Thursday, January 8, 2009


During the presidential campaign, the term "socialism" was constantly used by the right wing in their attempt to demonize Barack Obama and portray him as un-American. Somehow, the concept of rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest while cutting taxes for the rest of us was equated to "socialism". Rather than going into Obama's tax plan and how it is simply a progressive income tax which has always been how taxes have worked in the U.S., I would rather set the record straight on socialism.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of socialism is:
1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, socialism is:
social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources. According to the socialist view, individuals do not live or work in isolation but live in cooperation with one another. Furthermore, everything that people produce is in some sense a social product, and everyone who contributes to the production of a good is entitled to a share in it. Society as a whole, therefore, should own or at least control property for the benefit of all its members.

Those on the right have so distorted the meaning of this word that you now hear callers into radio shows claiming that any government taxation of citizens and use of the funds in any manner (for example police, fire, schools) is a form of socialism. This is simply not true. In fact, the only recent more accurate example of socialism in this country is the recent bailout of the financial industry where the government actually took a stake in banks. And this was perpetrated by the Republican Bush Administration.

So, let's remember the true definition of socialism as President Obama takes office and begins the effort to get us out of this huge mess the Bush Administration is leaving and counter any claims by the right that tax cuts or tax increases or investment in this country's infrastructure or investment in green technology is socialism.