As President Obama enters the beginnings of his second term as President of the United States of America; progressives, Democrats and Republicans who possess an understanding of the world still have to put up with categorically wrong assertions concerning him.
For some unknown reason, okay maybe it’s not completely unknown, President Obama continues to be slandered in poorly researched Facebook posts and the comments section of any unmoderated article post on the internet. Sure, I would consider myself a liberal who has supported the Obama Presidency but I wouldn’t consider myself a cheerleader of the man.
Yet I constantly feel the need to defend the 44th President of the United States from the persistent accusation that he is a “socialist”. Trust me, the claim continues to be feted across the internet over four years into his Presidency and it’s reached the point where it becomes more tiresome than rage inducing. Yet, for once and for all, I hope to shed the myths that surround why President Obama is considered a “socialist”.
First, let’s acknowledge that in today’s day and age, anyone with even slightly left-of-center beliefs run the risk of being called a socialist. It’s part fear-mongering, part-paranoia and fully one of misinformation. One of life’s many ironies is that many anti-Obama citizens believe that the Obama Administration rewards the “lazy” even though they were probably too lazy to look up the definition of the word “socialism”. If you intend to have an argument, please become aware of the word first before you launch into a tirade that lacks vision, clarity or thought. Socialism is not a pejorative you can use because you don’t like something. That’s now how it works.
In our modern times (to me, I’ll say post-Lyndon Johnson), you can make the argument that Barack Obama might be our most “liberal” or “progressive” President but when you consider his compatriots being Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush that’s not exactly a bold or controversial item to say. His fellow Democrats (Carter and Clinton) weren’t even considered “left” by their standards and Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 (aka the deregulating of the banking industry) has left him with a mixed legacy amongst progressive voters. So for all of you that consider Bill Clinton to be some sort of scion of the political left, again, please look at your facts before speaking.
But let’s take a look at Barack Obama, shall we? After all, this is the point of this blog post.
The Affordable Care Act
By far the most famous piece of legislation of the Obama administration is the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act that some of you likely refer to as “Obamacare”. The PPACA is usually cited as the prime example of “socialism” or “government overreach” that occurred in the first term of the Obama Presidency. While liberals and progressives wished for a universal health care system (or at the bare minimum, legislation that included a public option), they did not get it as the PPACA is largely the bigger brother to the Massachusetts healthcare bill that was signed by then-Governor Mitt Romney. Yes, that Mitt Romney.
In fact, Richard Nixon might have had a more socialist health care proposal than President Obama. In 1974, Richard Nixon proposed:
Mr. Nixon’s health care plan would have covered all employed people by giving combined state and federal subsidies to employers. It would have covered the poor and the unemployed by much larger subsidies. It would have encouraged health maintenance organizations. It would have banned exclusions for pre-existing conditions and not allowed limits on spending for each insured.
I know a bit about this because I, your humble servant, as a 29-year-old speech writer, wrote the message to Congress sending up the bill.
In many ways, the bill was far more “socialist” than what Mr. Obama has proposed. It certainly involved a far larger swath of state and federal government power over health care. Please remember that this was 36 years ago, when middle-class Americans still had some slight faith that government was on their side.
Wait Richard Nixon was actually to the left of President Obama on healthcare?
The Affordable Care Act is not a universal health care bill nor is it a “government takeover” of your health insurance. In fact, the bill could be further from the truth. The bill DOES entail that Americans must buy health insurance or be faced with a tax penalty in what has been referred to as the “individual mandate”. While not the most popular plan (Candidate Barack Obama in 2008 was actually dismissive of mandates and a champion of the public option), it will soon be the law of the land come 2014.
Is that socialism? No. In fact, it’s about as pro-business as one could get for the health industry. If American consumers are forced to buy healthcare, where will they go? Since the government is NOT providing a public option, consumers will be forced to get their healthcare from Wall Street. So “Big Pharma” made out like bandits when it comes to continuing to make more astronomical profits. With more Americans rushing to buy health insurance, there will likely be more competition amongst major healthcare providers to provide better (and hopefully, but not guaranteed cheaper) coverage; you can’t call the PPACA “socialist”. In fact, it’s moreso “corporatist” and about as pro-health insurance corporation of a bill that could be passed.
