Spreading the Wealth

In the closing two weeks McCain and Palin have seized upon the “spreading the wealth” statement to warn darkly of socialism arriving with an Obama administration.

But it can be a complicated argument in this topsy-turvy year of financial collapse, when the government, from the Republican president on down, has seemed to be in the giveaway business and the wealth-spreading business an awful lot of late.

There have been taxpayer-financed bailouts of individual businesses and broader interventions like the $700 billion bailout of the financial system — which both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama supported — not to mention the Bush administration’s move to buy a $250 billion stake in the nation’s banks. In the wake of the financial crisis, everyone seems to like some state-directed form of wealth redistribution, including Mr. McCain, who wants to use taxpayer money to buy distressed mortgages and sell them back to homeowners at more affordable rates.

If this is the best campaign closer the Republicans have, I’m not sure it’s going to be that effective. Once George Bush essentially nationalized the nine largest banks in the country, the word “socialism” is not a great cudgel against the Democrats.

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0 Responses to Spreading the Wealth

  1. Ryan says:

    I don’t think that Obama will bring the socialism to our country.
    But he’ll make a solid economic policy!

  2. Jason says:

    The NY Times and other media outlets keep on missing the point by focusing on the merits of McCain arguments. You can get a clearer picture of what they are doing by ignoring the merits and looking at their actions solely through a political lens.

    Their motivations for crying “socialism” is three-fold.

    1. Energize the base (the Rush Limbaugh crowd loves this stuff).
    2. Control the media cycle.
    3. (Most important) Portray Obama as being anti-American\foreign\too weird for America.

    Their only concern about the merits of their argument is that they won’t get laughed out of the room. If they could get away with calling Obama the anti-Christ, they would, regardless of whether they believe it or not.

    The fact that media outlets are still asking at this point whether there is merit to McCain’s arguments is a huge win for the McCain campaign.

    He’s running a petty, unserious campaign because he thinks it is his only chance to win. Merit isn’t in their top five considerations, and hasn’t been for weeks. It’s very hard though for the media to call him out and not appear biased.

  3. pond says:

    I noticed back in May (maybe April) that my aged Mom, a devoted Foxnews/rightmedia follower, started saying, ‘Hilary and Obama are just plain socialists.’ It struck me as odd, and since then this tag has become more widespread, making me think that it is a deliberate Republican talking point.

    I guess ‘liberal’ is not fearsome enough anymore.

    Maybe by November it will be ‘Obama is a communist?’

    This is definitely NOT the ‘best the Republicans can do’ — if Senator McCain’s campaign history is anything to go on, he will roll out 4 new strategies with buzz-words in the next two weeks. The pace is likely to accelerate too.

    It’s all getting tiresome. The campaign this go-round has been the longest … ever?

    But remember that Senator McCain has definitely lost the ‘drill here drill now’ mantra, since gas prices have fallen. We Americans have very short memories. All it will take is a couple weeks of relative quiet in the economic world, to make a lot of us forget the collapse that is coming (or at least appears to be coming).

    I look for that to happen. The Republicans remain in charge of the administration that controls the economic news — everything outside the stock market and foreign markets, that is (and President Bush is doing his best to control the foreign markets now — he wants to lock in his preferred deals and cronies before the election, to tie the next President’s hands as much as he can, just as he’s trying in foreign policy).

    I expect the poll numbers will start to lean in Senator McCain’s direction from now on. But the final push will be a battle between Democratic ‘get out the vote’ and Republican ‘purge the voting rolls’ — should be very interesting.

    I just wish I were a Martian so the outcome didn’t affect my life so much…

  4. Mason Dixon says:

    The basic ideals of the McCain, Palin, Limbaugh and Hannity crowd and the strategy that emerges from it is listed concisely below, thanks to Driftglass…

    1. “The common good” is an evil delusion
    2. Looking out for “the least of these” is a Socialist plot.
    3. Looking out for Number One is next to Godliness.
    4. And therefore the rules of courtesy, reciprocity, tolerance and prudence are strictly for suckers.


