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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Obama is NOT a Socialist

You'll hear it from the right all over the place. "You know the president is a socialist, don't you?" And that crowd will huddle together and nod their heads in agreement. They'll draw you in with innuendo and evidence. Did you know that his parents were socialists and communist sympathizers? Did you know that his mentor was Frank Marshall Davis, a self-professed member of the Communist Party of the USA? Did you know that he attended socialist conferences in school? Did you know that he is linked to Bill Ayers, a Marxist and co-founder of a communist, terrorist organization? Did you know that the Democratic Socialist party endorsed him back in Chicago? Did you know that his current motto, "Forward", comes from earlier socialist tyrants? See? Proof!

Please, people, stop. Think about it. Is that proof? Do you even know if it's true? Or is it propaganda? How can you tell? And if every single word of it is true, what does it prove? It proves connections, not status. You know, I grew up in California which once was Mexican territory. I must be a Mexican!! No, connections don't prove status. Think about it.

Socialism is an economic system contrary to capitalism. Socialism gives ownership of the means of production to the people, typically controlled by the government. The people share the wealth equally. Capitalism operates on a system of private ownership and competition. You earn based on your work. Socialism emphasizes equality apart from effort. Capitalism allows for the accumulation of personal wealth; socialism requires equal distribution of wealth. The market determines the economy in capitalism, while the government of the people determine the economy in socialism.

I don't doubt there will be denial of what I'm about to say, but I think it is abundantly clear that the above description of actual socialism is not in line with the efforts and aims of President Obama. He may agree with them, but he does so in private. There is no proof that he does. Actual socialists, in fact, deny that he is one of them. He is, indeed, a capitalist. The president is not a socialist.

I would, unfortunately, be incomplete and unclear if that was the end of the question. There aren't actually a lot of those socialists around these days. The more standard socialist is found in European nations. Take the Party of European Socialists (PES). They, for instance, were voted into power in France just this year. They're more of the socialism you'll see these days. What are they about?

You can get an idea of the mainstream version of socialism from their Declaration of Principles from November of 2011. They are very strong in their support for "the welfare state, universal access to education and to health care." They support free education from childhood through college. President Obama is in favor of the welfare state (taking more of the wealth of the rich to give to the poor), universal access to education and to health care. The PES holds that, in order to be a just society, "we must ensure that the wealth generated by all is shared fairly." The president concurs. The PES argues, "All members of society are entitled to protection from social risks in life." The president agrees and aims to use the government to reduce or eliminate that risk by bailing out oil companies, buying back mortgages, creating universal health care, and extending unemployment benefits. Very high on the PES agenda is environmental sustainability. The president has been working hard at subsidizing environmentally-friendly industries while cutting the assistance or permission for less "friendly" organizations. To the PES, "market forces" are the enemy. They are driven by greed and supported by finances. By subsidies or taxation, the president has tried to counter market forces and to encourage environmental sustainability, penalizing oil, gas, and coal (for instance) while subsidizing "green technology" like Solyndra.

I suspect, in fact, that if the PES were to compare the president's views and efforts with their own principles, he'd rate pretty high. While the country was founded first on individual freedoms that would then provide for an economy and a government, the president has moved to take back power from individuals and assume more control over the economy. He isn't a dyed-in-the-wool Soviet-style Marxist, a purebred socialist, but he certainly seems to align quite comfortably with their quieter, modern cousins.

Americans consider "socialist" a bad word. As such, it's probably not wise to throw that word at the president. It's like comparing someone to Hitler. There is a gut response before there is a mental response. The president is not a genuine socialist. At the same time, I don't think it is unfair to point out that he does seem to line himself up quite comfortably with the values found in many European countries today. It's a pity that they are termed "European Socialists" because that provides such negative connotations to Americans, but I do think it's fair to say that our president is often in line with the views that are held by that particular group of Europeans. Make of that what you will.

11 comments:

Dan said...

The world is dynamic. Everything is always in transition. It's kind of like the second law of thermodynamics, order becomes disorder. I've always thought of socialism, regardless of how one might define it, as a word to describe the transitional period between free and responsible men and slaves of the state; which, after all, and judging from history, is the natural state of things.

Jeremy D. Troxler said...

Stan,

I was thinking along the same lines as Dan on this. In our postmodern relativistic times, "Socialist" means whatever the individual who would self-affirm his/her own definition of the term to be. We who still believe in definitions would tend to look up the terms, look at the evidence of policy and clearly communicated ideas and examine if they align with the definition or not. But then if you took on that endeavor, by the time you finished someone may have gone to Wikipedia and changed the definition.

The same is true to "Democracy". For the observer of history, this nation was not founded as, nor currently operates as, a democracy. Our own founding documents cals us to pledge our allegience to the Republic of the United States of America.

