It’s Your Credibility, Stupid

Ross Douthat:

For a week or so now, I’ve been listening to smart conservatives suggest that Obama’s “spreading the wealth” remark might really, really hurt him – “talk about playing into the most extreme stereotype of your party, that it is infested with socialists,” writes James Pethokoukis – and I have a question: Hasn’t Obama been promising to spread the wealth throughout the entire race – a race he seems to be winning at the moment? His signal domestic-policy proposals are 1) a series of tax cuts and tax credits aimed at Americans making less than $250,000 a year and 2) a big-ticket health care reform aimed at expanding coverage; both of these plans, he promises, can be paid for with tax hikes on the richest 5 percent of Americans. This agenda isn’t a big socialist secret; it’s more or less the basis of his campaign. I suppose it’s possible that the “spreading the wealth” turn of phrase throws the redistributionist aspect of Obama’s agenda into relief in a way his campaign promises haven’t. But it seems to me like a generic restatement of a message that’s central to the Democratic campaign: Namely, that the rich haven’t paid their fair share under Republican rule, and that people making over $250,000 a year should pay more in taxes so that most Americans can pay less, to the IRS and in health-insurance premiums.

Look, we already mentioned this earlier today, Powell talked about it over the weekend, but I will let Chuck Todd say it one more time:

Has the McCain campaign made a fundamental mistake in attack politics — don’t charge your opponent with something that doesn’t seem to pass the smell test beyond your base? This “socialist” charge is going to be hard for many middle-of-the-road voters to believe, particularly after Powell endorsed his candidacy. Saying Obama’s a “liberal,” well there are facts to back that up. But the socialist charge feels like an over-reach, and it may be falling on deaf ears. Of course, with the government getting so involved with our financial markets right now and McCain wanting to use federal money to buy up bad mortgages, it’s hard for McCain to back up his socialist charge since he wants a similar amount of government intervention.

Exactly. The appropriate response to any Republican who calls Obama a socialist after eight years of Bush and after listening to McCain’s own proposals is outright ridicule. Laugh in their face. Mock them. They have zero credibility, and the word socialism no longer has any meaning, at least not in American politics. That the Republicans still have not realized this on the very day that Ben Bernanke is on the hill advocating more spending in order to stimulate the economy is just extra precious. As a commenter noted:

Socialist: raising the top tax rate from 35% to 39%.

Free-Market: nationalizing the banks, massive investment in insurance agencies, limiting certain types of trades, raising the debt ceiling, and promoting government investment into stocks and bonds. And an emphasis on Red States.

It’s all so clear now!

We are all socialists now, Ross.

*** Update ***

Let’s play list the bailouts- I will start with AIG, the airline industries post 9/11, the 25 billion to the auto industry a few weeks ago, and hell, I think an argument could be made that the SuperFund clean-ups that have been going on for who knows how long constitutes a bailout of sorts- how many of those companies would have gone under had they been forced to pay for the toxic mess they left behind. Add your own.






55 replies
  1. 1
    Zifnab says:

    Damn straight.

  2. 2
    Calouste says:

    Comrade McCain is now even asking the Russians if they have a spare ruble for him:

    via Politico

    On a day on which McCain campaign manager Rick Davis hinted that Obama was taking foreign money, the Russian Mission to the United Nations has released a standard-issue fundraising letter gone a bit astray: It was addressed to the Russian envoy to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, at the mission’s address, but without his title.

  3. 3
    Jeff says:

    I like the idea of asking how many companies/industries received bailouts or were just taken over in Republican vs Democratic administrations in the past 50 years.

  4. 4
    Faux News says:

    I thought we were all Georgians (of the Caucasus Mountains type) now? How can we be Georgians AND beg Moscow for more rubles? I am confused

  5. 5
    Buckethead says:

    Also free-market, according to McCain: using tax dollars to buy failing mortgages at face value.

  6. 6
    SGEW says:

    . . . the word socialism no longer has any meaning, at least not in American politics.

    Au contraire, mon frere. What we’re going to see is that more and more Americans will be told "Obama’s a SOCIALIST!" And a lot of people say "Wait, this socialism thing sounds pretty good right now. Nationalize the banks? Didn’t we just do that? "Spread the wealth"? I could use me some wealth. And this common ownership of the means of production thing doesn’t sound so bad . . . ."

