Socialism Revisited

I know I posted about this a few days ago, but I’ve heard so many people wrongly describe Obama as a socialist with no actual knowledge about what socialism is that I felt it important to revisit the issue.

Let’s be clear: The tax policy that Obama proposes is NOT socialism. Socialism is defined as government ownership of the means of production. Obama does not propose this in any way, shape, or form.

But let’s talk about redistributing wealth. Our country has had a progressive tax policy – where the more you make, the more you pay – ever since the New Deal. Reagan was a big proponent of this and furtherd the progressivity of our tax policy. The only truly democratic, non-redistributionist tax policy would be a flat tax policy. And in order to implement such a policy without reducing tax revenues, we would have to double the taxes of most Americans to 30%.

Obama is simply talking about letting the Bush tax cuts expire, which would mean that the highest tax bracket would raise from 36% to 39%. That’s a 3% increase in one tax bracket. And the McCain campaign calls this socialism. It is not. It is merely bringing tax levels back to where they were in the 1990s, the decade in which we saw the largest economic expansion in American history and the bolstering of the middle class. Was our country socialist in the 1990s? No. Obama is not proposing tax levels that have never before been seen.

Finally, Republicans like to wax poetic about how the only way to improve the economy is to lower taxes. Let’s look at the record. We have had the lowest tax levels ever in our country during the last 8 years, and our economy is in the toilet. During the 8 years prior to the Bush tax cuts, taxes were at a slightly higher level, and we saw the largest economic expansion of our time. Raising taxes on the wealthiest 2% of earners does not limit or hinder economic growth. Giving larger tax cuts to the middle class, who spends more than the wealthiest 2%, while making up for that lost income by taking 3% more from the wealthiest Americans spurs growth. Cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans does not spur the growth of the middle class, which is the backbone of our country.

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Socialism…really?

Wikipedia defines socialism as “a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” Given this, will someone please explain to me how Obama’s tax policy makes him a socialist?

Obama is proposing to return the highest tax bracket from 36% to 39%…a mere 3 percentage points. This is a return to tax levels before the Bush tax cuts. We are not talking about tax levels that have never before been seen. Further, our country has always had a progressive tax policy, meaning that the people who make the most money pay the most taxes. This idea is not Obama’s. Reagan was actually a big proponent of it. And it doesn’t amount to socialism.

Now, McCain has proposed to have the government buy up bad mortgages. Doesn’t that sound more like socialism than Obama’s tax policy?

Obama is the true leader this week

McCain showed himself this week to once again not have the judgment to be our president. He announced Wednesday that he was suspending his campaign and going to Washington to help bring a bipartisan solution to the Congressional negotiations. (Of course, his campaign really wasn’t suspended as everyone else on his campaign was still campaigning and as his negative ads continued.) While his announcement may have sounded like a good idea to some, when you take a step back, you see that, even if we give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was well-intentioned (which is giving him a HUGE benefit that I don’t think he deserves), it was ill thought out and showed a lack of understanding of politics (which is ironic since he’s been a politician for over a quarter century). And it is this that further confirms to me that he is not fit to be president.

McCain is the Republican presidential nominee. Everything he says and does is now identified as “Republican” because he is the new leader of the Republican party and is running his campaign on a Republican platform. Nothing of consequence that he does during his campaign will be seen as bipartisan (appearing at Ground Zero with Obama doesn’t count). I fully admit that the same goes for Obama at this point in time. No matter how much either candidate wants to get past partisan politics, during their presidential campaigns is not the time to do it. Every Democrat wants their guy in the White House come January. And every Republican wants his guy in the White House. I’m not saying this is right, I’m just saying that’s the way it is. And so no Democrat is going to be amenable to McCain riding in on a high horse to bring “bipartisanship” to Washington. They’re going to scoff and rear back. The Republicans would do the same thing if Obama was the one riding in to save the day.

The difference between Obama and McCain is that Obama understands this. He recognizes that right now, by his very title as “Democratic presidential nominee,” he is very much hindered in his ability to foster bipartisanship. After the election, when Republicans have come to grips with the fact that they’ll be dealing with Obama for the next four years at least, they’ll both (Obama and Republicans) be in a better position to work together. The same can be said for McCain and Democrats. And so Obama, recognizing his handicap and seeing that a bipartisan agreement was coming along quite nicely in his absence, wisely chose to stay away from Washington. This does not mean he was disengaged. He’s been in frequent, regular contact with Congressional leaders, Secretary Paulson, and Fed Chairman Bernanke. But he recognized that going back to Washington, given his current status as Democratic presidential nominee, would infuse partisan, presidential politics into a delicate situation. He put the good of the country over the good of his campaign by recognizing this and acting accordingly.

McCain, on the other hand, decided that he had to go to Washington to push for a bipartisan agreement that was developing well without him. Of course, the irony is that, as all the newspapers report, the bipartisan agreement crumbled just as he arrived at the White House. This proves that his presence infused presidential politics into a delicate situation that he should’ve stayed out of. We are now further away from a deal than we were before McCain’s trip to Washington. If he did his by accident, then his utter lack of self-awareness and his reckless, misguided attitude that he could forge a bipartisan agreement shows that he does not understand the political process and is ill-equipped to be president. And if he knew exactly what he was doing, then it shows that he has put his campaign above his country by choosing to imbue partisan, presidential politics into a sensitive situation that was making good progress without him. Either way, it doesn’t paint him in a good light.

