Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Is Barack Obama a Socialist?

I know, I know. You're tired of my posts about politics. You're thinking, "Please! Get back to writing about giant flying ants and heroes and bodily functions." But please hang in there--the election is right around the corner. And I cannot leave these allegations of socialism unchallenged.

First of all, what is a socialist?

A socialist is a person who believes in "an economic and political theory advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of production and distribution of goods." (That's from Merriam Webster Online.)

Please, if you are among those who like to sling the "socialist" epithet around about Obama, could you send me a link to one statement that Obama has made advocating government ownership of production and distribution of goods?

McCain and Palin jumped on Obama's statement that "when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everyone," suggesting that this is a clear indication of his socialist tendencies. "Now is no time to experiment with socialism," Palin said. Is "spreading the wealth" a socialist concept?

They seem to be confusing socialism with progressive taxation, which, unless you're a flat-taxer, you support. This article busts several myths about progressive taxation, and makes a case for common wealth (taxes) serving the common good. It argues that government serves at least two functions, including protection (police, emergency services, public health, the military, etc.) and empowerment.
The wealthy have made greater use of the common good--they have been empowered by it in creating their wealth--and thus they have a greater moral obligation to sustain it.

John McCain has also criticized Obama's plan to expand the earned income tax credit. McCain has
said, "His plan gives away your tax dollars to those who don't pay taxes. That's not a tax cut; that's welfare." More recently, and with more hyperbole, McCain invented a brand new, bizarre tax-policy fiction: Obama's "tax plan would convert the IRS into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington." (Any time a politician uses the word "redistribution," it is code for "socialism.")

In fact, the earned income tax credit has been around for 30 years. In 1986, Ronald Reagan increased the earned income tax credit in order to boost take-home pay above poverty levels. When the credit is more than the amount of federal income taxes owed by an individual, that person receives a tax “refund.”

Ronald Reagan said of this legislation, “It's the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.”

Why would a guy like Warren Buffet support Obama if Obama were a socialist? He wouldn't. Would Bill Gates admire him? No.

If you want to understand what a real socialist sounds like, check out this statement of the Socialist Equality Party regarding the upcoming election.

So, no, Barack Obama is not a socialist--any more than any other politician who supports a government bailout of the financial industry, or buying bad mortgages from homeowners, or progressive taxation. Ahem.

I'm glad we've cleared that up.


Dave Haynes said...

While I agree that Obama is not a complete socialist, he has some extreme liberal views which lean toward the socialistic. In this NPR interview, Obama makes several references to the failure of past courts to define how the Government should address redistributive policies. When you link that to his statements to "Joe the Plumber" it seems pretty clear that it is the Government's responsibility to provide for individuals as opposed to an individual's responsibility to provide for himself.

E. Peevie said...

DH--Heh. DH. Usually that means "dear husband," as in, "My DH bought me a diamond tennis bracelet."

Eeeenyway. What are the "extreme liberal views" that you are referencing that "lean toward the socialistic"? And what does it mean to "lean toward the socialistic"?

It sounds like to you it refers to any effort of the government to adjust for the innate inability of the free market to protect against the extreme disparities that develop between rich and poor. In which case, I am leaning toward the socialistic as well.

Except I wouldn't call it that. Again, I think the article about progressive taxation said it well: the wealthy have had more benefit from the common good, and have a moral obligation to sustain it for the good of others.

If free market capitalism were perfect, we would not need government to make adjustments. But the bailout is just the biggest and most obvious example that the market sometimes requires help to protect the common good.

Boy George said...

I've never understood why people would wear diamond bracelets while playing tennis.

I'm totally with you, E, on this whole issue. You know, it's kinda funny how so many right-wing politicos who loudly proclaim their belief in free market capitalism and their disdain for "welfare" have no problem with helping out corporate entities that find themselves in dire straits (or not-quite-so-dire, viz. the likes of ExxonMobil). The primary economic philosophy of the right wing appears to be to privatize the profits, and to socialize the debts. God forbid any of the wealthy should have to pay for anything the government provides.

We have to come to the realization that here on Earth, we're all in this together. The more we work toward a society where *all* pitch in according to their ability, the better off *all* will be.