    John McCain is mainstreaming socialism. Awesome.

  7. 7
    Punchy says:

    Hasn’t Obama been promising to spread the wealth throughout the entire race

    I knew those Scary Negros wanted all the money….

  8. 8
    The Moar You Know says:

    The wingtards don’t get it. My hometown newspaper/website (warning, you will think a lot less of San Diego once you read the comments attached to ANY story) is awash in the rabies-laced spittle of frezied GOP Taliban, who seem determined to spread the meme of Obama’s "socialism". They don’t understand that the charge doesn’t stick, because they aren’t apying attention to anyone who is not saying exactly the same things that they are.

    They are going to be in for a real shock November 5th. Fortunately for their delicate psyches, their masters have already seem the writing on the wall and have prepared a vast and comprehensive list of excuses for why the election was lost, none of which include "we were wrong".

  9. 9
    SGEW says:

    Huh. Wai iz I moderated?

    I been bad?

    (edit: never mind! kthx)

  10. 10
  11. 11
    Calouste says:

    @SGEW:

    Probably for using French without applying the proper accents. :)

  12. 12
    SGEW says:

    @Calouste: Hey, I can barely put th’ HTML tags in. Special characters are a step too far.

  13. 13
    Jeff says:

    Bailout – Chrysler

    Here’s a pretty extensive list.

    None during Carter or Clinton, all Republicans.

  14. 14
    gbear says:

    warning, you will think a lot less of San Diego once you read the comments attached to ANY story

    I have the same feeling about the comments in both the Minneapolis and St. Paul papers and I think that most local papers must have that problem. Sometimes it’s pretty embarrasing to read what your neighbors will say about a story (although the comments to the stories about Michelle Bachmann today are pretty funny).

  15. 15

    Has anyone else noticed that, when you hover your mouse over a word typed in ALL CAPS, your mouse cursor turns into a big question mark?

  16. 16
    SamFromUtah says:

    Saying Obama’s a “liberal,” well there are facts to back that up. But the socialist charge feels like an over-reach…

    Yes, assuming that you have any idea what either of the terms actually means. That’s being pretty generous.

  17. 17
    Punchy says:

    Another moran.

    What is it with these idiots that they cant even spell the EASY shit right?

  18. 18
    Catsy says:

    SGEW is exactly right. The more the McCain campaign screams "socialism!" or "socialized medicine!", the more reasonable people compare that with Obama’s proposals and think, "huh, you know, socialism doesn’t sound all that bad to me". They look at all these countries being described as "socialist", and they think, "you know, those people seem a lot happier and healthier than we are right now".

    I think some random called on Air America last night put it best: other countries have socialized medicine the way we have a socialized military.

  19. 19
    Joe Max says:

    I had a political science professor who happened to be a Marxist, and said so on the first day of class. But he was uncompromising in making sure we knew what the hell we meant using words like "communist", "fascist", "socialist" or "capitalist", no matter which side we were arguing on. Pull out the encyclopedia, kid, and look up the word. Is that what you mean, really? No? Then don’t use the label if that’s not what the label means. If you do, it’s just rhetoric, and rhetoric, said the professor, is just the academic word for bullshit.

    Damn, I wish they taught critical thinking in public school. Preferably at the grade school level.

    Castro is a socialist. Does anyone think Obama’s goal is to institute a Cuban-like political structure on the US? Only insane people. Sheesh.

    The stupid burns with the intensity of a magnesium flare these days.

  20. 20
    Walker says:

    I think an argument could be made that the SuperFund clean-ups that have been going on for who knows how long constitutes a bailout of sorts

    I worked on a SuperFund project when I was in undergrad (I paid a large part of my education with that job) I was a programmer at Bechtel who worked with the field team to get the radiation measurements to the CAD guys and civil engineers so that they could visualize where to dig.

    The problem with SuperFunds is that they are often cleaning up after companies that no longer exist. In our case, we were cleaning up after Thomas Edison in Montclair and West Orange NJ. Seems that all of these upscale homes were built on top of an old Edison landfill full of radium clock dials. No one discovered it until children (who spent a lot of rainy days in the basement) starting dying of weird cancers. At that point, who do you sue?

