Socialism

Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” Luke 18:22

In the last gasp of a desperate campaign, Senator McCain and Governor Palin have decided that their best strategy is to frighten the American voter by labeling their opponent a socialist. This was the result of a sound bite from a conversation that Senator Obama had with the now famous Joe Wurzelbacher. Joe asked Senator Obama to defend his plan to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the top tier of wage earners while preserving those cuts for the rest of the population. As part of that discussion Senator Obama said that he believed that taxing the wealthy who have seen their income grow over the last eight years in order to provide a break for everyone else who have seen their income shrink over the same period of time, is good economic policy. He use the phrase “spread the wealth around”. That has become the touchstone for this attack.

I think that there are a couple of ways to respond to this claim.

The first is to take Joe the Plumber head on. He appears to object to the concept of a progressive tax system – the more you make the more you get taxed. The usual conservative objection to a progressive tax system is that it punishes success, and as a result, discourages the effort to be successful. Using that logic, the Bush administration aggressively cut the tax rates of the most successful. Their expectation was that this would encourage the wealthy to make more of the sort of investments that made them successful in the first place which will result in growing the economy for everyone else. The problem is that it doesn’t work.

The facts support a much different picture. Democratic administrations where policies favor the middle class have historically done better for both the middle class and the wealthy than Republican administrations. This has held true for the past 80 years.

Economists explain this by pointing out that a robust middle class is the best driver of our economy. When the middle class is doing well, everyone does well. I heard it expressed by CEO Victor Hammel, “I would rather pay a little higher tax on a higher profit than a lower tax rate on lower profits.”

The second is to dive into this claim of socialism.

First a quick definition. Socialism is the opposite of capitalism. In a socialist society there is no private ownership. The government owns everything presumably for the benefit of the people. It’s that last part that gets people confused because Socialists talk a lot about the equitable distribution of wealth.

The McCain campaign has been tossing the word socialism around much in the same way that the Bush administration turned liberal into a dirty word. What bothers me about it is that it is hypocritical and cynical.

It is cynical because the Bush tax cut plan is set to expire on January 1, 2009 anyway. So how does refusing to renew a tax cut, that didn’t have the desired result anyway, somehow suddenly become a socialist act? Those tax cuts were scheduled to expire BECAUSE so many people (including John McCain) were skeptical of their promised effect. Even if this weren’t an election year, I suspect that the Bush administration would have had a difficult time getting them renewed.

What is hypocritical is that we HAVE in fact taken a huge step toward socialism with the various financial bailout plans which both John McCain and Barack Obama voted for. In this case the government has in effect nationalized portions of the financial system (any maybe soon the auto companies) for the benefit of the people.

Finally a moral argument.

No less an authority than Jesus suggested that one our our two great responsibilities was to love our brother. The love he proposed was not just a philosophical concept. He proposed a practical redistribution of wealth from those who had it to those who needed it. He said that this benefited, not only the receiver, but also the giver. Part of the benefit to the giver was the realization that wealth if anything was an impediment to salvation. A prime example was the rich man Jesus spoke of in the quote at the top of this post. When faced with the choice of salvation or wealth, he chose wealth. I wonder what those who are calling Senator Obama a socialist would do today if they were given the same choice by Jesus.  I hope they would chose more wisely than than the wealthy man.

4 Responses to “Socialism”

  1. Keith says:

    Hello my old friend.

    Diving right in, the Bush tax cut had it’s intended result. It RAISE revenue to the public treasury to new record highs. Period, end of conversation.

    The “spread the wealth around” comment was only adding to his many, MANY others which would lead one to believe that this man is not a free market guy. I won’t dewell there because you have rightly pointed out that many republicans voted for this bail out. WRONGLY!!!!!!!

    McCain lost the election right there when he went along with it. I would never have supported that thing. First it started as a 3 page document and $450 billion (i think???) and ended with a 450 page document and $700 billion which included things supports for the wooden arrow manufactures.
    Stupid, just plain stupid.

    What was just increadible to watch was the same guys who got us in this mess were the ones standing up telling us how they were going to get us out of it. They all should be thrown out right now, this ,miniute. Every republican who voted for it, every democrate who voted for it, and every one who had anything to do with creating this mess.

    Socializium was on full display while this was being created; you simply can not create a program to give someone anything and expect it to work. Moving millions from house rent to ownership with no investment for the sake of “ownership” was nuts. First Carter started it, Clinton excellerated it, greeenspan feed it and the republicans didn’t stop it, though they made 13 attempts. Why anyone would think “spreading the wealth around” is an effective way to manage our economy is beyound reasoned thought!!! We just got done spreading the wealth around with low interest rates and mortgages with no money down. All so home ownership could be evenly distributed. (Encouraging minority ownership. Almost to the point of demanding it. But not to worry about the loans as Freddie and Fannie will back them up. Dare I say you and I Jeff will back them up.)

