Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where's Joe the Socialist?

With all the desparate chatter about Barack Obama being a socialist, you would think some news interviewer would have the wit to bring on someone from the Socialist Party to discuss whether Senator Obama really is a socialist. I am in fact surprised no one has done that yet, for the novelty if nothing else. I mean, how many times can you bring on GOP spokesman Brad Blakeman for laughs? Give us some variety.

And, maybe, help us clarify what the heck socialism really is, because the word is in danger of becoming meaningless. When a mainstream Democrat who supports free trade talks about adjusting the tax code, and partisans scream "socialism!" without anyone correcting their terms, this literally cheapens political debate in a nation that is supposed to value debate and democracy.

The Socialist candidate for President is more than happy to talk about it. Surprise, he says Obama is no socialist. But we knew that. Obama is not mounting an attack on economic neo-liberalism, and has even backpedaled his criticisms of NAFTA. His campaign has benefitted greatly from the support of our oil barons. He is certainly not advocating worker-ownership of the automobile manufacturers - or state ownership.

It's an interesting time for anyone to be hurling the S-word at anyone else. Obama made a remark about "spreading wealth" and the Republicans started painting a hammer and cycle on him. On the other hand, tax revenue worth more than $8,000 per household in America has just been "spread" upward.

Like Robert Reich recently said, maybe what we have here is socialism for the rich, and capitalism for the rest of us.

Is it a "socialist" observation that capitalism, at least as we practice it, has concentrated political clout and wealth to a small, elite class of our society? The fact is not in dispute. The debate is over what it means and whether it is just.

As we have seen, our government is quite willing to intervene in the workings of the market economy, which resembles the philosophy of some socialists. If we are willing to invest public money to prop up ailing financial institutions, to 'nationalize' them to some degree or other, to make our government a shareholder in what were private companies, then we are somewhere on the socialist spectrum, aren't we?

We're just afraid of the word, that's all. It's used as an epithet to hurl at political rivals, interchangeably with 'communist.' The words do not illuminate. We need to be considering good ideas and bad ideas, not worrying about whether Karl Marx said them first.

2 comments:

quid said...

And, in Iowa yesterday...Ms. Palin went a step further by invoking the spectre of Communism.

Consider the source.

Blicky Kitty said...

:) I LOVE socialism! Socialism rocks. OK, yeah, so I'm left of Obama (whom I also LOVE), but Europe runs pretty well with socialized medicine. The doctors over their seemed really good when I lived there. Nobody gets uberrich, but we tend to equate greed (the American dream) with morality in the country which gets us in a pickle!

It's like we're turning into an oligarchy of the wealthiest corporations and that's not really preferable to socialism in my book.