What Kind of a Socialist is Barack Obama? No Kind

July 29th, 2010 at 1:17 pm | 97 Comments |

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Stanley Kurtz has decided that Barack Obama is a socialist — a case he makes in his forthcoming book: Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism. But what does socialism mean?  Many Europeans call themselves socialist, but mean only that they support the mixed economies which every advanced country has, including the United States.  Sweden, often thought of as either a socialist utopia or nightmare, depending upon your perspective, actually has a robust private economy — indeed, almost all production is in the hands of privately held companies, just like in the United States.  Taxes are much higher than in our country — certainly on the wealthy — and are used to fund a far greater array of public goods and services.  But that is only a difference of degree, not kind, from the policies of every developed country from Canada to Australia, and including all of Western Europe.  Indeed, David Cameron, Angela Merkel, and even Mitt Romney might be said to be socialist by this standard because they support government augmented programs to provide universal health insurance.  And what about George W. Bush?  After all, it was Bush who signed into law the Medicare Part D bill, the largest extension of the welfare state in American history.  And Medicare is, in fact, a single payer system for the elderly.

Kurtz has decided that Obama is a socialist because, according to Kurtz, Obama favors a secret, incremental path to full nationalization of the economy. This is a difficult argument for Kurtz to sustain, because nothing Obama has ever written or proposed as a politician supports the allegation. Instead, in a recent post on National Review Online, Kurtz fastens on Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson as a kind of ideological doppelganger for Obama.  Kurtz notes that, in his most recent column, Meyerson proposes various policies that are pretty much standard parts of the Democratic party program–including, wait for it… criticism of big business. As a clinching detail, Kurtz observes that Meyerson (we’ve lost Obama altogether in this analysis, but, no matter, Kurtz seems to think that Meyerson and Obama are co-conspirators) is the vice-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America.

According to Kurtz, “Meyerson’s support for these Democratic initiatives could be taken as a sign that some socialists agree with conservatives. That is, sophisticated socialists and conservatives alike believe that America can be pushed into socialism by degrees. Actual existing American socialists (of the sophisticated “non-sectarian” variety typified by the DSA) don’t go around demanding full nationalization of the economy at a blow. On the contrary, they offer support to those Democratic Party initiatives most likely to bring about a socialist transformation in the long term.”

Yes, that’s sounds brilliantly plausible–why would these DSA types actually announce their nefarious intentions? But the key words from Kurtz’s remarks above are these: “could be taken….” Those three words do a lot of work in Kurtz’s analysis. Yes, it “could be taken” that mainstream liberals and Democrats like Meyerson and Obama are biding their time, waiting for the moment when, over the outraged protests of Congress, the Courts, the media, and the American people they impose a massive nationalization of the American economy (I guess Kurtz thinks this will happen by executive order — or maybe he thinks that Congress, etc. will go along with the nationalization — in which case it would be a catastrophe, but a fully democratically enacted catastrophe.  He doesn’t say).  And it also “could be taken” that Barack Obama is a giraffe if he had four legs, was very very tall, and covered with spots.  But Obama doesn’t have any of those characteristics, so he’s not a giraffe. Similarly, Obama, Meyerson, and American liberals at large “could be taken” to fervently believe in the insane and disastrous fantasy that the United States should have a fully nationalized economy.  But they don’t — and Kurtz would be hard pressed to find 1,000 Americans (and no influential ones at any level of society) who believe this nuttery — not now, and not in the avowedly to be hoped for future.   Kurtz claims that “sophisticated” socialists “don’t go around demanding full nationalization of the economy at a blow….”  But if nobody ever makes such a proposal, how can Kurtz prove his point?

What Kurtz doesn’t explain to his readers — perhaps because he doesn’t know himself — is that the DSA is not only without any influence whatsoever, a letterhead masquerading as an organization, but was also created out of a merger between a group called the New American Movement, composed of advocates of early New Left decentralization and “participatory democracy” (the exact opposite of nationalization tout court), and Michael Harrington’s group, the Democratic Socialists Organizing Committee.  Harrington, a  friend of Bill Buckley’s and  his foil in numerous televised debates, was a basic Social Democrat of the kind that frequently run the governments of almost every Western European country (I know, I know—“it could be taken” that these European social democrats want to fully nationalize their economies too).  Harrington spent his life fighting Stalinism and the Soviet Union generally, both because it was a moral monstrosity, and because of its absurd, dysfunctional economic model.  DSA, whatever it may be, is as opposed to full nationalization of the economy as much as Stanley Kurtz is.

