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Joe Biden: "It's not crazy, it's not socialism"

Speaking to the World Economic Forum at Davos on Wednesday. Biden's anti-socialist rant has been taken as a snipe against Bernie Sanders in the Presidential election race.

Explaining how he'd fund new education initiatives,Biden said, "We'd pay for it in part by closing tax loopholes for companies that are shipping their profits overseas."It's not crazy, it's not socialism," .

During his re-election bid in 2012, Obama made the same assertion.

"I believe that in a society as wealthy as ours, we should have a commitment to our seniors and to the disabled. That's not a sign of weakness. That's not socialism,"

During his own election campaign, Obama had described how he'd provide a $3.5 billion Social Enterprise Investment Fund by "closing tax loopholes and ending the war in Iraq"

Biden isn't at Davos just to discuss domestic affairs.  Ukraine and a "new economic vision" is also on the Davos agenda.

Just weeks ago when he'd lectured Ukraine's parliament about corruption. Hardly surprising for a man whose son has been installed on the board of an Ukrainian gas company. It's no surprise that he doesn't want socialism, or care too much whether their profits end up overseas, where some of it buys political friends.

Clinton and Tony Blair, for instance. .   

Early in 2008, when Biden and Obama both sat on the Senate's foreign relations committee, they been called on to support such a new economic vision, with a 'Marshall Plan' strategy to tackle social injustice and corruption, saying this about the cost of applying a bottom up strategy:

"It is proposed that the United States of America be actively engaged in supporting this project, financially and any other way possible. Ukraine has clearly demonstrated common will for democracy. Ukraine has also unilaterally taken the first critical step to fulfill this program, thus clearly demonstrating initiative and commitment to participation required in the original Marshall Plan sixty years ago. The US side is presumably attempting to foster democracy in another country, which never expressed much interest and shows little real interest now. That of course is Iraq, where recent estimates indicate a cost of $1.5 billion per week.

That same amount of money, spread over five years instead of one week, would more than cover the investment cost of the initial components of this project, and allow a reserve fund for creating new projects as Ukraine’s intelligentsia invents them in the Center for Social Enterprise. It is proposed that Ukraine and the US provide equal portions of this amount. Ukraine is certainly able to provide that level of funding, given that projects are designed with the same fiscal discipline employed in the traditional business sector. That means they pay for themselves, one way or another.

Project funding should be placed as a social-benefit fund under oversight of an independent board of directors, particularly including representatives from grassroots level Ukraine citizens action groups, networks, and human rights leaders. "

Yes, a social enterprise investment fund. Just as Obama pledged later for tackling inequality in the US. It was soom whittled down to $100 million and distrubuted via "intermeidaries".

Does this mean social enterprise is socialism? 

In 1996 our late founder had delivered a paper proposing what might today be regarded as social capitalism or social business. I asked him at one time why he'd never described it as such to the recipient Bill Clinton.

"In the United States, social implies socialism. Socialism is considered one step beyond being a baby burning communist" he explained. He'd wanted his concept to gain traction rather than provoke hostility  

So they have. 20 years later, with Davos delegates talking his walk about business with embedded social purpose. Not charity, but a social mission embedded in the core business model.

With the help of Clinton's office, he'd been able to take it to Russia in 1999 where he sourced the Tomsk Regional Initiative, a highly successful microenterprise development program.   

Tomsk locals had been bewildered "You've come here to create business and give it away to other people. Are you some new kind of communist or just crazy?"

At Davos this year, you may read  Dow's CEO talk of the "pure purpose of business".  This is exactly where the people-centered approach to business was 20 years ago, asking

Business isn't charity, but it can help build a better world says Andrew Liveris. it might well have been lifted straight from the 1996 paper which said:

'Clearly, profits can be used very effectively in ways other than traditional investment and profit outcomes. Moreover, this is not charity, it is business--good business. One P-CED firm could be expected to spin off dozens of new firms and businesses, all of which create new jobs and all of which operate under traditional free-enterprise practices. That is, if a spin-off business were to profit a million dollars a year, the owners can bank the money for themselves and their stockholders as is the normal practice. There is nothing wrong with individuals becoming wealthy. It is only when wealth begins to concentrate in the hands of a relative few at the expense of billions of others who are denied even a small share of finite wealth that trouble starts and physical, human suffering begins. It does not have to be this way. Massive greed and consequent massive human misery and suffering do not have to be accepted as a givens, unavoidable, intractable, irresolvable. Just changing the way business is done, if only by a few companies, can change the flow of wealth, ease and eliminate poverty, and leave us all with something better to worry about. Basic human needs such as food and shelter are fundamental human rights; there are more than enough resources available to go around--if we can just figure out how to share. It cannot be "Me first, mine first"; rather, "Me, too" is more the order of the day.'

