Friday, September 03, 2010


The Obama-is-a-socialist tag has always been a stupid one, but it's one conservatives, and particularly those either involved with or just supportive of the Tea Party "movement," keep pushing relentlessly. Obama, we are told, is trying to overturn the capitalist system at the very heart of the American way of life. If allowed to move ahead with his reforms, we are warned, he will turn the U.S. into some sort of European social democracy, with government controlling the economy and stifling freedom and entrepreneurship. To believe this requires a deep and abiding ignorance of reality, a refusal to see things as they are. But ignorance, of course, is hardly in short supply on the right.

While Obama has sought to expand government's role somewhat, nothing that he has accomplished -- nothing that he himself seems to believe -- comes close to socialism. If anything, he has sought to rescue capitalism, as FDR did before him, from its own self-destructive tendencies. TARP was largely an effort to get the economy going again; it was decidedly not an effort to have government take control of the economy. Even health-care reform, minus the public option, was just the sort of market-oriented approach that Republicans once backed. And Wall Street reform was more about protecting Wall Street from itself than it was about radically changing what is essentially a corrupt financial system.

And this isn't about to change. As White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday, "some big, new stimulus plan is not in the offing." The economy may still be struggling, that is, but Obama won't push what is really needed most at this time, namely, large-scale government spending to get the economy going again. But if there won't be another stimulus package, there may very well be just what Republicans want, namely, tax breaks for business (if not an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy). As the WaPo is reporting, Obama is considering "a package of business tax breaks -- potentially worth hundreds of billions of dollars":

Among the options under consideration are a temporary payroll-tax holiday and a permanent extension of the now-expired research-and-development tax credit, which rewards companies that conduct research into new technologies within the United States.  

Where exactly is the socialism here?

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