Meyerson’s politics, similar to Harrington’s but with a particular interest in the support of the labor movement, have nothing to do with the fantasy that Kurtz has imputed to him, and if you don’t believe me, you can review his voluminous writings for yourself. If you’re a conservative, what you will find is the kind of political and economic program you will oppose, but nothing that remotely has anything to do with “the full nationalization of the economy.” Needless to say, Obama — somebody who has published a good deal for a politician and with his own pen — has never advocated such a program either.  Or one can examine his time in the Illinois and U.S. Senate to investigate whether he ever proposed the nationalization of the American economy.

There’s a good essay to be written about the almost demented anxiety, verging on paranoia, that a mainstream American liberal named Barack Obama has evoked among American conservatives.  Stanley Kurtz seems to be in a good position to write that essay — beginning perhaps with a long conversation with the face he sees in the mirror every morning.

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97 Comments so far ↓

  • anniemargret

    The 30 million Americans and their families that can stop worrying about them that will benefit from Obama’s healthcare reform will be thanking him for at least getting the ball moving forward. Left to Republicans healthcare reform would have remained in status quo for perpetuity.

    I would like to see a Medicare-type universal healthcare plan for this country. It is shameful that a country that is as prosperous as ours cannot work out a manageable fair compassionate plan for every American in this country, instead of ignoring the millions of others who have already had to face foreclosure, bankruptcy or even death.

    Because of the hissy fit that the Republicans have exhibited since Obama promised healthcare reform, I and millions of others who have family members in the above-described condition, will not be looking to the GOP for solutions. They haven’t any, nor do they give a whit.

    After all, they still got some Republican seniors worrying themselves into a frenzy due to Palin’s egregious ‘death panel’ accusation. What a party.

  • WillyP

    ha,
    Obama (and Bush, to be honest, as he did bail out the automakers) socialism really did bring us a $41k car electric car. Goes 40 miles on one charge! Go get ‘em Chevy! That’s the ticket!

    As for feeling “out-crazied,” you libs make me feel that way all the time. You spend your time defending an indefensible, incompetent, and possibly criminal administration. I, on the other hand, spend my time telling you why you’re wrong on all counts – for your own good, really.

    I’ll link again, because it might be edifying for one of you libs to click the link:
    http://www.fee.org/pdf/books/MarxismUnmasked.pdf

    Obama is a socialist, but don’t take my word for it. As Mises teaches about Engels (who might be said to know something of socialism):

    “In 1888—40 years after the publication of the Communist Manifesto— a translation was made by an English writer. Engels added some comments to this translation. Referring to the ten interventionist measures advocated in the Manifesto, he said these measures were not only untenable, as the Manifesto claimed, but precisely because they were untenable, they would necessarily push further and further toward still more measures of this kind, until eventually these more advanced measures would lead to socialism.”

    One failed intervention leading to another, until the whole free market system must be replaced by socialism. The argument is over; Eugene Debs loses.

  • Xclamation

    I wanted to stay out of this, but as Willy’s mentioned it at least twice now, I’d like to address one fallacy.

    The Chevrolet Volt is in no way the creation of a socialist government, economy or fever dream.

    The Volt was in development well before GM was temporarily bought by the government. In fact, it first debuted as a concept car in 2007, two years before GM declared bankruptcy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevy_Volt#Design

    And by the way, it goes 40 miles on one charge, without any gasoline. When you include the gas that the car burns for trips over 40 miles, the car is supposed to get somewhere in the area of 230 mpg.

  • WillyP

    actually xclamation, the car wouldn’t have been produced if GM had to go through the bankruptcy process. socialism made this laughable vehicle, this obama edsel, a reality.

    no point in debating this. the first year’s sales number will prove it to a market failure, as nobody in their right mind would choose this over a well-equipped 3 series.

    oh right, and let’s not forget a FEDERAL SUBSIDY of $7,500. can you say unfair competition?

    real great job we’ve done with American cars. sad thing is, our companies would be top notch if it weren’t FOR the gov’t and their protected, vaunted unions!

