Friday, October 31, 2008

Socially Speaking

The cries of "socialism" and "wealth spreader" from the McCain-Palin campaign that have been reigning down on Senator Obama and that are being hooted and booed by the throngs at Republican rallies the past few days are, extrememly ironic on the one hand and deeply dishonest and hypocritical on the other. On two levels there are problems with this latest turn in the campaign saga. One: Obama's tax plans, which are being called "socialistic" are hardly that; and two: what exactly is wrong with a little socialism anyway? Unfortunately and expectedly, these words are being devoured by the throngs that shout and holler at McCain rallies and by gullible people who look no further than any talking point or the latest diversionary tactic.

What McCain and Palin are not stating to their adoring minions, for one thing, are their own "socialistic" behaviors and comments over their time in public life. Back in 2000, McCain said that "when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more"; but that was McCain v.2000 and the McCain who at one point opposed the Bush tax cuts, not McCain v.2008. In an interview this summer with The New Yorker's Philip Gourevitch (conducted weeks before she was picked to be the VP candidate) Palin explained that Alaska is "set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs." Alaska's collective ownership of resources which are then given back to the state's citizens in the form of dividend checks have lead to it being "sometimes described as America's socialist state", according to Gourevitch. Food (or oil) for thought, eh?

Additionally, would Senator McCain be in favor of dismantling America's progressive and graduated income tax? I think not. As Hendrik Hertzberg writes this week, "the federal income tax is (downwardly) redistributive as a matter of principle: however slightly, it softens the inequalities that are inevitable in a market economy, and it reflects the belief that the wealthy have a proportionately greater stake in the material aspects of the social order and, therefore, should give that order proportionately more material support." How about dismantling (entirely) Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance and a myriad of other programs that many Americans rely on for everyday life? Again, I think not.

Of course, that is the hidden truth beyond the right's rhetoric: most aspects of what they would call "socialism", are not a bad thing. In fact, caring and supporting for all for the public good and securing a social compact--isn't that what a compassionate and forward looking society should be doing? I'd love to ask the sneering and booing rabble at some of those rallies if they would support the dismantling of the programs just mentioned above; and even more so: how many of them or their family members have benefited from these "socialistic" programs? Once again, the right wing has found a word that simplifies, labels and distorts (communist! socialist!) and tries to turn an honorable candidate and his positions into plans that they say will be the very means to the end of America as we know it. Again, with hope, we can only try and be optimistic that reality and seriousness will prevail next week and not the empty cries of "-isms" and deceitful, vague and distorted talking points.

No comments: