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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Is Obama A Socialist? Not if You Ask One











There are all kinds of anecdotal ties between Barack Obama and socialism, and some are fairly compelling. Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media pointed out that, for example, Obama was endorsed in 1996 by the Chicago branch of the Democratic Socialists of America for Illinois state senate. He eulogized Saul Mendelson, a well-known socialist activist. And he campaigned for socialist senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

And then there are the suggestions that his versions of universal health care and other nationalizing projects are essentially socialist projects. While speaking recently at Columbia University, he spoke of a national volunteer program that many have called socialist in nature.

And his tax plan, whereby he’d raise taxes for the richest 5% and redistribute that income to the rest of the country, has also earned focused allegations of socialism. Bill O’Reilly told Obama to his face it was socialist during their much-discussed interview.

Indeed, “socialist” has become one of the many dirty words of this exceedingly loquacious campaign season, and it’s an arguably useful one, inciting the kind of fear we saw during the McCarthy hearings and imaginably back in a little town called Salem a couple centuries earlier.

But if we look more closely at Barack Obama’s proposals, do they really make him a socialist? Well, not if you ask one. Hold on, though -- this shouldn’t be reassuring to the moderate left, undecideds or independents. He’s much, much worse.

I asked a few experts to weigh in, and their analysis is both enlightening and alarming:

Greg Pason, National Secretary of the Socialist Party USA: “Barack Obama's programs are not socialist. The vast majority of his proposals are anti-worker (or he might say ‘pro-business’). His health care proposals are more to save the for-profit insurance industry and do not have the goal of ending for-profit insurance. He has refused to support a Senate version of HR676, which would create a single-payer program (not socialist but much better than we have, and [which has] the support of labor and community organizations across the US). Many of his other economic proposals are pro-corporate.

A socialist program (even a reformist one) would not be a program that props up capitalism when it fails, but one that transforms the economy. None of Senator Obama's proposals do that. Senator Obama’s tax plan is regressive and even less ‘progressive’ than programs put forward under such conservative administrations like the one of Richard Nixon.”

F.N. Brill, National Secretary of the World Socialist Party (US): “Obama is as much a socialist as the Pope is an atheist. Income redistribution isn't a socialist act. It might aid in ameliorating income disparities within a capitalist economy for a limited time. But the logic of capitalism demands the rich grow richer (more capitalization is needed) and the poor grow poorer (their work creates the needed capital used by the rich).”

David Schaich, Socialist Party Campaign Clearinghouse Coordinator: “The idea that Barack Obama is socialist, or quasi-socialist, or semi-socialist, or socialist-light, or anything of the sort, is far-right nonsense. Barack Obama, like John McCain, is very much a ‘politician as usual,’fully committed to the continuation of the capitalist system and the expansion of its empire.”

Barack Obama, the pious, messianic hero of the Left, is thrice denied by the socialist movement itself. Some say his proposals are in fact bad for working America, and others suggest he is just as much a dirty capitalist as the rest of us.

Rea Hederman, assistant director at the Heritage Foundation’s center for data analysis, adroitly draws our attention to the real problem with Obama’s proposals, specifically his tax plan:

“I wouldn’t call the plan socialist. I have concerns anytime that the tax code is made more complex or used as a tool for social policy. Ideally, the tax code should be made as efficient as possible to maximize economic growth and minimize the distortions that arise from taxation.”

We may want to switch gears as the final weeks of this election tick on. Socialism is just a red herring…we don’t have to go nearly that far to criticize the senator’s many flawed proposals, which are anemic, impractical, na├»ve, and pure, unadulterated politics. But not socialist.

Indeed, let’s forget about the S-word. The hope and change promises of the Obama campaign are the real weak spots, as once again he reveals himself to be nothing more than a politician in community organizers’ clothing.


S.E. Cupp is author of "Why You're Wrong About the Right," with Brett Joshpe (Simon & Schuster, 2008). She lives in New York City and works for the New York Times.

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