  • balconesfault

    actually xclamation, the car wouldn’t have been produced if GM had to go through the bankruptcy process. socialism made this laughable vehicle, this obama edsel, a reality.

    When dealerships have long waiting lists for the vehicles will you still be calling it an “edsel”?

    We know that you don’t want one. But then again, a huge market share of the public doesn’t share your values or aestheics, do they?

    oh right, and let’s not forget a FEDERAL SUBSIDY of $7,500. can you say unfair competition?

    Why? The subsidy isn’t being directed for purchasers of the Volt. Purchasers of the Leaf and the Tesla fleet will get it as well. The subsidy is because the federal government sees a strategic value in beginning to wean our transportation fleet off of fossil fuels over the long haul, and this is a key step in seeding the technology. The Bush Administration signed a FEDERAL SUBSIDY for hybrid vehicles – was that SOCIALISM?

    real great job we’ve done with American cars. sad thing is, our companies would be top notch if it weren’t FOR the gov’t and their protected, vaunted unions!

    Our auto makers biggest problems have to do with constantly chasing sales of higher ticket bigger size vehicles via their production and marketing, and then getting whiplashed every time there’s a spike in oil prices and people go rushing for more fuel efficient vehicles.

  • Rabiner

    WillyP:

    Why are you against a Federal Subsidy for electric vehicles but say nothing of the tax code which allows companies to write off capital due to depreciation? How about all the other tax benefits for doing one thing or another that you seem to be totally against? I have no problems with corporations being given incentives to invest in new technologies and to speed the innovation process. Apparently that falls into ‘socialism’ to you though.

  • mickster99

    Hey everybody. Don’t you get it? Obama is really an anarchist. He wants to destroy all forms of government. Isn’t this what Alinsky and the Weather Underground trained him to be. He has cleverly cloaked himself in the role of Socialist merely as a distraction when what he ultimately wants to achieve is total anarchy. Why we don’t see this is that he has cleverly co-opted the media into believing he is merely a Nazi Communist Socialist. Merely to distract us from this true goals. Please America wake up before it’s too late. I only hope that Glenn Beck realizes this. He is our only hope. Ok, maybe Frum can help too.

  • mickster99

    WillyP.

    I just read your post. Thank goodness you’ve at least gotten the first lie. But read my post. There is more to the insidious evil going on within our vary government. Obama is more than than just a socialist. More than just a Nazi Communist. He is an anarchist. Please help me fight this. Glenn Beck must be told the real truth about Obama. Socialsim is merely a cover for what he really is. Help save American, the Republic, before it’s too late.

  • CentristNYer

    WillyP // Jul 29, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    “I, on the other hand, spend my time telling you why you’re wrong on all counts – for your own good, really.”

    Gee, WillyP — sounds like you’re a socialist.

  • Xclamation

    WillyP, a rebuttal to your, “the car wouldn’t have been produced if GM had to go through the bankruptcy process” comment.

    In fact, GM did go through the bankruptcy process (a quick Google search will confirm this. I searched using the terms “GM bankruptcy 2009″. Google returned about 1,790,000 results. If even one half of one percent of those are relevant to the discussion, that’s still almost 90,000 pages of proof). “Bankruptcy” does not equal “going out of business” – this is a distinction that becomes important in my second point.

    And when you think of it, that whole Chapter 11 thing is kind of socialist. I mean, why does some pushy government bureaucrat get to say which assets I get to keep and which I have to sell just because I can’t pay my bills? Why can’t I just slink off in the middle of the night and start over fresh in one of the other 49 states in this great country by purchasing a new driver’s license, birth certificate and social security card from an unregulated guy who’s set up shop out of a suitcase on a street corner?

    Also, I’m sorry to say, but I think it’s more than just a little bit of a stretch to try and somehow tie the Chevy Volt to socialism, or the government at all really. Again, the car was in production for more than two years before the government bought a majority share of the company. And even if the Treasury hadn’t bought up GM’s stock, someone else would have (because remember, the company wasn’t going out of business, it was just admitting that it couldn’t cover its obligations) and the Volt still (most likely) would have been released.