That last bit sounds sort of Marxist, huh? Also sounds a lot like what Jesus was getting at in the lesson of the widow's mite. Of course, the main point that the right wing seems to take out of Jesus' lesson is that the wealthy should give only what they feel comfortable giving, while the poor should sacrifice everything they have...

Anonymous said...

The problem is we don't know what O stands for. Where is his record? He will not release anything about his past, it's like he was dropped into this country in 2004 and the blind follow. Change? Change what? For whom? Can anyone point to anything he has done that would support their contention that he is going to help THEM? Doesn't everybody strive to better themselves? The only way that can happen is by the hard work of the individual, not government handouts. This current fiasco, while partly about greed, did give everyone the chance for the American dream. Everyone got a house, everyone bought their cars, everyone bought their Starbucks - regardless of whether they could actually afford it. So the current policies are bailing out all of those people who weren't responsible enough or just couldn't afford what they had. Sometimes dreams don't come true, but responsibility and hard work will always get you closer.

E. Peevie said...

Boy George: I loved that line about privatizing profits and socializing debts--it's the first time I heard it. Then I googled it, and got 537,000 hits.

Anon--thanks for joining the fray. We don't know what O stands for? Check out his web site:

Where is record? What about his past? The guy has written two books about his life, and his political life is a matter of public record.

I agree with much of what you hav to say about the financial crisis and bailout, but are you suggesting that the bailout should not take place? I think almost everyone is in favor of some kind of govt. action to keep the markets from collapsing, because a market collapse will hurt everyone, even those who didn't participate in the spend-fest.

But what do I know? Virtually nothing, and less every day.

Hpaul said...

Ahhh, Ms Peevie. I think there is no question that BHO thinks government is the answer to basically every problem. I am not sure what name tag fits with that principle. On the other hand I believe that government messes up about everything it gets its hands on. I think history is on my side about that.
I do find your "progressive taxation" view interesting. You might want to read K Marx on 'progressive taxation'. Damn the bourgeois!
Here is what I know. I know that I will not be among the "95%" who get a tax break. I know I do not make near 150 much less 250 thousand dollars. Why is it when Dems say that tax breaks are for the rich, and I get a tax break. Then Dems say they will only tax the rich, and I get taxed? What is wrong with this pix?
We have a good idea what a Dem controlled federal government will lead to (Hell-o brother Jimmy C). But, more modernly, look at Illinois. Run by all Dems, every major office run by Dems, most of a very liberal persuasion. Chicago has a higher murder rate in the last six months than all of Iraq. Illinois has so much debt (the gov. pension plan) that they may also ask the Feds for a bailout. Dems have ruined Illinois with taxes and corruption. Do we really need this at the federal level?
I care less for semantics. BHO and his buds will certainly do for America what he and his buds have done for Illinois.

Anonymous said...

I like how you only link the definitions you see fit to claim that Obama is not a Socialist

the third definition in the Merriam Webster dictionary says 3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

E. Peevie said...

HPaul, sweetie: Your comment includes so many vague generalities and unsupported assertions that I find it difficult to reply. However. Let's start with your supposition that government messes up everything it gets its hands on.

How about public education? The fact that every school-age child in this country has access to a free education is a massive contradiction to your assertion.

How about roads, highways, and bridges? How about police, firefighters, and the military? How about our clean water supply, the courts, and our local and national parks?

Re Chicago's murder rate: Are you suggesting that there is a connection between the murder rate and the number of Democrats in power? Unbelievable.

Re Chicago's murder rate and Iraq: Huh? What do they have to do with each other? What do they have to do with Obama?

Re Illinois' corrupt politics and politicians: Our last three governors prior to Blago were Republicans. That's 26 years of Republican leadership. If Illinois has been ruined "with taxes and corruption," then the Repubs share the blame.

And finally, do you honestly believe that Democrats are more corrupt than Republicans, as you seem to be suggesting? That there is something inherently more noble and honest about Republicans?

Come on. It's fine to disagree with Democratic opinions or policies, but when you frame it as a moral choice with a right and wrong answer is to shut down any opportunity for open discussion.

Is that beneficial? Helpful? Dare I say, Jesusy?

E. Peevie said...

Anon--...and? I'm not sure what your point is.