  5. Dan says:

    pond, I hear that. What really gores my ox about 2008 America is the fact that the right, if “the right” is the correct phrase, has so successfully demonized so many things. For a start, the word “communist” can only mean pure, unadulterated evil. It’s equated with Stalin, collective farms, enforced famines and gulags. The word “socialist” isn’t far behind; the general connotation is “someone who wants to be a Stalinist murderer but doesn’t have the strength of his convictions.” At best, it means, “someone who wants to steal all of your money and give it to your social inferiors.” Then of course there is “liberal”, which means “someone who wants to force your children into gay marriages and force all women to end all pregnancies in abortion…as well as steal all of your money and give it to your social inferiors.”

    The words “government” and “regulation” are two more classics; they are both defined roughly as “strangling police state,” regardless of circumstances. Except for actual police state stuff like warrantless wiretapping, suspension of habeas corpus and trawling library records.

    And of course we have the terms “intellectual” (East/West Coast snob who uses his phony book learning to force your children into gay marriage) and “elitist” (the connotation is so vague here that it means “anybody we don’t like and who doesn’t look and act like a NASCAR devotee”, but one thing is certain, it does not necessarily mean “wealthy media pundit with a bully pulpit”, unless you tack on “left-wing” at the start of it).

    But the most odious of all words is “tax.” It means (this should be familiar by now) “stealing everything you own and giving it to your social inferiors.” Though the people who scream about it the loudest will elbow their way up to that pork trough with a fervent intensity equal to any Democrat.

    If you voice an opinion that these “definitions” are hardly accurate, you’re shouted down as a thug, a liar and an America-hater. You don’t even have to voice any allegiance to any of these terms; you can merely say, “I don’t equate the word ‘communist’ automatically, fully and only with Stalinist terror” to set them baying. And one of their first criticisms will be to say that you are a thug.

    On the flip side we have all of the words that can never, ever be questioned, words like “democracy,” “freedom,” “liberty,” “capitalism,” and “America.” Even when (especially when) those words are used to represent something that might appear to you to be the precise opposite of their nominal definitions.

    Strange world.

  6. Mason Dixon says:

    Absolutely correct on all points. I’m going to send this around. Not only have you correctly identified and classified the semasiology of the words above, but you’ve provided a template of the things that must be fixed before we can possibly get the country back on track. In other words, we must restore and reclaim the actual meaning of the words before we can restore and reclaim the actual ideas and ideals of the Constitution. Otherwise, we will always be speaking different languages.
    Of course, this presents a real conundrum, and causes me to go against my one intractable rule which is – Never argue with an idiot.
    Oh well. I’ll figure it out.

  7. seattle steve says:

    Technically, I think “spreading the wealth around” is more of a Marxist policy than Socialist. Now, if Pelosi and others get their wish to have the government take over the oil companies, that would be Socialism.

    I also think it’s inaccurate to lump the ideals of McCain, Plain, Limbaugh and Hannity together as Mason Dixon does. McCain’s record is one of a moderate. Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives are not really big fans of his.

  8. VeryBadMan says:

    Spreading the wealth is a Christian term. A term of generosity.

  9. VeryBadMan says:

    Here is something from the second chapter of the Book of Acts that might have meaning for this Christian nation. Acts 2:44-47.

    “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

  10. Rick Turner says:

    I’m liking most of what I’m seeing above other than the McCain record of being a moderate. He’s puked all over that record in the past few months spewing forth bile and stirring up hate. He was so pissed off at not being the anointed one some years back that it’s driven him into this nasty place where he’s surrounded himself with a bunch of real assholes.

  11. seattle steve says:

    Sharing the wealth is Christian. Government mandated spreading of the wealth is Marxist.

  12. pirano says:

    It’s impossible to say what impact this will have on swing voters, just like it’s impossible to say how strong the “Bradley Affect” will be. But both are big points against Obama, particularly now as the gap in the polls is supposedly narrowing.

    My two cents? Obama has to show a real sense of urgency. It that means to be angry, or perceived as angry, then so be it and damn conventional wisdom. If he loses, at least he’ll go down fighting and be remembered for that.

    I hope that shows up in those 30 minute ads he’s buying on prime time.

  13. Dan says:

    “Christian” and “Marxist.”

    More loaded terminology to whose values you are forced to submit or else be labeled as anti-American or something.

    Read the gospels and you’ll find Jesus saying a whole lot of Marxist things.

  14. Mason Dixon says:

    Then what is democratically elected government mandated spreading of the wealth?

    And how is it worse than government mandated concentration of the wealth in the upper 1% of the population?