    One last quick thing, why is it that anytime the government tries to do anything (such offering to subsidize fuel-efficient cars, or SUVs for that matter) people start crying about how unfair it is? I wasn’t aware that in offering incentives the government was simultaneously forcing the citizenry to abandon all rational thought and culpability in favor of doing what their democratically elected overlords tell them to. Really, what’s the practical difference between the government offering incentives and a private company slashing the price of a commodity to help it sell?

  • WillyP

    In case it is not clear, in my hundreds of posts, I AM AGAINST GOVERNMENT DIRECTION OF INDUSTRY. You bizarre “liberal” statists hate private industry and love government. The only explanation I can proffer is psychological in nature – you believe government to hold the same ideals you hold. It’s as if you’ve never heard of a lying politician.

    I believe government should be reserved to the core functions that make society stable, that enable a free market to flourish. The highest priority should be security of our natural rights, including freedom of speech, worship, and the protection of private property. If you want to throw in a few very, very early stage R&D projects – NASA, advanced energy development, fundamental physics – then fine. Let them have that too, if it’ll keep them away from everything else.

    The institution of government is not mystical, not wiser, not any more accountable than private corporations. Matter of fact it is often shrouded in secrecy, deception, and corruption. Sure, there was Enron and there was Worldcom, but these PALE in comparison to the damage wrought by the Federal Reserve System and its completely legal inflationary practices.

    Honestly, even if you think government was good at creating worthwhile and quality products, where is the age old wisdom that government can just as easily be turned against the people? This was theme #1 of the American Revolution. The events of the 20th century should have served as a wake-up call for those who earnestly believe in the cause benevolent government. The Russian Revolution WAS a popular revolution. So was the ascension of the Nazis.

    How quickly the Russians and Germans learned that a government that provides you with everything holds the right to deny you what you need to live.

    And may I add: Democracy only works with a written constitution that expressly limits government involvement in public affairs. The Greeks, practitioners themselves, gave Democracy a bad name for centuries following the mob/majoritarian rule if the Athenians, who, while at war with Sparta, authorized genocide after genocide. The will of the majority is not to be celebrated qua the will of the majority. The Constitution of the United States wasn’t arbitrary; it represented the best, if compromised, statement on the proper scope of government power.

    I, for one, would rather be ruled by a King than a vindictive and uneducated mob.

  • WillyP

    xclamation,
    “Really, what’s the practical difference between the government offering incentives and a private company slashing the price of a commodity to help it sell?”

    It’s the difference between a free market and a command economy. I would recommend starting here:
    http://www.fee.org/pdf/books/Economics_in_one_lesson.pdf

    Do you work for Chevy or something?

  • sinz54

    Xclamation: Also, I’m sorry to say, but I think it’s more than just a little bit of a stretch to try and somehow tie the Chevy Volt to socialism, or the government at all really.
    Think so?

    Look at all the Government subsidies and favors going into this lemon, without which it wouldn’t exist at all:

    http://i27.tinypic.com/28sbsxj.jpg

    G.M.’s vision turned into a car that costs $41,000 before relevant tax breaks … but after billions of dollars of government loans and grants for the Volt’s development and production. And instead of the sleek coupe of 2007, it looks suspiciously similar to a Toyota Prius. It also requires premium gasoline, seats only four people (the battery runs down the center of the car, preventing a rear bench) and has less head and leg room than the $17,000 Chevrolet Cruze, which is more or less the non-electric version of the Volt….

    G.M. decided to make the Volt more affordable by offering a $350-a-month lease over 36 months. But that offer allows only 12,000 miles per year, or about 33 miles per day. Assuming you charged your Volt every evening, giving you 40 miles of battery power, and wanted to keep below the mileage limit, you would rarely use its expensive range-extending gas engine. No wonder the Volt’s main competition, the Nissan Leaf, forgoes the additional combustion engine — and ends up costing $8,000 less as a result.

    In the industry, some suspect that G.M. and the Obama administration decided against selling the Volt at a loss because they want the company to appear profitable before its long-awaited initial stock offering, which is likely to take place next month. For taxpayers, that approach might have made sense if the government planned on selling its entire 61 percent stake in G.M. But the administration has said it will sell only enough equity in the public offering to relinquish its controlling stake in G.M. Thus the government will remain exposed to the company’s (and the Volt’s) long-term fate.

