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The absurdity of yelling “Socialist!”

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In 1964 the top marginal rate was 91%. Obama proposes 39.6% (it’s 35% now), which is what we had in the deficit-free Clinton years. It’s less than half what it was under LBJ. If that wasn’t socialism, half of it certainly isn’t!
clipped from www.democracynow.org

AMY GOODMAN: Well, is Barack Obama a socialist?

RICK MacARTHUR: Barack Obama is a socialist like Harper’s Magazine is a media conglomerate. It’s the most preposterous charge I’ve heard in a pretty crazy campaign
But it’s even more absurd when you realize that
they’re all socialists now
remember, the top rate in 1964, the last time we had this kind of crazy debate between the Goldwater Republicans and Lyndon Johnson, the top marginal rate was 91 percent. Barack Obama is only proposing to raise or restore the top marginal rate from the current 35 percent to 39.6 percent, which is what it was under the Clinton administration. This is a very modest, very, you might even say, timid response to what’s, in the last fifteen years, been a redistribution of wealth from the bottom up to the top.
What is the mortgage crisis, except Wall Street picking on people
who are not very well educated about the finance market, and
robbing them
That’s redistribution of wealth, upwards.
  blog it

Written by Monte

October 26, 2008 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Politics

Is it honest to call it “socialism?”

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Morning Joe

Image via Wikipedia

The S-word is back.

For example, watch Morning Joe get exercised about the stimulus proposal’s tax refund to people of low income, followed by analysis from ThinkProgress:

clipped from thinkprogress.org

Joe Scarborough: Obama’s Trying To ‘Buy Off People’ With ‘Pure, Straight Socialism’»

SCARBOROUGH: “You’re not going to get Republicans to line up and support tax cuts for people who don’t pay taxes […] It’s not even welfare. […] If you want pure straight socialism, if you want to buy off people, do that.”
There are enormous problems with this analysis. First, Americans benefiting from the tax cut do pay taxes — sales taxes, payroll taxes, social security taxes — even if they don’t pay income tax. In fact, those in the lowest income bracket pay about 4.3 percent of their income to federal taxes. […]The tax credit isn’t some kind of charity; it’s one of the most effective kinds of tax cuts in terms of stimulating the economy. Moody’s chief ecomomist Mark Zandi showed that the refundable tax credit gives the economy a far greater “bang for the buck” than non-refundable tax cuts, corporate tax cuts, or making Bush’s tax cuts permanent, the “solutions” proposed by conservatives:
blog it

Follow the link for Zandi’s numbers.

Meanwhile, if the tax refund plan is indeed a refund, and if can be shown to be among the most quickly effective tax changes for stimulating the economy, isn’t it what we’re looking for?

And didn’t they teach us in high school that socialism was when the government owns the means of production?  Just how is it that tax refunds accomplish that?

I don’t recall learning that when poor people spend tax refunds at American businesses, capitalism is on the way out.  It would seem just to have just the opposite effect.


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McCain/Palin campaign rebuked: “incendiary mendacity”

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Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin

Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin

Ninety-one college and university professors of communications—the people who write the textbooks that teach our kids how to tell truth from propaganda—have called out the McCain/Palin campaign for deceptive and inflammatory statements.

Yesterday, they wrote:

… the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin has engaged in such incendiary mendacity that we must speak out. The purposeful dissemination of messages that a communicator knows to be false and inflammatory is unethical. It is that simple.

Surely it is not wise to elect people who claim to be “country first” yet, for their own benefit, inflame the sad fears and racial divisions that still lie among us.  We need presidents who lead the way against those things.

Statement Concerning Recent Discourse of the McCain/Palin Campaign

October 23, 2008

This statement is signed by research faculty of communication programs from across the nation. We speak as concerned educators and scholars of communication but do not claim to speak for our home institutions.

We wish to express our great concern over unethical communication behavior that threatens to dominate the closing days of the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Both major campaigns have been criticized by fact-checking organizations for prevarications. We call on both campaigns to halt blatant misrepresentations of their opponent’s positions.  [Bravo! – Monte]

It would be misleading, however, to imply that since “both sides do it” there is no qualitative difference worth noting. In recent weeks, the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin has engaged in such incendiary mendacity that we must speak out. The purposeful dissemination of messages that a communicator knows to be false and inflammatory is unethical. It is that simple.

Making decisions in a democracy requires an informed electorate. The health of our democracy and our ability to make a good decision about who should lead our nation require the very best in communication practices, not the worst.