    This is made even worse by the SARA amendment to CERCLA. When that was passed, the government changed their contracts so that the person cleaning up the mess could be held responsible for it in the future if it was found to be contaminated. Sounds perfectly fine, right? Except that the contract was worded so that if, in the future, the EPA changes what it means to be contaminated, the cleaner could be held responsible even if they did an awesome job according to the old definition of contaminated (which is the definition that they placed the bid under). As EPA radiation levels at the time were forcing remediators to yank out granite front porches, this was a legitimate worry for companies bidding to do the clean-up.

    The end result is that all of the companies that expected to be around for a few years (e.g. Bechtel) stopped bidding on these contracts. Instead, the primary bids came from these fly-by-night operations that expected to shut down after they did the work.

  21. 21
    Calouste says:

    Don’t forget the agricultural subsidies. They are so bad that even the EU (whose main reason of existence in the 70s and 80s seemed to be agricultural subsidies) is taking offence at them.

  22. 22
    Comrade Jake says:

    I think the main point about this "socialist" nonsense is that McCain is forcing Obama to defend tax cuts for the middle class. They might as well try to force Obama to defend himself over being so much better than McCain.

    The other problem being, of course, that Obama’s pretty much ridiculing their move on a daily basis. And he’s really, really skilled at it. Check out the latest trounce.

  23. 23
    Comrade Jake says:

    Yeah I’ve no idea what forces the moderation queue around here. Use of italics? It seems completely arbitrary.

  24. 24
    Delia says:

    So we’ve had a tax policy that’s been assiduously redistributing wealth upward to the top 1% of the population for the past eight years, if not longer, and that is what? Socialism? Monopoly Capitalism? Marx said that Monopoly Capitalism would end in ever-widening crises before it collapsed. Lenin said it would have to turn into Imperialist Monopoly Capitalism first, which gave a lot of tinpot gangsters like Mao, Pol Pot, and Che way more street cred than they deserved. But the fact is, we do seem to be back at either the gangsters or redistributing the wealth in one direction or the other. Or history playing the second time as farce.

  25. 25
    Montysano (All Hail Marx & Lennon) says:

    Let’s play list the bailouts-

    Crap. I was gonna list the $700B from a couple of weeks ago, but that was a "rescue" and not a bailout.

  26. 26
    ksmiami says:

    Okay – so here goes, we have a book called "What is your dangerous idea?" It is a collection of ideas by leading scientists, sociologists, etc and one chapter is devoted to the idea posited by Tor Norretranders, that while social relativity and the urge to want to get ahead of others is in every culture, there is a need for a certain amount of socially beneficient programs because:

    "Inequality may seem nice to the rich, but it is not in their interest. A huge body of epidemiological evidence suggests that inequality is in fact the prime cause of human disease… Societies with strong gradients of wealth have higher death rates and more disease and …Poverty means the spreading of disease, the degradation of ecosystems and social violence and crime – which are also bad for the rich. Inequality means stress for everyone and Social relativity then boils down to an illusion: It seems nice to be better off than the rest, but in terms of vitals – survival, good health – it is not."

    So all these repukes shouting about socialism should just shut the fuck up

  27. 27
    Unrepentent Dennis - SGMM says:

    Let’s play list the bailouts-
    The mortgage interest deduction, by which those without a mortgage subsidize those who have one. Talk about spreading the wealth.

  28. 28
    Joe Max says:

    Has anyone else noticed that, when you hover your mouse over a word typed in ALL CAPS, your mouse cursor turns into a big question mark?

    On a Mac with Firefox, a little question mark appears next to the cursor arrow.

    Wass’up wid’ dat?

  29. 29
    Catsy says:

    I suspect it’s yet another widget of code in this piece of crap that John paid for, probably a "popup definition for this acronym" sort of thing. I really don’t feel like clicking on it or sifting through code to find out.

  30. 30
    Unrepentent Dennis - SGMM says:

    Seeing as how trolls like to type in all Caps it’s probably an idiot alert.

  31. 31
    The Moar You Know says:

    On a Mac with Firefox, a little question mark appears next to the cursor arrow.

    Same with Opera. Although I’m running the capitalist Real American OS, Vista, not your ridiculous elite socialist OS, Leopard or Tiger or Ocicat or whatever feline Apple currently worships.

  32. 32

    Hey, my post was so awesome BJ ate it.

