Is Obama a socialist?

6

March 7, 2009 by The Mormon Worker

Here in Provo, Utah I often hear people repeating the accusations of Republican pundits that President Obama is a socialist, and that the current financial bailout/economic stimulus measures he is implementing are leading us toward a socialist society/economic system. Either Republicans are completely ignorant about what socialism constitutes, or they simply use the term to slander the efforts of the opposing political party for the sake of being able to win the next election, or both. In response to my Republican friends who are disgusted at the supposed socialist turn our country is apparently taking, I often tell them, “If you think that, you’re obviously not reading the socialist press” (of course they’re then surprised that socialist pubications even exist any more). Every socialist publication I know of criticizes Obama for his massive transfer of public funds into corporate hands, to “save” the banks and insurance companies, which are essentially holding the country hostage by being so big that if they fail, the result would likely be the collapse of the US, and by extension, the world economy. Therefore Obama has no choice but to use massive amounts of taxpayer money to keep these companies alive, so that in the future they can continue to exploit borrowers, make huge profits, and pay huge bonuses to top executives. In short, rather than implementing Socialism, Obama is doing everything he can in a last gasped effort to save the capitalist system, which the Republicans themselves drove into the ground by adhering religiously to free-market fundamentalist ideas. If only all the things Republicans said about Obama were true (Muslim, Socialist, Anti-war), I might have bothered to vote for him, rather than for no one at all. Instead, in addition to saving Capitalism, from Obama we get silence over the massacre in Gaza, continued arm shipments to the terrorists in the Israeli Army, more murdered civilians from Predator drone air strikes in Pakistan, and an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, where the US manages to kill more civilians than even the Taliban. Rather than “change,” so far all we’re getting is more of the same.

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6 thoughts on “Is Obama a socialist?

  1. Forest Simmons says:

    As you say, “socialize the costs, privatize the profits,” is not socialism but has always been the modus operandi for the capitalists. In other words, “subsidies for the rich, but market discipline for the poor.” Unfortunately “Corporate welfare” doesn’t mean a requirement for corporations to assist the poor. That would be a step in the right direction.

    The ultimate irony will be the capitalist dupes saying, “we told you that socialism wouldn’t work,” when Obama’s attempts at shoring up the economy through corporate welfare end up in failure.

    I think I understand why you didn’t vote, but I wish you would have made your statement by voting a blank ballot rather than not going to the polls at all.

    Imagine if ten million voters voted blank ballots, rather than staying home. It would be equivalent to voting “none of the above,” as opposed to “I’m not civic minded,” which is the message that is read from lack of showing up.

  2. theradicalmormon says:

    If Obama is a socialist, I’m a conservative republican warmonger! Obama continues to disappoint me on every front from the economy to his hardline on Hamas and Iran to his ending the war by leaving 50,000 troops in Iraq, to his continuation of the war in Afghanistan. Surely his policies will contribute to the terrible events preceeding the coming of the Lord.

  3. Mike IsBell says:

    Frankly, I agree with his observations. The left v right or socialism v capitalism political/social/economic characterizations are generally flawed in that they attribute a purity to the views which does not exist in the reality of the rough and tumble world. The point made that the ‘socialist’ actions of the President actually perpetuate the ‘capitalist’ system which we have become chained to is valid. Our ‘capitalist’ system has become top-end heavy with ‘socialism’. I think the criticisms from the GOP stem generally from political considerations of power and not from ideology. Politics has become so insincere and deceptive. Ideologies are embraced mostly for their use as tools to mobilize support. When lines between left and right are blurred you can be sure that the players still have their eyes on a crystal clear image of power. Power is the thing and to hell with principles.

    Socialism for the masses, ballyhooed by the right (corporations, the wealthy, and their lackeys), is absolutely not for the hoi polloi, but is okay (but we can’t call it welfare) for the super-rich? The truth is that the ‘dole’ is an evil for anyone and everyone, because it waters down and eventually kills personal power. The power to act for one’s self is so fundamental that it is the supreme principle of all principles. We call it agency. Without it there is no existence. (See D&C 93:30) Therefore, the first principal of welfare is providing for one’s self. In the Lord’s welfare plan, this is then extended to one’s own family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers in a decreasing order of responsibility. To call this socialistic might be taken as insult by some, but if it quacks like a duck …

    On the other hand, freedom from regulation for businesses, denigrated by the left (the poor, the wealthy, and their lackeys) is absolutely not for corporate America, but the masses still want their civil rights? The truth here is that the profit incentive in capitalism is inherent in our humanity and can serve us well. (“Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.”) If we do not believe we shall eat of the fruits of our labors then we are unlikely to even plant. We cannot hinder those who would work hard to create and improve. It sounds like the Lord might be a capitalist as well!

