Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Obama and socialism

This Magazine Staff

McCain, Palin, and their Republican acolytes have recently taken to calling Barack Obama a socialist. In making that “charge” (apparently socialism is a very bad thing in the States) they point to Obama’s progressive, or punitive, depending on how you look at it, income-tax plan. In his plan, people making more than $250,000 will face increased tax rates. The rest will experience tax cuts. The McCain campaign calls this redistributionist and, therefore, socialist.
There are a few things to keep in mind at this point: graduated taxation is not necessarily socialism. It is, at best, only one of the conditions for socialism. The United States is now and has been for quite a while a country with a graduated income-tax rate. Obama merely wants to increase the top marginal income-tax rate from 35 to 39.6, amounting to an incremental progression from an existing income-tax plan – not a major shift into a totally different economic system.
Finally, McCain and Palin should not be throwing stones. Palin, as Alaska’s governor, did nothing but redistribute wealth. Here is the New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg on Palin’s hypocrisy:
“She is, at the very least, a fellow-traveller of what might be called socialism with an Alaskan face. The state that she governs has no income or sales tax. Instead, it imposes huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government’s activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year’s check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269.”

And when asked in 2000 why people are being penalized for making more money and if this was socialism, McCain responded: “Here’s what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.”
That indeed might be what he really feels. Now why can’t he bring himself to let the truth out? He knows Obama is not a socialist and, ultimately, he sort of agrees with Obama’s plan, if not the specifics. Where’s the “Straight Talk Express” now?

Show Comments