    I’d include the contractors who got truckloads of cash despite the fact they didn’t actually earn the money. Here’s three off the top of my head:

    Parsons – Built a new police academy for the Iraqi police force that was so structurally unsound (think liquid waste pouring from the ceiling) it was a weapon of mass destruction. They blamed the horrid native sub-contractors and got paid.

    ICF International – Responsible for The Road Home program. Still screwing up pay outs to Katrina victims as of March 2008, still getting paid. The program director was once a high-ranking official in the Department of Homeland Security.

    Warning – Clicking on the following link will make me a blogho.

    Harris Corporation – Received $600 mill. to create a hand-held data collection system for the 2010 census. They spent close to 600 mill. just to create a gadget that does not work and will not work by 2010. BushCo punished them with a nearly $120 mill. contract to develop radio system for the military.

    I say those were all bailouts, back when Bush was a bit more subtle about his robberies.

  33. 33
    e.c. says:

    Just another example of how his life of (unearned) priveldge has warped McCain’s perspective. When you say "spread the wealth," to 95% of the country that sounds like a GREAT idea.

  34. 34
    Jeff W says:

    Christopher Hayes (of The Nation) makes this observation [emphasis added]:

    …check out this poll which shows a plurality of Americans believing that ‘socialized medicine’ – described by the pollsters in just that phrase — would be better than what we have now. When calling something "socialist" loses its sting, the Republicans are really in trouble.

  35. 35
    LiberalTarian says:

    SuperFund was not always a public bailout–it used to be funded by taxes on oil and chemical companies. In 2003, thanks to GW Bush eliminating that pesky provision for his cronies and contributors, it became a middle-class taxpayer funded operation.

  36. 36
    crack says:

    Steel Tarriff. One of the signature corporate payoffs of the early Bush admin.

  37. 37

    Comrade Cole is correct! All hail Comrade Cole!

    (Just trying out the New World Order lingo we’re all gonna have to learn now)

  38. 38
    Interrobang says:

    If you do, it’s just rhetoric, and rhetoric, said the professor, is just the academic word for bullshit.

    Speaking as someone with an advanced degree in actual rhetoric, bullshit. What your professor was saying about words meaning things is actually what rhetoric is about. That’s the real stuff. The academic term for "bullshit" is generally "malapropism" or "unfounded argumentation." At least if the academic in question isn’t like me, and therefore isn’t mean enough to actually call bullshit bullshit.

    In fact, by using the vernacularly pejorised pseudodefinition of the word "rhetoric" and not what "rhetoric" actually means, there’s a pretty compelling case that your prof shot his own argument in its already-lame right foot. Way to go, Prof Dude; you owe me a new ironometer.

    Goddamn I am so tired of people using "rhetoric" in that snide, dismissive sense.

  39. 39
    SGEW says:

    Steel Tarriff. One of the signature corporate payoffs of the early Bush admin.

    Oh man. I totally forgot about that. And the sabre rattling with China over the Taiwanese straights! Oh, those were the good ol’ days.

    . . . the academic word for bullshit

    I think you are confusing "bullshit" with "bullshytt."

    Def. 2: Speech (typically but not necessarily commercial or political) that employs euphemism, convenient vagueness, numbing repetition, and other such rhetorical subterfuges to create the impression that something has been said.

    [From Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, the best scifi book I’ve read in years. Years! Possibly ever (fo’ real!). An absolute must read.]

  40. 40
    David Hunt says:

    Let’s play list the bailouts

    How about the original S&L bailout? I’m surprised that hasn’t made it into this thread yet.

  41. 41
    SamFromUtah says:

    @jake 4 that 1: I’d include the contractors who got truckloads of cash despite the fact they didn’t actually earn the money.

    I think those deserve their own category. Is their a pithy one-word term for fantastically expensive, worthless/damaging cronyism?

  42. 42
    Delia says:

    "Inequality may seem nice to the rich, but it is not in their interest. A huge body of epidemiological evidence suggests that inequality is in fact the prime cause of human disease… Societies with strong gradients of wealth have higher death rates and more disease and …Poverty means the spreading of disease, the degradation of ecosystems and social violence and crime – which are also bad for the rich. Inequality means stress for everyone and Social relativity then boils down to an illusion: It seems nice to be better off than the rest, but in terms of vitals – survival, good health – it is not."