    Forget being a disciple of capitalism, socialism, or whatever ‘ism”. They can all be corrupted in that freedom is lost, in some more than others. It is a deception to assume that because we are capitalist or democratic that we cannot be enslaved or that because we are socialists we cannot prosper and progress. Welfare has its place as glue for the social compact which brings synergy into play. It can increase our power – our agency. But great caution must be taken to refrain from disempowering those whom welfare seeks to benefit lest they actually be disempowered and agency diminished. The personal profit incentive of capitalism is the engine of progress, yet here also, we must take great caution that we do not completely turn loose of the reins, lest the horses simply run wild (as appears to be the case during the past 8 years) instead of plowing the field.

    The bane of both capitalism and socialism is imbalances of power created when accretions of it occur to disparate people. It is in the nature of fallen man to lust for power to dominate his fellow man. (D&C 121:39) This is what our systems must keep in check. It is in the nature of man to be free – politically, economically, and spiritually. Our systems must encourage, cultivate and propagate this.

  4. Grégoire says:

    Dear Mike,

    Thanks for such a great and thought provoking response. I only have a couple of minor points.

    Part of the power of capitalism resides in its ability to mold our perceptions.

    We cannot hinder those who would work hard to create and improve. It sounds like the Lord might be a capitalist as well!

    Your points are all valid provided we look at the government and corporations as something separate from ourselves. If we see these institutions as foreign, then we feel we have to jump through hoops to control them.

    “Socialism means the government owns everything.” That’s the capitalist prediction, and by the capitalist definition it’s a bad outcome. It’s also a false one, or at least incomplete. Socialism means the common people own the government, and the government owns everything, and so the people own everything by default.

    The personal profit incentive of capitalism is the engine of progress.

    What is progress?

    When I had my kids I quit being politically active, and am just now learning things I should have kept up on ten years ago. There’s a contemporary example of “progress” that I find quite compelling. I’ve been reading about it for the last couple of weeks.

    In 1992 NAFTA was pushed through the parliaments of North America. Some of the people most endangered by this treaty were the indigenous people of the Southern Mexican State of Chiapas.

    For a thousand years, people there lived and died on the land. They grew crops on land they communally owned, and caught fish when they were hungry. They weren’t “educated” or “developed” by our standards, but they had a sustainable lifestyle (which we do not).

    Suddenly, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund put pressure on the Mexican government to seize the land they had lived on for hundreds of years.

    “Progress” was the excuse. The fat cats painted a rosy picture of how much better off the people would be if they simply got jobs.

    The very *best* jobs that capitalism offers such people are in sweatshops. Most such displaced people are forced to go live in slums, where they support themselves by prostituting their daughters, selling illegal narcotics, or making a hazardous journey north to become just one more member of our modern day slave class in the U.S. and Canada as an “illegal worker”.

    Progress is itself something of a misnomer. If we wanted to really bring *progress* to Chiapas, the ruling class could have built a university and a big hospital there, and paid for the people’s tuition and medical bills out of its own pocket. Instead the word was used to cover up theft. Whenever I see that word in print I try to discover the context, and that seems to be the going definition these days, not just in Chiapas, but everywhere.

  5. Forest Simmons says:

    Mike,

    you cited the primacy of agency and then said,

    “… therefore the first principle of welfare is providing for oneself.”

    It seems to me that there is a logical gap. Perhaps that gap can be filled in, but why not say, “therefore the first principle of welfare is to use your agency in losing yourself in the service of others.”

    We are told that we can find ouorselves only by losing ourselves. We cannot lay our hands on our own heads to give ourselves priesthood blessings. The difference between heaven and hell is that, although their inhabitants are both constrained to eat with extremely long utensils, in heaven they feed each other across the table, while in hell they just keep struggling to shovel it into their own mouths.

    Consider the lilies of the field, etc. Nibley gave an eye opening talk called, “Work we must, but the lunch is free.” It was reprinted in the BYU Alumni magazine where it was the subject of disdain from many of the alumni in the letters section. His point was that our work here is supposed to be assisting the Lord in his work of “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,” and there is no extra credit for spending extra time and energy seeking the things of this world.

    When I was bishop of an inner city ward, I noticed that one of our widows, sister R, who had a fixed income of less than eight hundred dollars per month, part of which she spent on medication to keep her tremors under control, was contributing an hundred dollars per month in fast offerings, in addition to her tithing. When asked, she explained to me that she had heard President Kimball suggest that some members could contribute many times the value of the two skipped meals, so from that time she had always tried to give as much as possible. Sister P was by no means “self sufficient,” since she had to ask for rides to the temple, where she served five days per week, doing four endowment sessions per day.

    She had been doing this for many years before I became her bishop, and she continiued as long as she could before age and natural causes put her into a nursing home.

    I thought “This one widow has done more for the salvation of man than most well to do memebers of the church ever do, not to mention the Bill
    Gates of the world. When we offer up our excuses on judgment day, the Lord will say, ‘what about this woman.'”

  6. Ron Paul was recently asked if Obama was a Socialist. He replied, He’s not a Socialist, he’s a Corporatist. I’m afraid his strings are being pulled by the same behind the scene players as were Bush’s. They both took good care of the bankers. One thing Brother Barack does have in his favor is he can at least link 5 words together with out butchering the English language.

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