I spent much of last week away from a computer and the intertubes, and I have to make a comment about the debate Thursday night. It showed ever more clearly that John McCain is not fit to lead a Scout troop let alone a nation. His anger and disrespect was evident in the split screen just about every time Obama spoke, and his new meme, Joe the Plumber, is irritating and disrespectful pandering. If I was an American voter, I would cringe at how obviously stupid John McCain thought I was.
However, what really got me, what irks me to my core, is the attack on Obama’s targetted tax increases as “socialism” and that the redistribution of wealth is somehow not merely wrong, but anti-American (whatever that means), and somehow different from what happens now. As if the government bailout of banks, tax supports to the auto industry, tax breaks to oil companies, and support for pharmaceutical companies to name a few are examples of anything but re-distribution. It’s merely the target of the benevolence that differs – socialism for the rich, laissez-faire fuck you to the rest.
Just to set this meme aside, socialism is not evil, it is an economic theory. Specifically, it is an economic theory that deserves consideration if societal and economic stability is the goal of a government. Elements of socialism is present in most western systems in some form or other; incremental tax regimes, single-payer health care, etc. The principle argument against “socialism” (say it with a sneer, please) in the Republican context appears to be that it represents unwanted rules superimposed upon markets and economies. To look at McCain’s voting record regarding regulation issues, it’s apparent that the imposition of just about any rules on the market is anathema to him and more importantly to his backers/ supporters/ financiers, so he’s at least being consistent to his record.
However, the economy is not in and of itself a natural creature, obeying immutable laws of nature (Ayn Rand be damned), it is a man-made creation and is highly regulated to protect those involved. All of those involved, even the rich. Laws and regulations are not only present, they are the reason the system works at all. Take away the laws and chaos would reign, and those with money would quickly take it elsewhere to do their business.
The central questions therefore, are not whether the government should apply controls to the economy, they are which controls to apply, and what is the goal of the control? In most cases, the stated goal of a democratic government has to be to provide benefit to the multitude, via jobs, services, and security, otherwise they are unlikely to win office. In short, stability. Often, the stated goal in the press conference is not exactly (to put it mildly) the real goal of a specific policy. In the eighties, the US government played with “trickle down”, promising that stimulating the rich with preferential tax cuts, which would then percolate through the economy, resulting in the production of jobs for the middle class and other lessers. It didn’t work then, and the cuts for the rich in 2003 have repeated the experiment with the same or poorer results.
What Barack Obama plans is to increase taxes on those making more than 250K and lowering taxes on those who make below that mark. The plan can be described as “trickle up”, and it just might work, because unlike tax cuts to the rich which as often as not end up stashed in offshore investments and banks, the middle and lower classes are more likely to spend their money in the communities in which they live and work.
This, naturally, is being promoted as socialism by John McCain because slander is really all that he has left in his bag, and becuase his big business backers are less likely to directly benefit in the next quarter. If he (and they) used their brains for a moment they would probably come to the conclusion that a stable, employed, and purchasing middle class is in the best interests of the wealthy in the long run. But, he can’t do that because A) he didn’t think of it first, and B) socialism is only for the rich.
I’m saddened that “socialism” has been used as an epithet, partly because I’m a socialist, but also because it might well work. It might well work because of the existence of the low information voter. I heard that phrase on the news last night and had to use it. I think it is they that Jon Stewart and John Oliver more pithely referred to as “the stupid” two weeks ago.
It won’t work, right? Tell me it won’t work, please…