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People Who Live in Seven (or so) Houses Shouldn't Throw Roses

so•cial•ism [www.merriam-webster.com]
sÅ-shÉ™-li-zÉ™m, noun, 1837
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

Last Saturday John McCain criticized Obama for being a “Socialist.” McCain said in his weekly radio address, “At least in Europe, the Socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives.”

Yet as he blasts his opponent for not being “upfront,” McCain and Sarah Palin have been hiding behind Joe Wurzelbacher, relying on the newly-famous plumber to do the “straight-talking” for them.

“You see, [Obama] believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that help us all make more of it. Joe, in his plainspoken way, said this sounded a lot like socialism,” McCain said at a North Carolina rally [edition.cnn.com] on Saturday.

On Sunday, Palin told a crowd [blogs.abcnews.com] at a New Mexico airport in reference to Obama’s policies, “Senator Obama said he wants to quote ‘spread the wealth.’ What that means is he wants government to take your money and dole it out however a politician sees fit. But Joe the Plumber and Ed the Dairy Man, I believe that they think that it sounds more like socialism. Now is no time to experiment with socialism. “

The McCain campaign’s argument that that Obama’s economic policy—which involves cutting taxes for 95 percent of Americans, lifting the government-imposed penalties on retirement funds for those suffering from the financial crisis and about to retire, and promoting small businesses and start-ups by eliminating their capital gains taxes—is Socialist is the factual cousin to claims that he is Muslim and friends with terrorists.

In fact, the Bush Administration exercised more government control over the population than Obama’s policies suggest his administration would. These republican policies have led to a larger government. And as far as government control over the distribution of goods, Congress and the current Republican president just agreed to spend $700 billion of government-controlled money (that was taken from tax-payers) to bail out private banks, thereby nationalizing them in a move that fits the definition of “Socialist” far better than any of Obama’s proposed policies.

The problem here, however, is not so much the factual inaccuracy (regrettably) for calling Obama “Socialist,” but the that McCain and Palin are people’s exploiting prejudices, and going to great lengths to name Obama anything that American culture and ideology has labeled as “bad.”

The term “Socialist” is a loaded in this country, connoting many meanings, the least insidious of which is its dictionary definition. First off, many people in this country are unable to differentiate between Socialism and Communism. The danger here is that calling Obama a “Socialist” is similar to calling him a “terrorist,” but in cold-war terms that may persuade mature voters even more than calling him a “terrorist” would. “Socialism” also suggests “outsider,” as it was imported to the United States from Europe, thereby scaring the large part of the electorate that is foreign-fearing.

Implicit in McCain and Palin’s statements is not only is Obama a “Socialist,” but that voting for him makes you one, because it means you believe in civil rights, equal opportunity and a redistribution of certain resources in the wake of a failed eight-year Bush administration.

–Jamie Wong