What is Socialism?

“Over the long term, Obama’s plans are designed to ensnare the country in a new socialism, a stealth socialism that masquerades as a traditional sense of fair play, a soft but pernicious socialism similar to that currently strangling the economies of Europe,” – Stanley Kurtz

“I don’t use the word `socialist,’ or I haven’t so far,” Romney told CNN in an interview last year. “But I do agree that the president’s approach is government-heavy, government-intensive, and it’s not working.” – Mitt Romney

The below article authored by James Taranto of the WSJ:

Here’s a pair of questions that some people are, surprisingly, asking: “Is Obama Really a Socialist? Some Say So, but Where’s the Evidence?” That’s a Christian Science Monitor headline, and while the second question is entirely rhetorical, suggesting the paper (or is it just a website now?) comes down on the negative side, the story is actually inconclusive:

The assertion is getting louder: President Obama is a socialist, a wealth-redistributing wolf in Democrat’s clothing gnawing at America’s entrepreneurial spirit.

It’s easy to buy “Obama is a socialist” bumper stickers on the Internet. Political commentator Dick Morris said, in a column circulated on GOPUSA.com, that conservatives are “enraged at Barack Obama’s socialism and radicalism.” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich titled his new book “To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine.”

So, is Mr. Obama trying to form The Socialist Republic of America? Or are the accusations mainly a political weapon, meant to stick Obama with a label that is poison to many voters and thus make him a one-term president?

As is often the case in politics, the answer is in the eye of the beholder.

Well, “Answer Is in Eye of Beholder” is about the dullest headline one could write without mentioning Canada, so we can see why the Monitor went for something with an ever so tiny bit more sex appeal. Still, what’s interesting here is that the Monitor is treating the question even as a legitimate one.

The left has portrayed the assertion “Obama is a socialist” as the product of hallucinogenic tea. Polls attempting to show that Republicans are crazy–both the one Markos Moulitsas commissioned and the one John Avlon inspired, helped design and touted but did not commission–have included it along with such genuinely insane claims as “Obama was not born in the U.S.” and “Obama may be the Antichrist.” Yet you won’t see a mainstream publication weigh the pros and cons of those claims and conclude that “the answer is in the eye of the beholder.”

What’s more–and this was our first thought on seeing the Monitor story–we’re pretty sure we never saw a similar story during George W. Bush’s time in office seriously pondering the question of whether he was a fascist, though left-wingers called him that all the time.

We suppose this is in part because the left has so cheapened the term “fascism” as to leave it with little meaning other than as a term of abuse. Socialism also has better PR than fascism does, and hence is more respectable: Some European countries have socialist parties that are part of mainstream politics, and although Obama does not call himself a socialist, one member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, wears the label with pride.

These days “fascism” is less often associated with Mussolini’s party, which was its namesake, than with the Nazis, even though Nazi is an abbreviation for National Socialist. And somehow the socialist label seldom gets applied to the other defunct totalitarian state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

If the media take somewhat more seriously the claim that Obama is a socialist than the claim that Bush was a fascist, it certainly isn’t because they’re biased in favor of Bush. Rather, it has to do with the merits of the assertions.

Merriam-Webster defines fascism as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime . . . that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”

M-W defines socialism as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

Calling Bush a fascist is flatly false; his philosophy and administration met none of the criteria in the definition. Calling Obama a socialist, by contrast, is merely a gross overstatement.

Lagging Indicator

When a Democrat is in the White House, media coverage of the economy tends to be a lagging indicator of bad news and a leading indicator of good news–which is another way of saying that, as we noted yesterday, reporters’ usual approach can be summed up as “always look on the bright side of life.”

Things must be really getting bad, because the lagging indicator seems to be catching up. In yesterday’s column we analyzed a dispatch by Christopher Rugaber of the Associated Press that previewed today’s jobs report and tried to explain away the expected bad news. Later yesterday, though, Rugaber filed another dispatchthat was far dourer, including its title, “Evidence Mounts That Recovery Is Hitting the Skids.”

Rugaber weighs in again today with a story on the actual jobless numbers, and his mood hadn’t improved overnight. The title gave the bad news first: “Payrolls Drop by 125K, Jobless Rate Falls.” The story, too, begins with the bad news, and swiftly explains why the good news isn’t so good:

A weak June jobs report offered the latest evidence that the economic recovery is slowing.

Employers cut 125,000 jobs last month, the most since October, the Labor Department said Friday. The loss was driven by the end of 225,000 temporary census jobs. Businesses added a net total of 83,000 workers, the sixth straight month of private-sector job gains but not enough to speed up the recovery.

Unemployment dropped to 9.5 percent–the lowest level since July 2009–from 9.7 percent. But the reason for the decline was more than 650,000 people gave up on their job searches and left the labor force. People who are no longer looking for work aren’t counted as unemployed.

Neither dispatch uses the phrase “jobless recovery,” which was a staple of economic coverage during the Bush years–even though, before the last few months of 2008, unemployment seldom topped 6%.

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