an economic truth, which services best the wealth-gathering politician of all stripes.
This text is not to paint others with the colors of the Nazis, for there has always been a range of government abuse from the minimal to the brutal. Rather, this text is for the "little guy" so often used and then abused by the Social Democrat elite. [ 8 ] It is the "little guy" which those who amass great personal wealth say they will assist via their programs and policies, but a simple, numerical examination of how much the top dogs of the political arena amass tells a tale other than they have told in their campaigns to attain political power.
Given the proverbial song-and-dance of the Social Democrat (and I specifically mean that American version in which political correctness is arrayed as a shield to protect them from such scrutiny), a cynical, syncopated soft shoe suggested itself to carry the lilt of the lyric. The range is not so great that most singers might find the setting comfortable vocally, if not politically.
A bit of bridge material of delicate soft tinkling makes sweet the announcement that taxes will increase, just as politicians so often say that a "cut" is in fact less of an increase than was planned, and therefore justifiable as "less" when it is in fact "more." This respite from the two verses' theme gives way to a restatement in traditional song form fashion.
The true bridge material wanders away from the tonic C major with a static pause on E major/minor as the harmonic rhythm is broken. Sometimes the banter of everyday politics obscures the true importance of remarks, but occasionally a remark is so revealing that one stops to take note of it. Just so with the musical setting.
I am rather convinced there are those who will be offended by this "bias," but in fact the history of art and especially music to texts is one of opinion-making and editorial content, as one might see in the libretti from many operas to various art songs by many composers. This is nothing outside the normal for an art which refuses to march in time to some other authority.
What is certain, based on simple mathematics, is that the massive public debt which has gone to fund the Social Democrat's programs today by borrowing from tomorrow will one day be repaid. Without economic growth which stems from far more capitalist enterprise and investment than from socialism, socialism must collapse, as one saw with the implosion of the USSR. Sooner or later, the lavish social programs of today will be paid by tomorrow's children, for whom this lavishness will be seen as economically unsound excess, nothing more. How might we know this? From the lessons of history, for this lie of government-as-provider has existed for millennia, and its antidote known for quite as long. It is what Rome's Cicero called the "arrogance of officialdom" which is too blame, as it always has been. [ 9 ]
What form has this "arrogance taken?" A continuing "Socialist" attack on capitalism on the assumed basis that capitalism opposes limited social welfare and the commonweal. It does not, as Adam Smith himself observed, "It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion." [ 10 ] The only question is about the degree of funding for that commonweal. Shades of capitalism suggest a smaller and manageable degree, while socialism preaches a massive involvement and one which each national experiment with socialism has proven historically ends in invasive government coercion [ 11 ] followed by collapse.
But as to freedom, the antithesis of excessive and invasive government, please see Freedom, my setting of a text by American commentator and humorist, Ambrose Bierce, Carl Sandburg's musing on Government and the persuasive Walt Whitman's To the States. And as to the abuse of power through "social" politics, see my setting of G. K.Chesterton's The Horrible History of Jones.
The score for The Social Democrat's Song is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.
The Social Democrat's Song
[ 1 ] The full quote reads, "We’re saying that for American to get back on track, we’re going to cut [the Bush tax cuts] short and not give it to you. We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good." So spoke Hillary Clinton on the record in a 2004 fundraising speech to wealthy supporters in San Francisco. In the modern parlance of social welfare governance, the "common good" is often spoken of but a clear and limiting definition of it is never forthcoming. How much of the balance between public and private is public? Ten percent, as was the first concepts of tithes, as taxation to run the Israelite tribes? 40-50 percent, as is common throughout the US and Europe? Is there an upper limit to what constitutes the common good, or might one expect government to require "more" of its citizens?
Some might complain that it is unfair for place a quote by a sitting US senator alongside the campaign lies of Hitler, but the truth is that a great many well-intentioned Germans of so long ago believed a campaign's rhetoric -- for peace, for equal rights and for disarmament. And for this, they supported him with their vote; this included Jews and Christians, homosexuals, and many others who were unprepared for what came next.
