The benchmark in responsible journalism for those offering commentary aught to be that those whom journalists call upon should be interesting, thought-provoking, and have an outstanding depth of understanding for the topic discussed. If they’re not all that, journalists should not call on them.
All too often these days, when reporters call on conservatives to comment on this election, the direction of the country, or the President’s leadership, it turns out to merely be an opportunity for those people to call President Obama a socialist.
This is usually the point at which I begin hollering and throwing stuff at my TV.
But interestingly, often as not, I don’t holler at the interviewee, because they’re just doing what hyper-partisans do – call names. They’re also not the ones in control of whether they’re polluting my television or newspaper – the reporters are. So I holler at the journalist, because I believe that there are really only two journalistically-valid responses for the oft-leveled “Obama is a socialist” charge: to immediately terminate the interview and direct the show’s producer to lose that guy’s phone number and find a real guest; or to immediately demand of the interviewee their specific definition of “socialism” and how that definition fits the charge that the President is one. Most journalists exercise neither option. They actually treat this intellectual mental illness as if it is somewhat normal behavior.
As a result of this journalistic malfeasance, conservative thought-leaders feel free to level the charge on an hourly basis, and conservative thought-puppets repeat it on a constant one.
But never fear: for the journalists failing to do their jobs, for conservatives failing to offer actual ideas, and for thought-puppets failing to even contemplate diverting from what they are told to parrot, Letters From Texas Worldwide Headquarters to the rescue. Here’s why those who repeat the charge have nothing valid to share, and upon saying it should give up the privilege of ever being invited to participate in political discourse in any legitimate public forum for any reason, ever again: Obama is simply not a socialist. Or, if he is, he’s the absolute worst socialist in the history of socialism.
Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines socialism:
1. any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2. a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
3. a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done
Let’s take each definition one-by-one.
First, on controlling the means of production: has the President indicated that any sort of hallmark of his administration highlights either worker or government control of the means of production? No, he has not. Not even close.
But what of conservative squaking about so-called “Obamacare” constituting the socialized government take-over of health care? Well, sad to tell you – it is a out-and-out lie. When President Obama rejected the public option and instead opted for an individual mandate – just as then-Governor Romney did in Massachusetts – Obama, in effect, delivered millions and millions of new customers to commercial insurance companies. That isn’t socialism. It’s the opposite of socialism.
And what of conservative gnashing of teeth over government bailouts to save the faltering economy at the end of the Bush administration? It seems to me that a socialist President worth the label, after having invested in banks and auto manufacturers and such, would want to retain that ownership share for the government – in other words, control the means of production. But instead, the government has been selling off its shares of all of the above just as fast as the markets will tolerate it. This specific objective of the government relinquishing control over the means of production is about as un-socialist as it gets.
Second, on creating a system in which there is no private property: please. Anybody who sees any sign of that from the Obama administration has more issues than can be addressed here. You need go no further than recent stock market reports which show the market soaring to know that nobody on Wall Street, which is the greatest institution of capitalism on earth, is worried about President Obama taking away their property. And incidentally, “capitalism” is the antonym of “socialism,” and when Wall Street – the center of the capitalist universe – is posting multi-year record highs, it’s pretty safe to assume that the rich folks aren’t busy jumping from their balconies in abject terror that the White House might away their stuff. Those high stock prices constitute yet another example of why, if Obama is a socialist, he’s a damn poor one.
And third, a transitional step between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done: if whatever stage we are in as a nation is a transition away from capitalism and toward communism, where is the evidence of that? The growing income gap between the rich and the poor is, if anything, evidence to the contrary. And what greater evidence of any such transitional step has the Obama administration produced, than any other administration before it? If the guideposts of that are policies which increase opportunity for those in poverty to move up – you caught us, we’re guilty. But if you claim that those policies are at the expense of wealthy Americans, you can just refer back to those multi-year record highs on Wall Street we just discussed. Those who own most of the stuff around here seem like they couldn’t be tickled pinker with the way things are going, to watch Wall Street.
Those definitions aside…perhaps those hyper-partisan conservatives who call Obama a socialist are more generally just PO’ed because of Obama’s attempts to narrow the opportunity gap in America. And if that’s what they’re complaining about, they’ll have a hard time explaining why they would advocate against greater opportunity for those who didn’t previously have much of it.
But they’d also have a hard time explaining how that is different from some of their own Republican Presidents’ attempts to narrow gaps in opportunity and lack of protection for Americans, poor or otherwise. Like when Ronald Reagan’s federal government expanded instead of shrank. Or when Reagan bailed out Social Security in 1983. Or when George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Or when Richard Nixon proposed the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Or when George W. Bush signed the re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006.
It is so clear that Barack Obama isn’t a socialist that I can’t believe people have to write pieces like this explaining why. What is less clear is why journalists continue to allow hyper-partisans to pollute the grown-ups’ news by childishly claiming it.