    The tax cuts do not expire 1-1-09, they sunset in 2010.

    I gave you a break down of tax revenue by % a few months ago. Given those facts can you explain to me how Obama is going to give 95% of working Americans a tax cut when 40% do not pay taxes. How is this possible? Really can you explain it? So if 95% “get more money” can I assume he is redistrubting the wealth? Should we have inscribed on the $20 bill “From each according to his abilty, to each according to their need?” That sounds like socialism to me. Maybe I don’t know the correct meaning, or spelling, but when you give money to one that was earned by another then that is what I call socialism. Am I wrong? I would like your comments on how he gives a tax break to the 40% who pay no taxes at all….isn’t this a deception?? Really Jeff, andyes, I am stuck on this point.

    How McCain could stand there for three debates and let him say that is beyound me. What a terrible campain he ran, terrible. I believe he’ll lose and quite frankly deserves to lose.

    Here you had a candidate, Obama, that has so many holes in his resumea that you’d have your pick of holes to drive a truck through. Where was he from the time he got out of college until he began a cereer of voting present in the IL Senate? Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy but my goodness how McCain couldn’t expose Obama’s many weakness’s is astounding. He had every Democrat, including his runningmate, ON TV, saying he wasn’t qualified to be president. That never came up.

    Lastly, your use of Scripture is again misplaced. Politcally we can disagree all we want. But Scripturely you need to clean up the wide brush in which you use. In this passage Jesus is not, nor does he ever suggest, a gov’t which takes care of you, or a forced giving. (To that end he did say “render unto Ceaser that which is Ceasers, and render unton me that which is mine.” This was to be submissive to the leadership over you and to acknowledge their authority of you which is a Godly principle. I don’t think he ever made the case of giving to a gov’t as a way to get closer to him.)

    Your use of Scripture to say Jesus wanted a “redistribution of wealth” is just not accure. If I am to give and give freely, I am giving out of obeiance to the Word of God and to the cause of Christ. To “redistribute the wealth” to a worldly gov’t institution, and that giving not being of my free choice, and having nothing to do with the furthing of the Kingdom of God, has abosolutly NOTHING to do with the Scriptures you have mentioned above. NOTHING AT ALL.

    Obama will win and I will pray for him and support him where we have agreement. Hopefully he will be who he says he is, a uniter. I hope the Republicans do a better job of working with him and supporting him then the dems did with Bush, for all our sake.

  2. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Keith,

    Good to hear from you again.

    I don’t have time tonight to respond to everything that you posted, but I would like to get to at least the first point that you are stuck on – the progressive tax system. There is a good summary of the facts behind the “spread the wealth around” claim is socialist on politifact.org

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/826/

    Here’s a link to both candidates tax policies side by side.

    http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxtopics/election_issues_matrix.cfm

    The following article describes where the 95% tax cut number comes from even though 38% of the population don’t pay taxes.

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2008/oct/20/your-taxing-questions-answered/

    The problem is that it is difficult to describe complex problems in simple sentences. The McCain campaign understood this math, but chose instead to raise a different argument to suggest that the Obama campaign wasn’t telling the truth.

    The election tomorrow will demonstrate whether or not this tactic was successful.

    Jeff

  3. keith says:

    The link on 95% is laughable Jeff.
    For their “though experimant they throw OUT the 38 who currently pay no taxes and use the remain 62. 5 will pay higher taxes and 57 get relief. 57/62 = 92%. Close enough for them that they say Obama is being truthful. However my good friend. Obama said “If you do not earn more then $250k, $200 for individuals, you will recieve a check back.” That simply isn’t true if we are throwing out the 38 who currently pay no taxes.
    If he does give them money back then it is fair to say he is “redistrubuting the wealth.” Correct?

  4. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Keith,

    It’s just a number. The bottom line of the article was that regardless of how you figure it, Obama’s “95%” claim is true.

    The second part of McCain’s claim is also hypcritical, because the government has been issuing checks and “redistributing the wealth” to poor working families through the tax system for 35 years.

    The issue regarding “checks” for low income working families turns on the concept of tax credit versus tax deduction. Today no one gets a check back from the government which exceeds their witholding if their deductions exceed their tax liability. If Bill Gates makes owes $1M in taxes, but has tax deductions which total $1.1M, he may get his witholding back, but he doesn’t get an additional $100K from the government.

    Poor working families today DO get a check back from the government which exceeds their witholding if their tax credits exceed their tax liabilities. You can go look up what those are, but the most popular is the earned income credit enacted in 1975 by Ford, and expanded Reagan and every President since. So this is nothing new.

    As best as I understand it, Obama has proposed additional credits which are all listed on his website. So the combination of reducing the tax rate which will reduce the amount of money being witheld combined with additional tax credits will likely provide some poor working families more income under Obama’s plan than they would have had under the current Bush plan.

    Jeff

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