Moreover, it is important to remember -- or learn anew -- that the "common good" was often a lure dangled by totalitarians, as one sees throughout history: "If we are to go forward we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because, without such discipline, no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good." (Italian dictator Benito Mussolini) And lest we forget its American roots, we should revisit the following quote: "Conformity will be the only virtue and any man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty." (Woodrow Wilson) Within this range of expression about the "common good," Senator Clinton's remark is neither unusual nor surprising.
[ 2 ] The full quote reads, "The truth is, in order to get things like universal health care and a revamped education system, then someone is going to have to give up a piece of their pie so that someone else can have more." So spoke Michelle Obama, as reported in The Charlotte Observer (a McClatchy Company) in April 2008 during campaigning for her husband's candidacy this year. I find it amusing and ironic that so many well-spoken politicians urge social welfare from those less fortunate than themselves, when in fact they could easily live in less expensive homes or travel economy class in order to "give" to the poor. Not surprisingly, they do not for their privilege and connection to power will not allow them to be equal, when they can be more than equal. As has been darkly observed, Washington, D. C., is filled with the "rich" of both parties working each year on the problems of the poor only to become even wealthier through it -- in part by voting themselves raises in salary and perks as well as tax benefits which do not apply to the average "Joe."
[ 3 ] This well-known quote comes from the works of Karl Marx. Marx spent most of his life, essentially, as a welfare recipient, pleading often with Friedrich Engels to send him money. Even with this continuing stipend -- let us call them welfare payments -- he did not fully conclude the terms of his agreement with Engels, which was to complete a far larger work than Das Kapital.
[ 4 ] In German: "Mit Adolf Hitler 'Ja' für Gleichberechtigung und Frieden."
[ 5 ] It is first and foremost not an economic philosophy, but rather a political one. It is about governmental power over an economy, which is utterly different than an economic philosophy of how transactions between provider and consumer function and are conducted. As we are now seeing in the liquidity and credit crises throughout the world as of 2008, social welfare demands have become massive debt as socialist-led borrowing from "tomorrow" to fund "today" is simple coming due for payments which likely many nations will not easily make. Were a nation an individual and such a credit crisis was to be dealt with, simple credit counseling would be in order, a sort of fiscal "tough love" in which the avenues of credit would be closed, credit cards canceled and a regime of rigorous repayment advised, and even expected. So will it turn out to be for the various social welfare schemes, I believe, which are spending through deficits and borrowing. What is most amusing to note, therefore, is that socialism has a greater reliance on growth and capital than does orthodox capitalism per se; this Marx never foresaw.
The notion of socialism begins with high sounding words. "From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs" resonates with many as a sensible and even Judeo-Christian concept. But charity -- voluntary giving -- is a far different thing than compensatory taxation for charitable reasons. Oddly and perhaps not surprisingly, many of the most ardent proponents of socialism fund themselves out of the "public trough," such that politicians might acquire greater wealth than those in the private sector, while the truly super rich of the private sector are susceptible to the power which wealth influences over them. One can look to the majority of politicians and see wealthy people emerging from a career in public service, generally far better off than the average worker in the private sector. One saw this in the recent bankruptcy of the City of Vallejo in California, a small city of 120,000 citizens which was spending most of its taxes on the costs of government alone, especially salaries and unfunded pensions in perpetuity. This is equally true of the new class of super-politicians in Europe, with the rise of the European Union which requires more funding for its new clusters of politicians than were necessary before its creation. How long can a population afford through taxation to fund a wealthier class? How long can a population afford the debt service on borrowing from tomorrow's as yet unpaid taxes to fund today's government programs and costs? I suspect not long.
Therefore my own personal definition of socialism is not the opposite of capitalism, but rather the opposite of small, less powerful government. It is not a definition of fixed borders, but of degrees. On a sliding scale from no government to massive, invasive and powerful government, there is a range of great latitude. It becomes therefore important to note where on this sliding, gray scale one finds one's self and one's politics. At an aggregate rate of taxation of fifty percent, one might well define one's self as fifty percent enslaved. Government of the avid Social Democrat would rage against this notion, of course, especially as it often knows clearly how well it lives for this fact being obscured from the general public.