While I have you here, other notable acts in the healthcare bill includes the elimination of discrimination amongst genders, elimination of discrimination amongst those with pre-existing conditions (before health insurance companies could deny coverage if you had a previous medical malady), children being able to stay on their parents insurance plan until the age of 26, a tax on tanning salons, and Medicare expansion. Also states will be required (starting in 2014) to set up websites that would allow for families to shop online for the best possible health care insurance, so think of an Amazon.com for health insurance. Sounds riveting, right?
Businesses are also required to provide health insurance to full-time workers, providing they have over fifty employees. This has led to “patriots” such as Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter to make erroneous claims that the price of pizza could go up by 16 cents because of billionaire CEOs having to actually give their employees health insurance.
Nonetheless, the legislation may not be perfect and the Obama administration did a poor job of explaining the bill to the public but it’s hardly a socialist bill.
A “new” topic that has emerged is the Obama administration’s stance on gun control. While gun control is permanently a sticky topic in American culture (just log on to Facebook at any hour of the day), the belief that semi-automatic assault weapons being made illegal is hardly new or socialist.
There was this President named Ronald Reagan, who I’m sure some of you are familiar with, who stated this on the topic of gun control:
“There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.
I want to tell all of you here today something that I’m not sure you know. You do know that I’m a member of the NRA. My position on right to bear arms is well known. But I want you to know something else. And I’m going to say it in clear unmistakable language. I support the Brady bill and I urge the Congress to enact it.
The Brady Bill was a gun control bill that saw the FBI enact background checks on gun sales. The only problem is that a loophole existed that allowed private sales of guns (i.e. ones at gun shows) to be completely unregulated.
The Obama administration has been criticized by gun enthusiasts for not respecting “responsible” gun owners but I fail to see how banning very few guns and believing in background checks can be defined as socialism. If “guns don’t kill people, people do” then shouldn’t you believe in background checks to try and at least prevent one massacre from happening? No, we will not end all gun violence; everyone knows that’s an impossible task. Yet, people violate all laws so shouldn’t we just get rid of laws in general? “You know, you’ll never stop murders”, so should we make that legal too? Yes, straw man arguments are awful.
You have the right to purchase a gun still for the record. No gun legislation has even really been brought to the Senate floor so you can cool off when it comes to the idea of you “losing” your guns.
Ahhh yes, the Obama administration is socialist because they tax everyone and give it to poor people who don’t work. Right?
Wrong. Let’s just get this one out of the way really quickly. The first four years (aka the whole first term) of the Obama administration saw the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts that cut taxes for the wealthiest 1% of the public and also kept middle tax cuts for everyday Americans. Yet somehow that’s gets lost in the madness over the Obama administration. Even after the fiscal cliff debacle, taxes were raised on the absolute top tax bracket by a small percentage.
In fact, if you really want to look at something alarming; take a look at this. Income inequality in America has risen to levels never before seen in our country’s history. What does that mean? The rich keep getting richer as the poor continue to not make any inroads in terms of wealth gain. So no, those “lazy poor people” are not stealing your “hard-working” money and mooching off the system. In fact, they are getting poorer and unemployment amongst the poor continue to climb. Oh but the rich can actually get lazy since they continue to own most of the money in the American system. If anything, there is more corporate socialism than actual socialism. Corporations can get bailed out if they fail and at the same time, not be taxed at all. How is that socialism again? Please?
But it’s no shock that people continue to toss around these memes that are grossly untrue. In fact, President Obama could very well reduce Social Security and Medicare to Americans; which are two examples of government providing services. So yes, President Obama could be the LEAST socialist President in your lifetime.
But you didn’t let facts help you before, why should I expect you do so now?