    So the future of General Motors (and the $50 billion taxpayer investment in it) now depends on a vehicle that costs $41,000 but offers the performance and interior space of a $15,000 economy car.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/opinion/30neidermeyer.html?ref=opinion

  • sinz54

    In the final analysis, all that counts is whether Obama’s policies are really making life better for American households.

    This past week, quietly and without much publicity, Obama released his Administration’s Fiscal Year 2011 Mid-Session Review.

    And on page 9, you find a flat prediction that the unemployment rate won’t drop below 6% till the year 2015.

    That wouldn’t be fatal, as long as there were other visible signs that the economy was humming, like a soaring stock market. (That would make all Americans with IRA and 401(k) plans feel richer.)

    But that hasn’t happened either.

    Nor have housing starts recovered.

    Indeed, all the “progress” that is cited by such Obama fans as “anniemargaret” concerns GOVERNMENT programs and GOVERNMENT favors and GOVERNMENT subsidies and GOVERNMENT bailouts.

    The private sector–that part of it that doesn’t depend on Government bailouts–continues to do poorly.

  • easton

    wow WillyP, did you ever once conceive that history has shown you to be utterly wrong? Look at all the civilizations that had very little government and those that had strong government. If you really want to live in a society that has no government, move to Somalia. You have fools who believe in ideology irrespective of facts and normal people who think if government can do something better then let it, if not, then don’t. Every other OECD nation has far more government intervention in health care than the US, pays far less, and has better outcomes, yet you choose to believe in this infantile “gummint bad, no gummint good” and seem to believe that if you repeat it enough times you will convince anyone else. The fact that you wrote down such a tedious “This I believe” shows truly how out of touch you are. No one cares unless you are prepared to back up your belief with facts instead of “I believe this, so it must be true” garbage. Try thinking for yourself instead of just regurgitating far right ideology.

  • jjv

    balconesfault-If the transaction is completely within the state I don’t think federal power extends to it. Same for OSHA. I also think the state can set higher standards to soley intrastate transactions regardless of what the Federal government wants.

  • easton

    sinz, good lord, the Volt is a new technology, but inevitably the price will go down, the question is do you want it to belong to the Chinese, Japanese, Germans, or the US to have a stake in the future? GM now sells more cars in China than the US, have you ever considered how beneficial this is to America instead of stating, let GM die and we can pretend that America doesn’t need to make anything, we can all be hedge fund managers.

    And you analysis of the economy is laughable in the extreme. The Bush administration nearly burned the economy down and you are angry the country hasn’t been repaired in 2 years. I take it you are older than 2 and remember how close we were to the brink. Lehman brothers bankrupt, the economy is total freefall, banking frozen, jobs lost at 600,000 a month (and this after virtually no job growth under Bush), an 800 billion dollar bank bailout.

    The stock market plunged to around 6,000 and if not for bank stabilization would have been down who knows how far, now the market is over 10,000. And you are stating that is not recovery?

    The Bush administration went on a home building spree, which created the financial crisis, and you are angry that the housing collapse is not played out in a short time? Do you even know there was a housing bubble? As to Unemployment, since it will take a few years for the housing market to turn around only an idiot would think a depression in this segment would not have ripple effects. But when it does the economy will begin to boom again based on simple demographics (provided Republican fools are kept away from the economy)

  • JonF

    the US governmment has been intervening in the US economy for time immemorial. The Grant administration bailed out banks after the Paic of 1873. The Washington administration established a national bank. Were all presidents socialists?
    Instead of debating what insults we can pin on politicians we don’t like maybe we could be debating what policies we think best for the country.

  • WillyP

    LOL! I am out of touch?! Ask 10 people on the street if they’ve experience a recovery. Ask those same 10 people how they view the President and Congress. And then ask them who they’ll be voting for in November.

    Out of touch is defending a recovery than AIN’T HAPPENING! Dolts, all damn dolts.

  • WillyP

    easton,
    did it ever occur to you that just maybe strong governments are only able to come into existence after a strong culture creates a strong economy for that government to prey off of?

    or is it that the institution with a monopoly on the legal use of force is always responsible for peaceful trade and development?

    what political theorists do you like to read? who do you find to be an insightful political scientist, social critic, economist, journalist, or historian? the nation magazine? the new york times?

