Written by Oscar Rodriguez
Growing up in socialist Cuba, we were often reminded how fortunate we were to be living in a socialist country where people were taken care of by the government and where every citizen has access to free healthcare and free education from preschool to graduate school. We were also reminded that in socialist Cuba nobody experiences hunger because the government feeds everyone through a system of monthly rations enough to feed a person for a month. These rations included a variety of products like milk, meat, fish, grains, candies and even beer and cigarettes. If a person used all his rations he can buy more in state markets at a low price where all the products are subsidized by the government. Other perks of living in “Cuba’s socialist paradise” are free mortuary services and nursing care.
To this day, many people on the island that haven’t had the opportunity to travel (because international travel is restricted although the government has softened restrictions in recent years) or do not have any relatives residing in the US, still have the idea that in the US people die ill on the streets because they cannot have access to healthcare. Or that education is basically inaccessible for those that cannot pay for it. The Cuban government constantly compares the “good socialist system” against the inhumane and evil American capitalist system where the most fundamental human rights and needs are totally reserved for those that can afford it.
The “ill American capitalist society”, according to the Cuban regime, does not have a cure, it will never get better because that’s the way it is and has always been. In its principles and core is inhumane and unequal.
But is it? Of course not; the truth of the situation is far from what the Cuban regime depicted. The fact is that the US despite being the champion of capitalism in the world has many socialist like programs that are the envy of any socialist country that ever existed. American kids have access to free education through K12 and even free or subsidized higher education. There are also health programs like Medicaid and Medicare that secure treatment for individuals in financial need and the elder. And there are the SNAP and WIC programs to help families that cannot afford to buy food. These and many other state-supported programs make possible a more equal society by lifting those who are at the bottom and securing some equality of opportunity.
The founding father Thomas Paine noted that for a society to function properly, even an individualistic one, there must be some degree of equality. In his pamphlet Agrarian Justice, he proposed to redistribute wealth from the wealthier to the poorer, therefore, creating a more equal society. Paine proposed welfare benefits for the disabled and the elder as well as land and money to young people once they reach maturity. This pamphlet dating from the early years of America are a clear evidence that social welfare and equality were pillars in the creation of the new nation.