    This is an interesting point. Microbial life forms are notoriously uninterested in the distribution of wealth. Edgar Allen Poe has that cute short story, "The Masque of the Red Death," for anyone who’s interested in taking the question in a more literary form.

  43. 43
    Trollhattan says:

    I had a girlfriend with a rhetoric degree from UC Berkeley. Money well spent: I could never win one goddamn argument with her.

    Not a "bailout" per se but the gifting of natural resources on public lands (and off shore, to be topical) to corporations both domestic and foreign-owned has gone on for more than a century.

  44. 44
    Martin says:

    I was surprised to learn on 60 Minutes last night that BofA got $25B in the equity boost pool. They didn’t need it, but didn’t have the option to refuse, it seems. I need to rewatch the piece because the kids were, well, being kids, so I didn’t have my full attention on it, but my sense is that Paulson bought himself a seat at the BofA table to make sure that they don’t go and fuck themselves with a $3T asset sheet that would make AIG look like my credit union going under.

    The CEO said that half of all American families bank at BofA. That’s unreal – and scary as hell.

  45. 45

    @SamFromUtah: Hmm. Is cl^ster f^ck one word or two?

  46. 46
    tavella says:

    The software is applying a ‘span class="caps"’ to any two or more caps in a row standalone. Possibly there is server-side code doing something with that, but it doesn’t seem to have effects beyond the question mark.

  47. 47
    Martin says:

    I had a girlfriend with a rhetoric degree from UC Berkeley. Money well spent: I could never win one goddamn argument with her.

    I have a wife that I can’t win an argument with, but a totally different degree.

    Shorter explanation: It’s the vagina, stupid.

  48. 48
    Svensker says:

    Interrobang

    Chocolate? Or just plain old vanilla!?

  49. 49
    Nylund says:

    Don’t forget the oil revenue sharing of Alaska in your talk of socialism.

    Specifically the Alaska Permanent Fund, where they take the oil profits of Alaska and distribute them equally amongst all citizens as a yearly dividend payment (even if those people didn’t do a damn thing to help make the money!). This is basically exactly what "socialist" countries with oil like Norway, Venezuela, and Kuwait, etc. do.

    The rest of us in "real" America have the satisfaction of knowing that through the power of capitalism, all those profits can be kept by the major oil corporations where they belong. I feel sorry for those Alaskan socialists. It must be hell living with those state-controlled yearly dividend payments. I mean, the only difference between Palin and Stalin is an STP

  50. 50
    Frederick says:

    John McCain, that great apostle of the Free Market, wants to bail out people who’ve stopped paying their mortgages (and the mortgage-holding banks) by spending $300 billion in government money to pay off the difference between the mortgage amounts and the current diminished values of the properties. If that’s not socialism, I don’t know what is. I say this as a liberal Democrat who lost his job but wouldn’t qualify for this gravy train because my wife and I have kept paying our mortgage.

  51. 51
    Comrade Nikolita says:

    @Catsy:

    Sounds about right. We "socialist" Canuckistanians are quite happy up here. I like to think that giving a shit about other human beings outside my racial group and tax bracket makes me a better person, and makes the world a better place.

    I wouldn’t trade the healthcare, flaws and all, for what you have down there. That’s a shitty system and too many people who can’t afford it suffer as a result.

  52. 52
    OwnedByTwoCats says:

    #13 Jeff: the Chrysler bailout was in 1980, which was the last full year of Carter’s presidency. He lost the election in November, and Ronald Reagan was sworn in in January 1981.

    The Chrysler bailout was the Federal Government backing private loans to Chrysler. Chrysler paid the loans off, in full, ahead of schedule.

    But still, that makes the tally D: 1, R: Bunches.

  53. 53
    Wilson Heath says:

    I heard a clip of McCain on NPR this morning ragging on the "spread the wealth" comment, saying that "America did not become the greatest nation on Earth by giving money to the government to spread the wealth around."

    This is what we call false. In fact, completely false.

    Top marginal rate at the end of WWII in 1945: 98%.
    Top marginal rate 1945-1964: 90%.
    Top marginal rate 1964-1982: 70%.
    Top marginal rate 1982-1986: 50%.

    Top marginal rate proposed by Obama: 39.6%. The horror. The horror.

  54. 54
    cany says:

    This, The Price Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, is a dozie and goes back to 1957… probably one of the most long-standing of the bunch.

  55. 55

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