  • Xclamation

    WillyP, I’m sorry if I seem preoccupied with the Volt. I promise I don’t work for GM, or any aspect of the auto industry. Really!

    I only keep returning to the issue because I’m trying to gauge where you’re coming from when you say things like, “[I]f GM had to go through… bankruptcy” or make charges such as, “[S]ocialism really did bring us a $41k… electric car.” And now I think I know. I could be wrong about you, but I’m getting the impression that you’re a person who (at least when it comes to the relationship between government and business) doesn’t see any middle-ground and you don’t believe in compromise. That’s fine, everyone’s entitled to draw the line where they see fit. But I personally tend not to take the advice or assertions of people who can’t see their way to a bit of moderation. But that’s just me.

    Sinz54, you’re right and I stand corrected; GM did avail itself of a bucket-load of public funds to help realize its plans.

  • franco 2

    Lets note for the record that when it comes to words like SOCIALISM, lefties harken back to the end results of the ideology, compare it to the USA today, and guffaw. They won t address the fact that we are moving in the DIRECTION of socialism and that one day (soon perhaps) there will be a tipping point where the government is so big and dependent on production that is TOO BIG TO FAIL and so they RESCUE said industries. This is basically the plan, and it is being implemented. Alinsky focused on the incremental approach and co~opting values… a stealth operation. Obama and other Democrats (Hillary for another) are admitted FANS of Alinsky.

  • franco 2

    Id like to use the same argument that leftist use about the word SOCIALISM and apply it to the word RACISM.

    First you have to define it in its most stark terms. Then you claim that it doesn’t exist because no longer are blacks being hung from trees and no institutional discrimination takes place. Therefore there is no racism in America.

  • WillyP

    xclamation,
    I believe in compromise when compromise is a) practical b) beneficial.

    Since there is literally nothing to be gained through “government and business working together” I do not support any compromise. Most Liberals (not libs) are abhorred by the assertion that government should be in bed with business and vice-versa.

    As government does not produce anything but security – i.e., protecting rights – its economic means are redistribution. Is there some role for a low-bar safety net for those who have no access to private charity? Perhaps? Are we VERY FAR away from this, and does government now do full service health insurance? Yes. And it’s a disaster, bankrupt, corrupt, and hated by physicians.

    Come to think of it, when it comes to many business – banking, for example – libs think that government should not be acting so friendly to business. I am consistent; I do not support special privilege for any business.

    I am a conservative who believes in very limited government. Forays into the market should come, if at all, on the state level. This is why we have Federalism – experimentation. Libs like a strong, all-encompassing central government. Sorry, no dice for me. They need to grow up and stop worshiping the State.

  • balconesfault

    Willy: The highest priority should be security of our natural rights, including freedom of speech, worship, and the protection of private property.

    How is there a natural right of private property? Particularly with respect to real estate?

    All real estate ownership rights are created by the government. The only “natural” right to real estate ownership is what you can defend with your gun.

    Heh … Franco brings up Alinsky. Can ACORN be far behind?

  • CentristNYer

    easton: “sinz, good lord, the Volt is a new technology, but inevitably the price will go down, the question is do you want it to belong to the Chinese, Japanese, Germans, or the US to have a stake in the future?”

    Thank you, easton, for making this point. These idiots are so blinded by their loathing of anything the government touches that they’re unwilling to concede that federal support for new technologies actually makes us stronger. (But, of course, that undercuts their moronic “Obama is a socialist” narrative.)

    Why does WillyP hate America?

  • WillyP

    Centrist,
    Fine, you can take up the definition I provided byway of Engels, who apparently agrees with me.

    Obama IS a socialist. The argument was over long ago. His entire life suggests it.

    If all of my closest friends, associates, and colleagues were racists, and when running for office I suddenly claimed ignorance of their beliefs and activities, you’d call me a flagrant liar. Yet this is exactly what Obama did when it came to his Chicago cadre of neo-Socialist Marxists.

    Truth means nothing to you liberals. You worship a personality. The same frighteningly close-minded mentality of Cult members.

    And if I hated America, I wouldn’t have faith enough to know that, unlike you hardcore EXTREMIST liberals, the VAST, VAST majority of Americans are going to throw these Dem bums out of office in 2010 and 2012.

