Obama is No Socialist

I’ve often mocked the Republicans who call Barack Obama a socialist. Most likely they are simply engaging in the hyperbole commonly seen from the right but at times I have wondered if they even know what socialism really means. The Washington Post ran an op-ed from a real socialist, and he certainly does not think Obama is one. Here is a portion of his criticism of Obama’s policies. The point here is not to give any credence to his criticism but to point out how different Obama’s views are from true socialists:

The funny thing is, of course, that socialists know that Barack Obama is not one of us. Not only is he not a socialist, he may in fact not even be a liberal. Socialists understand him more as a hedge-fund Democrat — one of a generation of neoliberal politicians firmly committed to free-market policies.

The first clear indication that Obama is not, in fact, a socialist, is the way his administration is avoiding structural changes to the financial system. Nationalization is simply not in the playbook of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his team. They favor costly, temporary measures that can easily be dismantled should the economy stabilize. Socialists support nationalization and see it as a means of creating a banking system that acts like a highly regulated public utility. The banks would then cease to be sinkholes for public funds or financial versions of casinos and would become essential to reenergizing productive sectors of the economy.

The same holds true for health care. A national health insurance system as embodied in the single-payer health plan reintroduced in legislation this year by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), makes perfect sense to us. That bill would provide comprehensive coverage, offer a full range of choice of doctors and services and eliminate the primary cause of personal bankruptcy — health-care bills. Obama’s plan would do the opposite. By mandating that every person be insured, ObamaCare would give private health insurance companies license to systematically underinsure policyholders while cashing in on the moral currency of universal coverage. If Obama is a socialist, then on health care, he’s doing a fairly good job of concealing it.


  1. 1
    cognitive dissident says:

    Human Events, of all places, asked several actual socialists about Obama:

    “Barack Obama’s programs are not socialist.” (Greg Pason, National Secretary of the Socialist Party USA)

    “Obama is as much a socialist as the Pope is an atheist.” (F.N. Brill, National Secretary of the World Socialist Party, US)

    “The idea that Barack Obama is socialist, or quasi-socialist, or semi-socialist, or socialist-light, or anything of the sort, is far-right nonsense.” (David Schaich, Socialist Party Campaign Clearinghouse Coordinator)

    I’ve also spent a great deal of time mocking the Right’s ignorance of socialism, but they don’t care to learn. As long as most people don’t understand what “socialist” means–or what “liberal” means, for that matter–the Right can keep using it as an all-purpose term of derision.

  2. 2
    b-psycho says:

    The blog responses to that column by right-wingers are good for some chuckles.  For example.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Chuckles, yes, but also scary that there are so many such poorly informed people running around.

    Among the ridiculous things he says is that “the very definition of a liberal is that they are against free-market policies.” Of he probably also thinks that the anti-market policies of the GOP are free-market policies.

  4. 4
    David Dial says:

    The truth is that it really doesn’t make much difference what the nuts on the left and right fringes think about Obama’s liberalism or socialism whether they know what either really means or not.  The balance of power is in the middle.  If Barack avoids the trap of trying to drag people from the center to one or the other fringe and sticks to his pragmatic centrist approach to governing he is going to be a great President.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    Of course many on the right think that Obama is on the far left, as opposed to being more centrist. It is unfortunate that he did take office when he did. They see Obama’s response to a financial crisis, which includes more government action than he might normally support, as confirming their beliefs about him. They fail to distinguish support for short term government action to rescue the economy from an overall philosophy of large scale government involvement in the economy.

  6. 6
    David Dial says:

    Yeah, but as I said, it really doesn’t make much difference what they think.  They and their counterparts on the left share a number of characteristics, none of which are very complimentary.  One of them is that they have concluded that their views are correct and logically unassailable so listening to other points of view is a waste of time.  Worse, they also believe that anyone who holds another point of view is, at best, horribly misguided and, at worst, something akin to the anti-christ.  Obama is wise to ignore them both.

  7. 7
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Speaking as someone ‘on the left’, I feel the need to offer a bit of rebuttal.

    I do not believe that conservatives are horribly misguided nor something akin to the anti-Christ because they are conservatives. I have a great deal of respect for P.J. O’Rourke and Christopher Buckley(with whom I agree about very little, generally speaking) and have as little respect for left-wing buffoons as I do for right-wing buffoons. I am pragmatic about politics: I am a registered Democrat despite the fact that the political cowardice of the Democratic party frequently irks me, and I happily voted for President Obama because he was a better choice than John McCain. That he was not the ideal choice, as I see it, does not make him misguided or the anti-Christ… it means he and I disagree. I agree with some of the voices on the left who object to the cuts to the stimulus package, but I also understand that without some of those cuts we would not have any stimulus package and I applaud those Republicans who were willing to find a point of compromise so that the bill passed even if I disagree with some of their views.

    I believe Obama would be wiser to listen more closely to some of the voices on the left in certain areas, because reform on issues like health care and civil rights means little if it is not meaningful. However, I do not label him some kind of criminal for not doing so. I don’t believe he is ‘ignoring’ those voices even if he is not doing as they wish in all areas. I respect that he is president and I am not, and I hope his efforts succeed even as I write about the way I believe US policy needs to be fundamentally changed in many areas.

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:


    When criticizing the current direction of the current direction of the conservative movement people like O’Rourke and Christopher Buckley, along with the rare moderates in the Senate, are not the ones we are talking about. Buckley, for example, has also criticized the direction the conservative movement is going.

    I am not saying they are something akin to the anti-Christ because they are conservative. The point is that they have become dominated by extremists who are far beyond the bounds of rational conservatism of the past. They are moving the GOP to extremes far beyond what either Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan would recognize.

  9. 9
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I agree with you, Ron. I wasn’t attempting to distance myself from fellow liberals at all, or to lessen your original point. I felt the need to specifically rebut David’s somewhat all-encompassing statements about liberals as co-equal in the extremist nut-job category with conservatives. Perhaps because I am so much further out on the left than most and felt particularly sensitive on the issue.

    I realize the guys I listed are particularly unhappy with the current direction of the GOP, their willingness to say so is one of the reasons I didn’t lose respect for them. I used to have more respect for George Will than I do now, and one of the big reasons I’ve lost a degree of respect for him is his reluctance to break with the loonies.

    I realize I wasn’t clear enough, I should have made it more obvious I was rebutting David and not your post or the quoted article. Sorry. 🙂 I agree with your posting down the line, and am one of those lefties who wishes President Obama were a bit more of a socialist. 🙂

  10. 10
    Christopher Skyi says:

    Should the U.S. change it’s name to the U.S.S.A. (United Socialist States of America)?

    From The Big Picture blog:

    Today is May Day, and while International Workers’ Day (Labour Day in the UK), means little in the USA, its a big holiday in Europe. Banks and markets are closed on the continent, (England celebrates on Monday).
    Speaking with Mike Panzner, author of  “When Giants Fall: An Economic Roadmap for the End of the American Era”, this morning (his clients are mostly Europeans) made me think about this:  Which region is the true Socialist state?

    -Europe has cradle to grave health care plans, generous unemployment benefits, and free or subsidized college costs.
    -The US gives away public assets (oil, gas, mineral rights)  for pennies on the dollar, has huge subsidies and tax breaks, and bails out reckless speculators.

    It turns out that both regions are welfare states — only in Europe, the natural population (i.e., people) is the recipient, while in the US, the corporate population is the beneficiary.
    Obama is not a “traditional” socialist, but he’s definitively a pragmatic one, and a uniquely American one.
    Food for thought . . .

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