Letter to the Editor: Contracts? Or socialism?

George Roof’s letter contained errors, misleading remarks and serious misinterpretations (“A contractor, not socialism,” Aug. 4).

Mr. Roof says that “socialism … owns everything. … There is no incentive.” Anyone can find sources on the internet that confirm that one-third of the U.S. gross domestic product flows through federal, state and local government (all socialist). Out of all land in the United States, 28% is owned and operated by the federal government, and it produces various valuable services — and takes in fees — too numerous to list here.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are three among many popular socialist programs (polls show people are in favor, 2-to-1). Examples of a few of many socialist business organizations in the United States are TVA, the Nebraska Public Power District (supplies over 95% of the state with electricity), North Dakota Mill and Elevator, the Bank of North Dakota and the Alaska Railroad. All these state-owned businesses have been around for many decades, and the customers are happy. NASA is socialist, and if it were not for that, we would never have gotten Elon Musk’s commercialized SpaceX corporation and reusable rockets.

The military certainly is socialist. All those battleships, tanks, guns and ammo are federal property. You wear a uniform, not civilian clothes. Your freedom of speech is limited. You don’t get to elect the officers above you, and you don’t get to vote on what you do or what the rules will be. But you do get free medical attention and — for most — free uniforms and free meals at the mess hall and discounts (no profits) at the PX. This is as socialist as it gets. And your pension comes ultimately from tax money, not payroll deductions or “company profits,” because the military is for wars. The military does not make consumer products or services where products are sold above costs to get profits. So, Roof is wrong to say the military is not socialist.

His is also wrong to say the military is a “government contractor.” The military is a permanent part of the government, by law, and a table of organization will show all the chain-of-command lines from the president to every person who is a member of the military. A government contractor (e.g., Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon) is a separate, private sector, corporate entity with a temporary relationship defined by a contract with various stipulations. Nobody in the private sector “takes orders” from the military, but contract compliance is required.

I entered and served in the U.S. Army on a major technical project and left at E-5 rank. I authored or co-authored two technical, unclassified U.S. Army documents that are indexed on the internet. Roof’s phrase that said you can “ … voluntarily leave at any time … ” was followed by the tricky, sneaky phrase, “ … any time the contract expires,” and made it sound like a civilian job. It is not.

Mr. Roof understands relatively little about “socialism” and is blind to the existence of state-owned, nonmilitary businesses — and how well they run — in his own country. He would benefit by understanding that totalitarianism, authoritarianism and crony capitalism (currently exemplified by Donald Trump), dictatorships and fascism are all qualities of restrictive politics, repressive laws, arbitrary rulings and corruption. Businesses that are based on socialist (or state) economics are nothing to be afraid of. Actually, people ought to be more afraid of capitalist, private sector, corporate, corrupt practices involving executive accounting fraud, subprime lending scams, overcompensated executives, general Wall Street greed, and general exploitation scams and schemes.

Arthur E. Sowers