One wonders how, if we continue on in our relativism, how much longer discourse will even be possible. Sigh.

Stan said...

If the word is dynamic (which I'm not discounting), then we've arrived at the PostModern world where words have no meaning, communication is impossible, and dialog is pointless. "Look there! It's a cat!" by which I mean, "Don't bother turning your head; it's a sunny day." Evidence "love", "marriage", "Christian", "tolerance" ...

Words are placeholders for ideas. Move the places and the ideas can't be expressed. Two people separated by a common language.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Obama is certainly much closer to being a socialist than he is to being a capitalist.

Stan said...

He is, without a doubt, a European-style socialist. Just not the version that most Americans associate with the term.

Marshall Art said...

So he is a socialist. You're just discussing which category of socialist? This does not matter to me. He's a socialist for sure, even if just a little bit. To my mind, everything left of center is socialism. It's just a matter of degrees. What Bernie Sanders might believe about him doesn't refute the truth of his leanings. That's how it plainly seems to be in this day and age, though I don't know that it has always been so.

Stan said...

He is a socialist of the European stripe. If you don't get that distinction, you won't be able to communicate with other Americans who hear "socialist" and understand it to mean "Stalin". If communication is not your issue, then by all means continue to label him as you wish.

Dan said...

I actually meant to say world. The WORLD is dynamic. Much Lille my spelling, even though I spelled it right, one develops a reputation for such things, especially in an age of "auto-spell".

Marshall Art said...

Your distinctions do not make for much of an argument. I do not see an advantage with "European" style socialism. If leftist opponents wish to insist Obama is not Stalin, they'll need to show where that was ever intended. But a socialist is a socialist.

"He's not the radical islamic type of murderer. He's more the run of the mill murderer."

"He's not the bank robber type of thief. He's more the pick-pocket type of thief."

We're still talking murderers, thieves and socialists. Those who defend any of them cannot pretend the form they prefer is less of a bad idea. In that, it is they who fail to attempt to communicate if they are going to try running some nonsense about comparisons to Stalin.

Obama is as genuine a socialist as he needs to be even if he is promoting socialism of a milder form. The deceit is in pretending that because he is not a socialist in the eyes of some socialists, then by golly he can't be a socialist. Bull-hockey.

Stan said...

A socialist of the Stalin type is a socialist who takes ownership of all means of production. Has he? Has he tried? Has he suggested it? A socialist of the Stalin type eliminates private property. Has he? Obama hasn't even hinted at being the Stalinist type socialist.

And isn't it interesting that you will draw distinctions between "killing a few" (which is okay) and "killing a lot" (which is bad) but then complain about distinctions between a genuine socialist and the European variety?

The president, for all his faults, has made no attempts to take over the country, eliminate capitalism (a mandate of genuine socialism), or assume ownership of private property and means of production. Every time you call him a socialist, that's the image you paint. It isn't true, and it only makes you look stupid when you do. (I didn't say you were stupid or that there was no truth to the label.)

Marshall Art said...

First of all, my point is that he's a socialist one way or the other. I'm not concerned about which faction of socialism best describes him, but that he clearly leans toward the socialist mindset is enough and should be for anyone else considering him. For the card-carrying Stalinist version, he's much closer to the goal than is Romney. For the one who desires what the founders created, he is way too far away.

As to what he's taken over, what he's done with GM and the health care system is close enough to know that he is indeed one who leans toward socialism. I, personally, don't need a president to go all the way before I see what's what. If I must restrict my vocabulary to only specific definitions without regard to the FACT that some actions fall under the umbrella of a given term, then this does not further the cause of communication. He is socialist enough, and therefor a socialist who is doing what he can for the cause of socialism (as he sees it---regardless of what he admits to himself) within the limits of a society that rejects socialism.

As to distinctions, you missed my point apparently if you think I've erred as you imply. I've never said or implied that "killing a few" is "OK". But clearly killing a few, while being really, really bad, is not as bad as killing a lot, especially for those killed or living under the threat of being killed. But whether one kills a lot or a little, that one is still a murderer.

In a similar fashion, one need not be Stalinist to be socialist as you yourself have explained in your post. I don't like murderers regardless of how many lives they've taken, and I don't like socialism regardless of how far left it has gone. Where's your problem with this?

So as I debate the merits of an Obama versus a Romney (or any other right-leaning candidate), I can say with confidence that as a politician rated further left than Bernie Sanders as some have said, but not quite as far by the standards of others, he is more socialist than our country should risk.

Painting an image? Fine. I'm quite good with that because people need to open their eyes to the fact that "kinda" socialist isn't any better than absolute socialist in the same way an occasional murderer is better a serial killer.

By the way, if we were forced to choose between two leftists, I would choose the one closer to center who, by virtue of being "less left" than his opponent is less harmful to the nation. That's my job as a citizen.