Terry Hallman told me he was a capitalist, not a socialist yet he wrote this for Maidan in 2005 when Anders Aslund had accused Ukraine's prime minister of 'Betraying a Revolution'.

"According to Mr. Aslund, who enjoys a respectable bully pulpit due to his job title, most of the ills in new Ukraine’s economy are directed related to Prime Minister Tymoshenko’s management. He states, as an article of faith but without any corroborating evidence to demonstrate cause and effect versus mere correlation, that “economic growth is screeching to a halt as a result.” Peppering his criticism are words like “populist”, “socialist”, and “state capitalism” – suggesting, again as articles of faith and nothing more, that these are necessarily bad things that can only contribute to economic problems. Increasing pensions and salaries, to move workers and retirees a little further out of poverty-level income, were condemned as budget busters that Ukraine’s new government cannot afford – despite the fact that not doing so essentially guarantees perpetuation of graft and corruption. Elimination of graft and corruption, and raising the overall standard of living for ALL Ukrainians rather than a few insanely greedy oligarch clans, was the main underlying and implied reason for the Orange Revolution – at least from hundreds of people, activists and otherwise, I talked with on the ground during and after the Revolution. Further, as director for any sort of peace institute, Mr. Aslund is obliged to review the connection between poverty and peace. Peace does not and cannot exist for people in poverty, unless they are harshly suppressed by government or other forces. Poverty is a horrible existence and lifestyle, and is bound to breed violence, not peace."

"Ukraine’s democratic government has the audacity to review and consider corrupt privatization deals, which robbed Ukrainian citizens time and again of any real financial benefit from companies that they, as state citizens, financed, bought, and paid for to start with. Tymoshenko’s greatest “crime”, for which she is now being castigated by economic hit men, is that she sees no crime in retaining control and therefore profits from lucrative state enterprises to benefit common Ukrainian people instead of private buyers who care nothing whatsoever for Ukraine or Ukrainians. Aslund counters with name-calling: “state capitalism”, “populist”, and worst of all at least in US vernacular, “socialist.” “Socialist” is a bad word in US politics, but not so bad in Europe – where Ukraine is heading, not to the US. He used those words in a US publication knowing very well the nasty impact they would have. This, in a country where at least one in six people live in poverty, and probably closer to one in four – if honest poverty statistics ever come to the fore."

What Davos delivers on Ukraine this week won't be any kind of "New Economic Vision" A new vision which might sit comfortably with Bernie Sanders campaign was described 10 years ago: 

'This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for "people-centered" economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority – as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine's poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a "top-down" approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first -- not secondarily, along the way or by the way. '

Interviewed in 2006, by ForUA magazine Hallman said "Ukraine is the best country to spend my limited life time"

"- I believe in the people of Ukraine. It is Ukrainian people where I find inspiration to go on working here. The vast majority of Ukrainians are decent, hard-working people. You have world-class universities, formidable intelligence, and enormous human potential. I simply cannot say that enough times, your human potential. It is your greatest national asset and, once unleashed, will bring Ukraine among the forefront of leading countries in the world. My role in Ukraine is to help unleash that potential. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m here mainly as human being, by the way, not as American, but being an American, there are certain things I can do to help that happen. Given hundreds of other countries in the world that I could work in, I see Ukraine as the best, most promising country to spend my limited life time.

Ukrainians also tend to be modest, gentle people, maybe a bit shy, making it rather easy for ruthless people to try and control you. However, and by that same token, I’m convinced that Ukrainians have a certain genius for being able to resolve crucial national problems peacefully and making your voices as citizens heard and respected by government – even if government has other ideas. It’s that particular genius, which shined brilliantly in the Orange Revolution and struck the whole world that inspires me profoundly. I consider it a gift and an honor to be here now."

Can a confused plutocrat walk in his footsteps?