[ 6 ] For this I wrote a short and most cynical poem, as below:
"I need your cash for charity,"
The upper crust said to me.
"The more you'll give," they really mean,
"'s the less they'll want from me."
"We urge you to dig deeply down,
To pay the freight for love.
It's how you'll stay just where you are,
And how we'll stay high above."
Movie stars and moguls
And politicians crowd
Around the public forums
To wail and cry aloud.
"It's not too much for you to do,
(Though far too much for us).
Dig deep from your percentage
(While making little fuss)."
The rich pay fancy wages
To charities they employ
To tell the middle class
They've more than one should enjoy.
The upper crust is charitable
With other people's cash;
They'll do quite well with yours,
While peddling balderdash.
When upper crust is middle class,
Their riches will have gone
To feed the poor and needy
Which most they prey upon.
When rich folks give a little,
And counsel you to give,
Consider for a moment
Just how it is they live.
Millions, billions seems a lot,
For those in the middle class;
Such numbers in one's bank accounts
Defines the upper class.
With so much ardor, so much class,
Why aren't they less than rich?
And why the press relations
and why the bait-and-switch?
The rich are rich because they give
Far less than we should know.
That's how the wealth is spread above
And not spread down below.
[ 7 ] One notes the newest of the modern-day socialist heroes, Hugo Chavez, has managed to spend much of his nation's wealth on military armament, exactly as did the Nazis, all the while he and his family have been documented to have benefited from the "land reform" by acquiring ranches which they theretofore did not own. Venezuelan socialism seems to profit -- think, "greed" -- its elite very well indeed. From one article, "Venezuela's National Assembly opened an investigation Wednesday into a congressman's accusations that two of President Hugo Chavez's brothers acquired 17 ranches in recent years if true a potential stain on the image of Chavez's socialist movement. Lawmaker Wilmer Azuaje detailed his allegations in a closed-door committee session, presenting documents that he says show how an assortment of ranch lands were obtained by Chavez's brothers Argenis and Narciso." That socialism has served the wealthy -- and to make many more wealthy -- is not arguable; it is both historical and ongoing fact, one of the many "inconvenient truths" about this political philosophy which has masqueraded for more than a century as an economic theory.
[ 8 ] "The working class is revolutionary or it is nothing." (Karl Marx) It is another historical fact that the working class has been used and then generally tossed aside when an elite has ascended to power. One notes the Nazis leaned on the support of "workers" only to ultimately enslave many for work; "Arbeit macht frei." In a similar vein, the Soviets under Stalin did much the same. The "little guy" is expendable, except in a world of rampant individualism, the antidote to the enforced collective.
[ 9 ] "The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance." -- Cicero, 55 BC
[ 10 ] Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations (1776). Smith has been called the "father of capitalism." In no way has enlightened capitalism ever argued for complete abandonment of the commonweal, but rather quite the opposite. But as a set of economic principles, capitalism never proposed government become the main arbiter of social funding, whereas socialism, a political philosophy masquerading as an economic theory, has always proposed the use of government power, which many critics rightly suggest is not "use," but "abuse." Certainly the twentieth century history of socialist governance gives credence to this argument, from the National Socialism of the Nazi Party to the Soviet Socialism of the now-failed USSR, to the political governance of nations such as North Korea, Zimbabwe and Cuba, wherein complaints about their populations' low standard of living is somehow the fault of other nations' investment in capitalism, rather than their mismanagement - for that it what it has been -- of an economy through the ultimate one-party politics of socialism.
[ 11 ] For those who find the notion of government coercion somehow passé in the modern Western world, it is not. From the "universal" service of the Mitgleider of the Hitler Youth to the United States' compulsory draft which manned the Viet Nam war there has been the notion of compulsory service which continues to this day. One reads, "We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, All Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service." The Plan: Big Ideas for America, p. 61, by Rahm Emanuel (Barack Obama's choice for chief of staff) and Bruce Reed. The notion of "compulsory service" is the antithesis of freedom, for among other things "universal civilian service" is not service, but coercion. "Service" implies the freedom to choose to serve, while "servitude" implies the opposite.