And what’s even worse is that we read just about everywhere that McCain has refused to take a stand on the agreement, said almost nothing in the White House meeting, and has not at all been involved in the real negotiations. How is this leadership? If he had gone to Washington with some sort of idea or vision or solution to get this passed, then maybe I could give him some credit. But he has nothing of the sort, which leads me to conclude that he (unwisely) thought that his mere presence would foster an agreement. How arrogant, pig-headed, and narrow-minded is that?!

The true leader this week has been Obama, who recognizes that good things can happen even in his absence and who is willing to let people do their jobs and to let the political process work. Let’s be clear, what isn’t working right now is the financial market. That is what needs to be fundamentally changed. But the political process of the executive branch submitting a bill to Congress who then negotiates and debates it and eventually passes a better form of the bill is fully functioning right now…or at least it was until McCain stuck his finger in it.

McCain Ruins the Day

Why does McCain have to imbue this financial crisis and the proposed $700 billion bailout with partisan politics? Before he arrived in Washington, Congress was close to a bipartisan agreement. Now, all of a sudden, a small group of Republicans are saying they’re wholeheartedly opposed.

I’m not saying I think that giving the Treasury $700 billion is the right thing to do. I think there is a very serious, rational question that we should all be asking (and asking our Congressmen and women to ask): Should the government be getting this involved in our supposedly free market?

But the problem is that now that McCain has decided to jump in the middle of it, all rationality is out the window. From now on, everything that is or isn’t said or done with regard to the bailout will be seen as a partisan action. For the first time in a very long time, we were seeing Democrats and Republicans come together to work toward the best possible solution in this dire situation. And now that McCain has put his finger in it, we see it turning into Democrats (wanting to get some form of the legislation passed) versus Republicans (wholly opposed to the legislation).

The idea that McCain is “postpartisan” and that he’s trying to forge bipartisan relationships and successes is entirely false and is just another smokescreen meant to hide the true McCain.

McCain Running for Cover

Once again, John McCain is trying to hide from the issues in this election. By now, this should hardly be surprising. His first major piece of distraction came when he chose Sarah Palin to be his running mate. She conveniently took over the news so that John McCain (and his policies that are too similar to Bush’s failed policies to be acceptable in the public eye) could hide from the issues.

Next, McCain canceled the first day of the Republican National Convention under the auspices of Hurricane Gustav. Of course, it also worked out well for him politically because he was able to avoid being on stage with George W. and was even able to keep Bush away from the convention. It also cut the amount of time Americans had to listen to the psycho-nonsense babble of the Republican Pary (“Drill baby drill” and numerous references to the “angry left” and “liberal Washington” – which is odd since the Republicans have been in control of both the White House and both houses of Congress for most of the past eight years).

And now, McCain is hiding behind the economic crisis to avoid talking about his foreign policy and national security views in a debate this Friday. Does he really think that everything will be solved if he just returns to Washington ASAP? Talk about a big head! If McCain goes back to Washington, he will simply bring presidential politics with him, and that will do more harm than good at this point.

This is a time when Americans are looking for leadership. We’re clearly not getting it from the White House (we really haven’t at all in the past 8 years), and so we’re looking to the presidential candidates. We need to know whether the candidates can handle more than one issue at a time and can be conversant on more than one issue at a time. A debate on foreign policy in the midst of an economic crisis shows us just that. Running to Washington to jump on board something that other politicians have been working on for a week is not leadership. It’s hiding from the issues and jumping on a bandwagon.

If McCain succeeds in cancelling the debate, he will have forfeited victory in the debate to Obama.

The New Republican Talking Point

“The reason this campaign has turned negative is because Obama refused to do town hall meetings throughout the campaign.”

I’ve seen this new talking point on The View, Meet The Press, CCN, and in the Washington Post.To me, this is the ultimate example of not taking responsibility for your actions. What they’re saying is that they have no control over their own actions and that they are completely reacting to what Obama is doing.

This is utterly ridiculous. We are all responsible for our own actions. If someone punches me, I have the choice to either punch back or not. My actions, no matter the actions of others, are in my control. The McCain campaign is alone responsible for the McCain campaign’s actions. And McCain has chosen to base his campaign solely on base, personal attacks against his opponent and on distractions from the issues at stake in the country and in this election.

Neither can the McCain campaign claim that they have to attack Obama personally because they don’t know where he stands on the issues. Obama has gone to great lengths to explain his stance on a number of policy issues. He even appeared on the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News to talk about his stance on the issues. He discussed his stance in his acceptance speech in August. He discusses them daily as he’s traveling across the country.

The McCain campaign needs to step up and accept responsibility for its own actions.

“The Fundamentals of our Economy are Strong”

So say John McCain and George W. Bush. I could maybe buy what they’re saying. Experiencing a tough time in the economy doesn’t necessarily mean that the fundamentals of our economy are weak. But then, just now, I clicked over to the front page of the New York Times. The top three headlines are as follows:

Lehman Expected to File for Bankruptcy

Bank of American in Talks to Buy Merrill Lynch

Rush Is On to Prevent Big Insurur (A.I.G.) from Failing

When our the entire financial industry is on the verge of collapse thanks to the deregulation of Republicans, I think it’s safe to say that the fundamentals of our economy are NOT strong. I also think it’s safe to say that we need to do more than cut earmark spending and root out corruption to fix these fundamental flaws in our economic policies.