Nobody is entirely sure what a socialist is anymore. Some people are convinced that Barack Obama is a socialist. Two years ago, Newsweek argued that both sides of the mainstream are basically big-government socialists now. And now we have a new French president from the Socialist party. So what do real socialists want?
It turns out that real socialists want pretty much the same thing as Obama and the Democrats do — more government spending, higher taxes on “the rich” and an end to planned budget cuts. Newly elected French President François Hollande says he will end “austerity” in the country, which basically means he’s going to take as much money as he can from productive people and spend like there’s no tomorrow.
Government spending in European countries has been so bad that the idea of reducing spending to at least start trimming deficits is called austerity. Just as is the case here, the people who want the spending to continue say that “the rich” have the responsibility to pay more — because people who are now being supported by government would have to support themselves otherwise.
The standard rhetoric in this country is to claim that those who want to balance the budget want to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor,” but the idea is the same. The idea is that those who are already being supported by productive people deserve to continue to get that support — and it’s “greedy” for “the rich” not to want to work hard and have their money confiscated to be given to other people.
A lot of people see socialism and fascism as polar opposites. They say that socialism is extreme left-wing thinking and fascism is extreme right-wing thinking. Even though the groups hate each other, I say they’re first cousins. They both want the same things. They just differ in how to go about it.
Obama isn’t a socialist. Not really. I’d say his programs are more fascist. The socialists like direct government ownership of companies, but the fascists like to simply control privately owned businesses so much that they’re required to do the government’s bidding. Nobody opposes Obama’s health care takeover any more than Ron Paul, and Paul effectively makes the point that the plan is fascist, not socialist.
But what do the labels really matter these days? What matters are the ideas and where those ideas lead. The ideas that Obama favors — and that the new French Socialist president favors — involve massive additional spending and higher taxes. You can call it whatever you want. Socialism lite? Fascism with hope and change? Whatever. The bottom line is that both sides of the mainstream favor essentially the same things. They only differ on how far to go.
The Republicans are in the process of wrapping up their nominating process, which is going to make Mitt Romney their candidate. (I’m sorry, Ron Paul supporters. The race is over. Seriously. You’re wasting your time.) And Romney is virtually indistinguishable from Obama on the major issues. Even the program considered the worst of Obama’s alleged socialism — what’s come to be called ObamaCare — was directly modeled on RomneyCare in Massachusetts. (RomneyCare was even more sweeping and oppressive.)
Whatever you want to call them, they’re all socialists now — all across the points of the political mainstream. They’re going to argue over relatively minor differences, but they’re unwilling to consider anything outside of that very narrow band of acceptable belief.
I obviously don’t agree with leftist linguist Noam Chomsky about much, but he showed great insight on this point when he said, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”
That’s where we are today. The two sides of the mainstream in this country aren’t that different on economics — at least when compared to ideas based in actual freedom. The two sides might argue about exactly how much is acceptable to steal from people, but they’re united in the firm belief that the theft is legitimate and necessary.
Incoming French President François Hollande calls himself a socialist. Barack Obama doesn’t, but he favors pretty much identical economic programs. His GOP opponents have spent the past four or five years pursuing variants of the same Keynesian nonsense, but with different rhetoric. When it comes down to it, how are they any better than the folks in France who admit they’re socialists?
The chorus we’re starting to hear from political pundits is that “austerity doesn’t work” and that Republicans have to learn from the lesson of the French voter backlash in favor of the Socialists. They say that because they want government to keep growing. They want it to tax and spend and borrow. So they’re going to warn Republicans that doing anything else “doesn’t work.”
They’re right about one thing. It’s ultimately not going to work with voters to tell them the truth about what has to happen. If anyone tells voters the truth — that spending has to be slashed, even spending that voters like — that person or party is going to lose. Voters are not willing to hear the hard truth that they can’t live forever at someone else’s expense.
We’re all socialists now. It’s not literally true — and it’s not true of very many people who will be reading here — but it’s close enough to the truth about the American mainstream. They argue about how far to take it, but all of the people who have any hope of really holding power are dedicated to continuing the same failed policies that got us here.