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Sunday, November 02, 2008

They're both socialists

Or neither of them are. This is the claim Michael Lind makes in a recent Slate piece.

"They" are John McCain and Barack Obama. If one is a socialist, so is the other one.

Lind does more than just make the claim. He tries to show how Obama's policy proposals are not much different from what McCain offered at an earlier stage of his career.

McCain was one of the few Republicans who voted against the Bush tax cuts. "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the more fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief," he said at the time.

"What's that, Senator McCain?" one wants to ask. "Were you -- gasp! -- suggesting the Bush tax cuts were unfair?"

Raising the income cap on social security contributions? It's unclear whether Obama even favors this; but McCain did, in 2005.

Lind mostly rehashes the parts of McCain's record that made conservatives so suspicious of him in the first place. At the same time, he pulls a bit from F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman in an attempt to show that these free-market icons might have supported Obama's proposals as well.

Well, maybe. Friedman famously proposed a negative income tax, in which people who earn below some minimal amount receive additional money from the government to make up the difference. But, as I recall, he only thought it was a preferable alternative to the current welfare state bureaucracy. The thought was, if you're going to do income redistribution, do it this way, because at least it is honest and (relatively) efficient.

And neither Obama nor McCain are really proposing replacing the welfare state bureaucracy with a negative income tax (if only!) Neither really plan to do anything to make government smaller, bringing its power closer to its constitutionally-defined roots. Both would take money from Joe the Plumber (or whoever) and waste it, albeit on somewhat different things.

They're both socialists. Or neither are. As H.L. Mencken observed,

The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods

Indeed, rather than "socialist", I prefer another term to describe people like John McCain and Barack Obama: politician.

Posted by Terrence Watson on November 2, 2008 in U.S. politics | Permalink


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Raising the income cap on social security contributions? It's unclear whether Obama even favors this; but McCain did, in 2005.

And like everthing else that comes out of the mouth of THE ONE, it certainly is unclear.

Terrence, just go and have a warm bath and then get laid. That'll do your confused mind wonders

Posted by: atric | 2008-11-02 4:09:49 PM

No confusion at all on this one...they are both big government Socialists. One leans right...the other is just over the horizon on the left.

Posted by: JC | 2008-11-02 4:25:41 PM

Here's what one great American has to say about it all:


Posted by: JC | 2008-11-02 4:35:19 PM

Yes but one's party doesn't plan to ban guns.

Posted by: Pete | 2008-11-02 5:19:11 PM

Tax code is one small piece of socialist mindset, it's not a big surprise that there isn't a huge difference between them - if Obama is being at all honest.

Socialists like all of Obama's friends have a lot more than changes to the tax code in mind, they will be telling people how to live in all sorts of ways.

Posted by: Philanthropist | 2008-11-02 5:24:06 PM


If we go by the typical definition, socialism means something like "collective ownership of the means of production."

Is Obama advocating something like that?

We do know McCain supports government ownership of banks and insurance companies -- which was, as I recall, a major plank of the communist manifesto.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-11-02 5:54:54 PM

By libertarian standards Trudeau and Stanfield were both socialists too. I wonder what Canada would look like today if Stanfield has been successful?

Posted by: Johgn Chittick | 2008-11-02 8:15:49 PM

Hood Wink Robin

Rob the poor to pay the rich. This is socialism at its best or did I mean social club.

“Congressional investigators demanded State Street Corp., Citigroup Inc., and seven other banks justify billions of dollars in pay and bonuses after they accepted $125 billion as part of a taxpayer-funded bailout.

In letters to the nine firms yesterday, Representative Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said they collectively will pay $108 billion in employee compensation and bonuses in the first nine months of 2008, almost the same amount as last year.”

“Waxman also asked for the number of employees paid or projected to be paid more than $500,000, and the total and projected compensation for the banks' 10 highest-paid employees.”


Posted by: Guess What | 2008-11-02 11:03:31 PM

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