Joe the Plumber and Socialism

October 17, 2008

It’s been a long week, and as such I’ve written quite a bit less. I’ve been working on my first “Christianity And..” piece and my book review, and hadn’t planned on making a full post here until next week when I could post those articles after their completion. But then, I sat down to watch the final presidential debate on Wednesday night; I wasn’t planning to comment on it, and really nothing of much relevance occurred during the course of the debate. I felt Obama had the best answers and plans, and that of the 4 debates he and Biden were a part of, I feel they had the best responses to the majority of the questions asked. I just have to mention “Joe the Plumber” though. Anyone watching the debate could foresee that as many times as Joe’s name was invoked, he would be getting his 15 minutes of fame. And he did, using them on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday to say that although he wouldn’t reveal who he was voting for, he felt that Obama’s tax plan was “very socialistic, and that’s incredibly wrong.” After hearing that I felt I had to write a piece addressed to Joe (although he himself would likely never read it) detailing how the 3 % (from 36% to 39%) tax increase for those making more than $250,000 a year would still leave him better off than the majority of Americans and still better off than he himself was when he was working those long hours trying to “build himself up.” It was at that time of hard, thankless work that, as Obama stated, he deserved a break and he didn’t get one. I crafted a piece that went into detail about how the revenue of his business, the way he filed and the state of health care and the economy would all be factors affecting his actual tax level. But then…give someone their 15 minutes and the truth soon comes out. First it came out that even if Joe’s new business made $280,000 a year, the actual taxable income of that amount under Obama’s proposed plan would remain under the tax increase threshold and Joe would actually benefit from Obama’s plan. Then we find out that Joe is exaggerating a bit about his readiness to purchase the said business and as such he would benefit even greater from Obama’s plan. Then it came out that Joe isn’t even a licensed plumber, and earlier today it was reported that Joe owes $1200 in back taxes to the state of Ohio. So really, a detailed message to Joe seems kind of pointless at this time. What remains important from Joe’s statements, however, is his comment on Obama’s plan being socialism. Although people nowadays don’t tend to go around shouting “Communist!” and the “Red Scare” is a thing of the past, there is an increasing tendency for conservatives to label any liberal idea or policy as “socialist.” Perhaps a study of the political spectrum is needed. At the very center of the political scale is the moderate. To the left of moderate is liberal. To the right of moderate is conservative. Extreme liberalism is socialism and at it’s extreme, socialism becomes communism. To the right of political conservatism is fascism. Now, even though modern American conservatives tend to be moving further to the right all the time, we don’t hear shouts and accusations of “fascist!” too often. And honestly, fascism is the extreme opposite of communism and both lead to destructive and dangerous forms of government. There aren’t too many tried and true Communists and Fascists involved in modern American politics. As for socialism? I think it’s very possible that a viable and strong form of democracy incorporates aspects of socialism as well as aspects of capitalism. See, although Capitalism isn’t really a form of government, it has steadily become like one in America today, one that offshoots from the political spectrum somewhere to the right of conservatism but to the left of fascism. As damaging as Communism can be to a group of people when the controlling government becomes too strong and corrupt, free-reign, social-Darwinism forms of Capitalism can be just as bad. Extreme capitalism in America has resulted in millions of people suffering and/or dying by not receiving adequate health care because we’ve turned health care and health insurance in this country into a major profit industry where social-Darwinism runs wild. We’ve allowed oil companies to ravage the environment and drain our wallets at the pump while their CEOs post record profits. We’ve allowed shady mortgages and bad wall street business to lead to foreclosures forcing senior citizens out of homes they’ve worked their whole lives to pay for. This list could go on indefinitely, but the point is that capitalism in its extreme form, allowed to control areas of basic human needs and rights, well that is just as evil and just as dangerous as full blown communism is and we’ve allowed it to take root in America. People shout “socialism” at a plan that aims to control wild unreasonable profits by large corporations and the extreme wealthy. People shout “socialism” at a any type of health care plan that aims to ensure that no one dies because they can’t afford their medicine. British scholars have commented that they’ve had universal health care ever since rebuilding their cities due to the bombs dropped on London in WWII. They established it at that time as a way of coming together, “taking care of their own,” and it’s never been viewed as “liberal” or “conservative” in England for a wealthy nation to provide all of it’s citizens with the health care and treatment they it easily afford to provide. Which brings me to another point–that most of what is called “socialism” here in America isn’t even true liberalism, and most candidates and policies that are labeled “liberal” here are really just “moderate.” One of the only liberal politicians that is even recognizable by name to the average American citizen is Ralph Nader. If Obama ran for office in any other wealthy, industrialized and democratic nation he would be considered moderate, even slightly conservative. Here he’s demonized by the GOP and supposed “moderates” for being liberal, as if that’s a bad thing.
If you go on You Tube and search around for “Economics 101 Pt. II: Dear Mr. Obama,” you’ll find a video in which a waistline shot of a man who never reveals his face goes on a ten minute speech about economics addressed at Obama. The man stands in front of an American flag and speaks in tones of sarcasm and cynicism, addressing Obama as if he were a child about “basic economics.” This man trots out a lot of conservative talking points and it proves that if you repeat the same falsities to the right people regularly enough, they will buy it as textbook fact. He says that since Obama wants to cut 95 percent of the peoples tax, that to make up for all of his proposed plans and spending he will have to tax that top percent a “ginormous” amount, and that as a result the companies that make up the top 5 percent and who “employ most people” will have to do massive lay offs, double the price of goods for all of us to make up for their profit loss, and as such, double the “misery index” of the American family. Then they trot out a picture of Carter and accuse him of being the last to try such plans as Obama and that we all suffered as a result. Well, putting aside the fact that Carter is often too maligned for things he shouldn’t be held responsible for and also putting aside that conservatives demonize and overlook most of the great things he did and would have been capable of doing in a second term, I have a correction for those who say no one’s attempted to try a tax system like Obama since Carter–wrong. Most of the exact tax cuts Obama plans to make are the same as those enacted by Bill Clinton. In fact, the jump from 39 from 36 percent for those over that 250 K threshold will be a result of simply peeling back the Bush tax cuts and allowing the Clinton system to fall back into place. Under Clinton’s economic plan, the middle class was stronger and more vibrant than it previously was under Reagan and after under Bush, unemployment was low, health care was more affordable and the economy was strong. Goods didn’t’ “cost double” because when huge corporations have to pay a bit more in taxes, they cut back on CEO salaries before they double price because they know they won’t sell as many goods at a ridiculous price. Clinton embraced politically progressive economic plans–like LBJ, FDR and Teddy Roosevelt. Political Progressivism can be bi-partisan, Republicans like Teddy used such plans to get our country on track to aid all of its citizens, regardless of income. It’s just that we haven’t had a Politically Progressive Republican since Teddy. I tire of hearing the claim of “class warfare.” Honestly, are the very rich being persecuted for making money? No. The reason someone making a lot of money can pay 39 percent of their profit compared to a poor person paying only 36 percent is simple. That extra 3 percent would hurt the poor person very much by taking it away, yet it wouldn’t even yield very much money for the government to use in it’s programs, programs that are most likely needed by that same poor person anyway. That extra 3 percent taken from a wealthy person will not only yield more in dollar value for the government to use, it will also hurt that person very little, if at all; they’ll still have quite a lot more money than the poor person who gets to hold onto his 3 percent.
That’s it, I’ve said all I have to say about this; thanks for the inspiration, Joe.

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