  • easton

    “I am a conservative who believes in very limited government. Forays into the market should come, if at all, on the state level” laughably absurd. So big big government is bad, but big small government is OK provided we call it state. never mind that we have many states that have bigger economies than some countries. It is this idiotic notion that “gummint bad” which has no basis in reality.
    WillyP is agin it because he is agin it. Dude, government is the foundation of civilization. If you were in a ship wreck deserted on an island, for the survivors to continue to live they would first have to organize a system of governance and division of responsibilities. WillyP, of course, would be dead in a week since he is so agin Gummint. If Government is so essential at such a primitive level, how dumb can you be to believe it is not necessary in such an incredibly complex society in which we live?

    And no one “worships” the state here. Do you even know English? Do you really think this is Imperial Japan where the Emperor is a God? Oh wait, for people like you Ayn Rand is a god.

  • CentristNYer

    Hey, Willy. Better have your doctor double your meds. I can feel the spittle all the way here in New York.

  • WillyP

    easton,
    Unraveling your tragic and embarrassingly unsophisticated view of human history, the nature of human economic activity, and the foundations of civilization require more time than I have. I refer you here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Fatal-Conceit-Errors-Socialism-Collected/dp/0226320669

    It’s a good place to start.

    Centrist,
    I was born in NY, and currently live and work in, NYC.

  • Fairy Hardcastle

    If I understand WillyP correctly, he would remove special credits for various “encouraged” economic activities in favor of (i) an overall lower tax burden and (ii) letting the market and American entrepreneural spirit rock the economy. The auto bailout as a case in point: under laissez-faire market approach, GM and Chrysler would probably have tanked but why not private concerns picking up parts of the operations and starting new companies? Ford survived and is the strongest automaker around now.

    I think this is probably the purest expression of limited government you can have, but you can look at the tax code and see how far we are from that.

  • WillyP

    fairy,
    yes, that’s basically it.

    but on a more profound level, it’s because i acknowledge the a profitable (i.e., beneficial) business can only be established through the process of profit/loss as provided by financial accounting.

    the government, rejecting basic accounting signals, papering over losses, and inflating to cover deficits, essentially rejects the very tool that enables the extended order: namely, money. in doing so, they reject the yardstick by which to weigh opportunity cost. they are blind to the true costs of their interferences, and their actions inevitably end up causing more harm than good. they get stuck playing a game of economic whack-a-mole.

    so yes, i reject government interference with industry. but i do not do so because i blindly “hate” government. i do because i understand why/how business and commerce have emerged to created a complex network consisting of the division of labor and full utilization of material resources, maximizing human material desires.

    only a true ascetic would advocate socialism. like, let’s say, the “greens”…

  • balconesfault

    Fairy: (i) an overall lower tax burden and (ii) letting the market and American entrepreneural spirit rock the economy

    Since a significant reduction in tax burden and gutting of the regulatory state during the 2000′s worked so well to “rock the economy”, why not go all the way?

  • LFC

    Balcone, some people just can’t grasp the difference between “rock the economy” and ““drive the economy up on the rocks.”

  • Fairy Hardcastle

    balconesfault,

    The financial downturn was not due to underregulation — it was due to lack of enforcement of existing regulations. Does Madoff ring a bell? How about our erstwhile SEC porn surfers? In the final analysis, it was not a lack of rules, it was a lack of character, starting with B. Frank and his bosom buddy, to some entrepreneurs fixated on the profit and not the cost, down to the mortgage broker selling the subprime and negative amortization loans, to the imprudent homebuyers.

    It was a lack of proper upbringing, which means a lack of proper parenting.

  • balconesfault

    Fairy: The financial downturn was not due to underregulation — it was due to lack of enforcement of existing regulations.

    Partially correct, but not completely. But for the sake of argument I will grant it … lack of enforcement of existing regulations during the Bush era was in large part a form of “Executive Branch Nullification” of regulations that were passed by Congress and signed by previous Presidents.

    Obviously, the Bush Administration could not have stricken decades of financial, environmental, and worker protection laws off the books in a very short time (although there are, as we see here, many in the party who would favor doing just that). But they could hire political appointees throughout the bureaucracy who were vetted by the Heritage Foundation, and dedicated to the principle articulated by David Koch in his interview referenced here the other day – that regulations are a “destructive force”.