  15. I nodded off there for a few minutes and must have missed something.

    Did someone mention “spreading the wealth around?” It’s OK by me. Why didn’t we think of this before? Can we pass this spread-the-wealth thing by acclamation, or does someone need a show of hands?

  16. len bullard says:

    @pirano: The ‘spreading the wealth’ quote is bad if historical trends hold, but then given a candidate that doesn’t hold to his statements, I suspect most of that will be dismissed as campaign rhetoric. On the other hand, CNN ran a special last night on just how bad the greed on Wall Street is. If one of the candidates swears on a stack of Bibles they will appoint prosecutors, there may be some angry traction there. McCain won’t and Obama can’t because of the support he is getting from hedge fund investors.

    As for Obama getting urgent or angry, he doesn’t need to change. What he has been doing is working. The ACORN scandal is eroding some support and possibly pushing some fence sitters who have said they will vote for Obama to reconsider, but his lead is solid right now. He will work to keep making it about Palin and unless a major news network defects, he has all the media he needs. If he changed now, the sound bites from the media about his ‘coolness’ would ring false. That would be bad.

    That 30 minute special could backfire but I suspect most Americans will tune it out. It’s media slop for being well-behaved.

    The election is no longer about issues. In the last two weeks, it is pure adrenaline and emotions. Watch for gaffes.

  17. seattle steve says:

    I guess that is called welfare. Some welfare is good. A welfare state is not good, in my opinion.

    As to your 2nd question, I think that’s a false premise. As long as there are not barriers for ordinary people to achieve extraordinary wealth then I think the government is doing okay to stay out of the way.

  18. Mason Dixon says:

    I think government’s deregulation of the financial industry invariably results in the second.

  19. Mason Dixon says:

    I don’t know anyone who thinks a welfare state is good. No Democrats I know, anyway, but there’s a difference between a welfare state and a social safety net.

  20. Mason Dixon says:

    Here’s where the Acorn thing is going to lead…


    So that’s why now they’re reconsidering revisiting Rev. Wright.

  21. Spreading the wealth around is welfare? Not by a long shot!

    Welfare is government assistance to the needy.

    Spreading the wealth around is mostly about having a fair tax system. The present tax system, taken as a whole, transfers wealth from the middle class to the rich. Wealthy people and corporations should not be allowed to dodge taxes; they should pay their fair share. The rest of us, meaning at least the bottom 90 percent, need to pay our share too. But if the wealthy and corporations were taxed reasonably, the middle class and the poor could keep more of their hard-earned income.

    BTW, universal health care would be a big step in the direction of spreading the wealth around.

  22. fdeblauwe says:

    A great cartoon lambasting this phenomenon on the Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3 blog…

  23. Rick Turner says:

    Len, Obama doesn’t have to make it about Palin; McCain is doing a great job of turning people off all by his Gollum lonesome. He’s turned into the closet drunk nasty uncle who you never liked seeing at family affairs. Palin’s just the ditzy younger auntie whose brooch always hurt your ear when she hugged you too tight.

  24. Mason Dixon says:

    Hi Folks,
    Here is what Len posts on his own blog. Notice the superior tone throughout. Notice how all arguments contrary to his opinion are defined as “rage” and notice the repetitive nature of the so-called narrative. Don’t respond with rage. Don’t respond at all.

    Feed the Fire
    I’ve had a jolly good time debating the ObamaBots at Jon Taplin’s blog. These are the true believers who have made his campaign a raging success. It is noticeable throughout the primaries and now just how much his supporters depend on rage and feed on it. It is a destructive technique for culture in general.

    The trick is to frame the opponent in a bad light. Jon and his friends are practiced at this but not terribly skilled. It seems to be a reflex move when they are confused by a reply or contradicted. This is something they share with Obama who is thin skinned when his intellectual superiority is questioned.

    The framing of his organization as intellectually superior and all others as inferior (’dumb’, ‘moron’, ’scoundrel’) has been their most consistent approach throughout the primaries and beyond. This results in the ’self/other’ antipathy that feeds the rage machine. They are doing this deliberately because they are doing it consistently. Means matter when considering a candidate and the means used by the Obama campaign indicate his term in office should he win will be a divisive one with little achieved except to drive divisions deeper into the American psyche.

    Don’t respond with rage or hurt. It just empties your life into their hell instead of feeding your own fire.

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