Socialism: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
Since he announced his first campaign for president and to this day, Barack Obama has been called many things: a Kenyan, a Muslim, a traitor and even an ape. While most of these claims are demonstrably false on their face to all but the blindest zealots, there is one that might require more than thirty seconds to disprove to a rational individual.
That is the claim that he is a “socialist.” As Rachel Maddow has said, if he is, he is “the worst socialist EVER!” Let’s look at the evidence.
The Big Picture: If our country were moving toward socialism, several trends would be obvious: government employment would be increasing in relation to the total population; corporate profits would be shrinking; the value of these corporations’ stocks would decline while their share of tax revenues increased; and more typically private sector functions would be replaced by government agencies. In fact, for every case, the reverse is true.
- Government employment fell from 7.4% to 6.9% of the population during his first administration.
- Corporate profits are at record levels, both in absolute terms and as a fraction of the GDP.
- The stock market continues to break records.
- Corporate taxes are at their lowest levels since WWII, and President Obama has proposed lowering the rate. Oh, and by the way,in 2010, when the Tea Party protests began, personal income taxes were at their lowest level in fifty years. (“Taxed Enough Already,” indeed!)
- Privatization. President Obama has done nothing to make private sector functions into government ones. In fact, he and his Education Secretary support the ongoing movement to privatize education through charter schools.
But what about Obamacare?!? The centerpiece of the socialist claims is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which has become to be known as Obamacare. Again, let’s look at the facts.
- Today, the US does have socialized medicine! It is called Tricare, and it covers our military personnel our veterans. Despite some complaints, which generally concern the privately run Tricare Prime, it is overwhelming popular with those covered by it.
- In addition, the US does offer government “single payer” medical insurance, called Medicare which covers the elderly. It is one of the most popular Federal programs in the country, even among those who denounce the president as a socialist.
- A similar program, Medicaid, covers the poor. Both were created as amendments to Social Security in 1965. Although the US government supplies some of its funds, Medicaid is a joint state-federal program. Each state has a choice of whether to participate, and if it does, to define its administration. While Obamacare extended this coverage to a broader range of income levels, The Supreme Court has ruled that this expansion, like the program itself, is a state option.
- A bit of history. The concept of an “individual mandate” was laid out in 1989 by the conservative Heritage Foundation. It later became the basis of a free market alternative proposed by 21 Republican Senators to the plan proposed by the Clinton administration ( a/k/a “Hillarycare”). A nearly identical plan was implemented in Massachusetts by Gov. Mitt Romney with the help of the Heritage Foundation, and proved extremely successful and popular. His 2008 endorsement by The National Review cited Romneycare as a plus, with some reservations. The individual mandate was the shining light of the conservative principle of personal, rather than communal, responsibility until the summer of 2009.
- The Great Reversal: After his election, President Obama focused on reforming healthcare. He abandoned the “single-payer” (Medicare for all) approach even before negotiations began. He then took the advice of Mitt Romney and switched from a “public option” for universal enrollment to the individual mandate. Overnight, this conservative approach became “socialism” and has been universally opposed by the GOP. Mitt Romney tried unsuccessfully to deny his greatest success. The author of the original Heritage Foundation paper twisted himself into a pretzel trying to say that he did not write what is there in black and white. Socialist, indeed!
- Other “Republican Socialist” policies: It’s not just Obamacare. Most of the President’s policies were mainstream GOP only a few years ago.
- Immigration reform, including a path to citizenship was supported by George W. Bush.
- “Cap and trade” was developed under Ronald Reagan as a free market alternative to CAFE standards and was included as part of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, supported by many Republicans, and signed by George H.W. Bush.
- Gun control: Ronald Reagan endorsed the Brady Bill, and the assault weapons ban of 1994. In 1999, the NRA supported universal background checks and gun-free schools.
So, every time someone says that President Obama, whose polices reflect the centrist GOP positions of the past, is a socialist, both Karl Marx and Theodore Roosevelt spin in their graves!
Correction: I have become aware of two small errors in this post.
- A friend who is a doctor at a VA hospital informed me that while government doctors at military and VA hospitals provide service directly (i.e., “socialized medicine”). Tricare is, in fact, an insurance program more akin to Medicare.
- I omitted another form of socialized medicine: emergency rooms. Those without insurance are treated and the bills are paid by the government. This was part of Mitt Romney’s health care plan in 2012, and would be eliminated if the states would fully implement the terms of Obamacare.
 Many of these points are in a very informative summary from Forbes, which can be found here.
 “…neither the federal government nor any state requires all households to protect themselves from the potentially catastrophic costs of a serious accident or illness. Under the Heritage plan, there would be such a requirement.” p. 6.
 “First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. This doesn’t cost the government a single dollar.”
 “Some in this country argue that the solution is to deport every illegal immigrant and that any proposal short of this amounts to amnesty. I disagree. It is neither wise nor realistic to round up millions of people, many with deep roots in the United States, and send them across the border. There is a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant, and a program of mass deportation.”
 Wayne LaPierre: “First, we believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period … with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel…. We support restoring full and perpetual funding for the National Instant Check System, which was the product of this Association’s determined effort.” [Emphasis added.]
Crossposted from my blog at All American Politico. You should check out the site. The opinions span the spectrum.
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons.