Friday, October 31, 2008

Just a few more percentage points and we'll officially be socialist

Don't agree with it all, but Christopher Hayes has a neat little piece up at the Nation on how stupid it's been for the Republicans to make this election about socialism.

I think this is exactly right, and not just because I think it's transparently moronic to argue that the difference between Capitalism and Socialism is the difference between a 35 percent top marginal tax rate and a 39.5 percent one. Obama himself, while he does weave in an ideological story into his main narrative, he tends, instead to offer himself as post-ideological and pragmatic. The Right, meanwhile, has turned this election into a referendum on Socialism.

That first bit is right on the money and is the real issue- arguing over a few percentage points in the top marginal income tax rate is in no way, shape, or form an argument about capitalism and socialism.


Anonymous rose said...

That's not what people are referring to, at least not me.

Im talking about the neat little stories from the 90s in Chicago about Obama and the "new party", annenberg, his comments in 01, that whole pattern that isn't reported on.

Those insights into what he's been about before he was in the spotlight and the context of everything he is doing now.

It's not about 3.6% points at the top of the tax bracket and that's not what Stanley Kurtz writes about either.

If you're interested in why some people are really concerned about what Obama is really about, read Kurtz. Trust me, you'll at least understand where the concern comes from.

1:37 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

But the point isn't what's deep down in his heart, the point is about how he's going to govern.

If I were to run for office someday, someone could look back on all the way out libertarian ideas I've championed and try to paint me as too extreme for mainstream America, but the truth would be that all my intellectual meanderings here in my blog are not indicative of the specific policies I'd pursue. There's a big difference between intellectualizing and actually crafting policy. If I were in politics I'd look to push policy in a libertarian direction, enhancing individual freedom and scaling back the extent of what government does.

And that's not to say Obama is secretly a socialist, but even if he was, he's not going to govern that way and he can't govern that way. He won't be supported by a Democratic Congress and he won't be supported by the American people if he deviates that far from the party platform.

My biggest concern is the corporate socialism and calls for government control over massive sectors of the economy and that's been coming from both Republicans and Democrats, from both Obama and McCain.

There are a lot of Obama's ideas that scare me, but I'm just not all that worried that his vague philosophy are the sorts of ideas that are going to become a reality. Much more concerning are the specific policy proposals coming from both candidates, like McCain's insistence on the government forcing the refinancing of any home with negative equity to a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage at 5 percent, with the principal reduced based on the decline in the home's market value. I'm concerned with what's being proposed, not philosophy from 10 or 20 years ago.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous rose said...

At the core, libertarianism is a belief in the individual (responsibility and freedom), free-markets and the ineffectiveness of government. Your beliefs are somewhat outside the mainstream, but not in any way offensive and can be molded to fit a mainstream party/POV.

Obama's beliefs (forget the socialist label) at their core are that the US has exploited blacks and the poor for centuries and needs to be fundamentally changed. Not from the last 8 years, from the last 200. That's what Kurtz's (and many others) investigative reporting indicates and its fairly well cited.

Obama can't do exactly what he wants, but as you say, he can inch things that direction a bit at a time.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Krauthammer said...

Last week I made the open-and-shut case for John McCain: In a dangerous world entering an era of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation, the choice between the most prepared foreign policy candidate in memory vs. a novice with zero experience and the wobbliest one-world instincts is not a close call.

But it's all about economics and kitchen-table issues, we are told. Okay. Start with economics.

Neither candidate has particularly deep economic knowledge or finely honed economic instincts. Neither has any clear idea exactly what to do in the current financial meltdown. Hell, neither does anyone else, including the best economic minds in the world, from Henry Paulson to the head of the European Central Bank. Yet they have muddled through with some success.

Both McCain and Barack Obama have assembled fine economic teams that may differ on the details of their plans but have reasonable approaches to managing the crisis. So forget the hype. Neither candidate has an advantage on this issue.

On other domestic issues, McCain is just the kind of moderate conservative that the Washington/media establishment once loved -- the champion of myriad conservative heresies that made him a burr in the side of congressional Republicans and George W. Bush. But now that he is standing in the way of an audacity-of-hope Democratic restoration, erstwhile friends recoil from McCain on the pretense that he has suddenly become right wing.

Self-serving rubbish. McCain is who he always was. Generally speaking, he sees government as a Rooseveltian counterweight (Teddy with a touch of Franklin) to the various malefactors of wealth and power. He wants government to tackle large looming liabilities such as Social Security and Medicare. He wants to free up health insurance by beginning to sever its debilitating connection to employment -- a ruinous accident of history (arising from World War II wage and price controls) that increases the terror of job loss, inhibits labor mobility and saddles American industry with costs that are driving it (see: Detroit) into insolvency. And he supports lower corporate and marginal tax rates to encourage entrepreneurship and job creation.

An eclectic, moderate, generally centrist agenda in a guy almost congenitally given to bipartisanship.

Obama, on the other hand, talks less and less about bipartisanship, his calling card during his earlier messianic stage. He does not need to. If he wins, he will have large Democratic majorities in both houses. And unlike Clinton in 1992, Obama is no centrist.

What will you get?

(1) Card check, meaning the abolition of the secret ballot in the certification of unions in the workplace. Large men will come to your house at night and ask you to sign a card supporting a union. You will sign.

(2) The so-called Fairness Doctrine -- a project of Nancy Pelosi and leading Democratic senators -- a Hugo Chávez-style travesty designed to abolish conservative talk radio.

(3) Judges who go beyond even the constitutional creativity we expect from Democratic appointees. Judges chosen according to Obama's publicly declared criterion: "empathy" for the "poor or African American or gay or disabled or old" -- in a legal system historically predicated on the idea of justice entirely blind to one's station in life.

(4) An unprecedented expansion of government power. Yes, I know. It has already happened. A conservative government has already partially nationalized the mortgage industry, the insurance industry and nine of the largest U.S. banks.

This is all generally swallowed because everyone understands that the current crisis demands extraordinary measures. The difference is that conservatives are instinctively inclined to make such measures temporary. Whereas an Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Barney Frank administration will find irresistible the temptation to use the tools inherited -- $700 billion of largely uncontrolled spending -- as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to radically remake the American economy and social compact.

This is not socialism. This is not the end of the world. It would, however, be a decidedly leftward move on the order of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. The alternative is a McCain administration with a moderate conservative presiding over a divided government and generally inclined to resist a European social-democratic model of economic and social regulation featuring, for example, wealth-redistributing growth-killing marginal tax rates.

The national security choice in this election is no contest. The domestic policy choice is more equivocal because it is ideological. McCain is the quintessential center-right candidate. Yet the quintessential center-right country is poised to reject him. The hunger for anti-Republican catharsis and the blinding promise of Obamian hope are simply too strong. The reckoning comes in the morning.

2:48 PM  

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