Media investigations have debunked the notion that Senator Obama “worked closely” or “palled around” with “terrorist” Bill Ayers. Governor Palin cited a New York Times article that actually contradicts her claim by noting “the two men do not appear to have been close.” Nonetheless, the McCain/Palin ticket continues to repeat the canard, most recently with so-called “robocalls” in battleground states.[i]

The McCain/Palin ticket now describes the Obama/Biden tax plan with such terms as “socialist” and “welfare.” Such descriptions are false. Even if they were not, they would apply equally to the McCain/Palin tax proposals.[ii]

The repeated use of “Joe the Plumber” as a symbol by the McCain/Palin ticket is more deceptive than truthful. Despite the fact that media reports have revealed that the person is not a licensed plumber, owes back taxes, and his current personal income tax would decrease under the Obama tax plan, the McCain/Palin ticket continues to take Obama’s words to Joe out of context to repeat the false claim that Obama would raise taxes on the middle class and thus hurt the American Dream.[iii]

Such discourse is inflammatory as well as deceptive. Behind in the polls, the McCain/Palin campaign and its surrogates now appear intent on marking Obama as “other” to elicit racist fears. Senator McCain’s odd question “Who is Barack Obama?” is answered by Governor Palin’s assertion that Obama “is not a man who sees America as you and I do,” along with her comment “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic. . . pro-America areas of this great nation.”

We see an effort to color code the election as between an urban, African-American Obama falsely linked to terms like “terrorist,” “unpatriotic,” and “welfare” versus small town, white, “patriotic” Americans like the mythical Joe the Plumber. “Intended” or not, the message is getting through, as reports have emerged of ugly scenes at some Republican rallies and racists hanging Obama in effigy in Oregon and Ohio. In an echo of McCarthyism, Representative Michelle Bachmann has called for investigations into un-American members of Congress, pointing to Senator Obama as the prime suspect. Speaking to warm up the crowd before a McCain rally, Representative Robin Hayes continued the theme: “Folks, there’s a real America, and liberals hate real Americans that work, and accomplish, and achieve, and believe in God.” The official website of the Sacramento County Republican Party compared Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and urged people to “Waterboard Barack Obama.” The October newsletter of the Chaffey Community Republican Women in California depicts Obama on a food stamp surrounded by a watermelon, ribs, and a bucket of fried chicken. The McCain/Palin campaign has not repudiated such actions taken on its behalf, nor has it done enough to respond to reprehensible behavior at rallies.[iv]

The McCain/Palin campaign and its surrogates, of course, will deny explicit racism. But their purposeful repetition of inflammatory false statements is unethical and stokes the fires of racism.

The code of ethical conduct for the National Communication Association reads in part We advocate truthfulness, accuracy, honesty, and reason as essential to the integrity of communication.”[v] We believe the integrity of political communication in our nation is being seriously threatened and we call on the McCain/Palin campaign to put a stop to such efforts immediately.

To see the endnotes and a list of the signers, click here.


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Written by Monte

October 23, 2008 at 11:32 pm

No one in this election is a true “leftist”

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UPDATE:  With election hoopla at full frenzy, I hear scare-words (like “socialist”) being thrown around.  Truth is, almost no one in American politics is genuinely left of center; nearly all fall into the center-right regions, including both of the remaining presidential candidates.

It seemed like a good idea to re-post this graph from the primary days. As you’ll see, this being America, we’re pretty much all capitalists.  Our “left” and “right” are merely debates about how much leash we give our capitalism.

Meanwhile, pooh-pooh the idea that Obama’s palling around over there next to Karl Marx. That’s a long, long ways from true. -M


Notice the old labels don’t work any more? Political Compass politicians Used to be that a fire-breathing politician could cry “LIBBRAL!” and everyone in the room would look shocked as linebackers near a penalty flag. Nowadays, no one looks up. Must be disappointing.

As The Political Compass points out, the old terms don’t express much helpful information:

The old one-dimensional categories of ‘right’ and ‘left’, established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today’s complex political landscape. For example, who are the ‘conservatives’ in today’s Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher ?

On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It’s not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can’t explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as ‘right-wingers’, yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.
So, Political Compass stirred in a couple more ingredients, then made a test to sample views. Try it—it only takes a few minutes, and I’ll guarantee it will give you something to think about—at their web page.
And, if you’re curious, my results are after the break: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

October 14, 2008 at 6:30 pm

Posted in Politics