By RUFUS G.W. SANDERS, Register columnist
The term socialism has been kicked around ever since the 2008 presidential campaign in an attempt to characterize and denigrate the policies and political philosophy of President Barack Obama. The president has been called a practicing communistic socialist, accused of attempting to create some type of totalitarian governmental system where the power will lie with the president and his administration as opposed to the people with whom it should rest with in a democracy like ours.
The leader of the House Republicans, Ohioan John Boehner, is calling the stimulus package proposed and executed by the administration the beginning of "a new American socialist experiment." Never mind the fact that he and the Republican leadership not only can not come up with anything better, but for the last eight years they allowed this country to slide down this slippery-slope economy called free-market capitalism.
Socialism is one of those pejorative political terms which actually comes in many different forms and means many different things. In truth it is the yang to the yin of capitalism. The two are symbiotically intertwined, unable to exist without the other.
It is true the president will increase governmental control over the economy and his policies will promote a more equitable society where wealth will be redistributed and raise taxes rates on the Americans who are more able to pay for such increases. This will aid in the creation of a universal health care program, a more affordable education program and an earnest attempt at creating a more efficient green ecological system. These are things that have all but been ignored by the pure capitalist ideologies of the last 30 years.
What the president is espousing is not socialism but social responsibility, constitutional obligations and societal accountability. In 2000 I wrote on these pages in a column called "Capitalism with a conscience":
"...The growth in first time unemployment, the slumping gross domestic product, the drop in personal income levels, declining manufacturing activity and low homes sales all point to the fact our consumptive way of life is quickly slowing down. This decades-long run of economic prosperity has hit a snag."
At the time I called for a continuation of the Clinton policies which had created the best economy that the country had ever seen. But of course Bush reverted to the Reagan and Bush I policies of trickle-down economics which has decimated not only the American economy but that of the entire globe.
Real socialism, it appears to me, might lie at the feet of Ronald Reagan and both George Bushes. They transferred wealth from the poor and the middle class to the rich, making them even more opulent, so much so that President Obama's redistributive wealth measures look small and weak as compared to those of the Reagan era.
Reagan reduced the income tax for the wealthiest and took away regulations for banks and cooperations. His policies sent interest rates skyrocketing. He raised taxes on gasoline and cigarettes in an attempt to trim the deficit. He looted the Social Security retirement surplus, something from which we have never recovered. His redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich led to an economic melt-down that resurfaced during the last eight years because of the same polices.
If this was not some type of socialism, then please tell me what it is. Even FDR's redistributive programs are pale compared to the Reagan years. His polices were similar to those Hoover allowed in the 1920s, which led to the Great Depression.
So who is the real socialist here? I contend that Reagan-style wealth redistribution is way more socialistic than those of a president who understands it is no longer the job of government to manage the market, ensuring that a few get rich at the expense of the poor, but it is the job of the government to help empower all citizens for participation in this free market-run economy called capitalism.