    You load a bureaucracy with that attitude at the top, and it will quit. Sure, when they come to realize that any enforcement action they prepare will end up collecting dust on a shelf, some people will do the right thing and find other jobs, others do the cynical thing and porn surf. But the reality was that their bosses weren’t going to let them do their jobs.

    Give me a Republican Party like we had 40 years ago – which believed in a strong regulatory community, albeit not an omnipotent and omnipresent one – and there is some headway to be made. But when you have a Republican Party whose rhetoric is “Government is Bad” then they are going to run bad governments.

  • Fairy Hardcastle

    Balconesfault,

    Certainly each Administration has its agenda and perhaps favors some areas of enforcement over others. The present Administration is apparently devising a mechanism to get around immigration laws and effectively “de-regulate” portions of that area. Your point is interesting. Do you have any other sources that support your view that SEC supervisors were simply shelving certain enforcement projects?

    Not being old enough, I really don’t know what it was like 40 years ago to comment on whether those were the halcyon days of the GOP.

  • Wallrat

    @ Fairy … how do you characterize the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act which repealed Glass–Steagall?

  • John Q

    “There’s a good essay to be written about the almost demented anxiety, verging on paranoia, that a mainstream American liberal named Barack Obama has evoked among American conservatives.”

    Actually, there’s enough material for a whole book, and it has been written:

    OVER THE CLIFF by John Amato and David Neiwert.

    http://www.amazon.com/Over-Cliff-Obamas-Election-American/dp/0982417179/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280516452&sr=8-1#reader_0982417179

    From the Amazon product description:

    “(The authors) examine the torrent of right-wing kookery—the eager willingness of conservatives to fervently believe things that are provably false—and its ramifications both for our national discourse and our national well-being. The authors show how this outlandish, overheated rhetoric—generated by mainstream-media figures like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Lou Dobbs—is accompanied by a wave of lethal right-wing violence and threatening behavior.

    The book explores the main drivers of this descent into madness: the extremist Radical Right and the longtime Republican willingness—dating back to Nixon, but refined in more recent years by Lee Atwater and his acolytes—to engage in a divisive politics of resentment, both racial and cultural. ”

    (Snopes.com lists literally hundreds of false rumors that have been spread about Obama.)

  • John Q

    “Give me a Republican Party like we had 40 years ago – which believed in a strong regulatory community, albeit not an omnipotent and omnipresent one – and there is some headway to be made. But when you have a Republican Party whose rhetoric is “Government is Bad” then they are going to run bad governments.”

    You’ll find it really instructive to go back to the Republican Party platform of 1956 to see just how far the party has fallen.

  • balconesfault

    1956 Republican Platform, eh?

    Well, there’s an awful lot of reasons to consider the Tea Party a modern offshoot of the John Birch Society.

    And the John Birch Society did accuse President Eisenhower of being a communist sympathizer, and possibly even a Soviet agent.

  • busboy33

    @WillyP:

    “Obama IS a socialist. The argument was over long ago. His entire life SUGGESTS it.”

    Sorry about adding that second emphasis, I just couldn’t resist with something this silly.

    Suggestions are proof beyond dispute now?

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  • MaidMarion

    Eugene Victor,

    Why do you post your opinions under the secrecy and protection of a pseudonym? Before even reading the first word of the first paragraph of your “rebuttal” to Stanley Kurtz, it’s clear by your unwillingness to identify yourself that no personal conviction or personal courage underlies any attempted points you might try to make against Kurtz.

    Stop hiding Eugene.

  • HoldenLitgo

    WillyP-

    “You worship a personality. The same frighteningly close-minded mentality of Cult members.”

    One word for you:

    Reagan.

    In fact, you con jobs have been looking in vain for him ever since he drifted into dementia and died. While still in office. You’ll never find him, for he never really was.

  • kmj08c

    I love how such benign and completely powerless organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America get inflated into powerful shadowy enemies.

    Oh, and WillyP, this thing about “his whole life suggests it” – this is complete nonsense. If you’re going to throw out crap like that, you need to be able to back up your arguments and so far you haven’t been able to. Not to mention that you’re essentially parroting Glenn Beck’s view to the letter and he’s not exactly a paragon of veracity.