News Release

Is Obama a Socialist?

JOHN R. MacARTHUR
MacArthur is publisher of Harper’s Magazine and author of the new book “You Can’t Be President: The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America.”

MacArthur said today: “Obama’s number one bundler is Goldman Sachs. He is advised on economics by Robert Rubin, the extremely wealthy director and senior counselor of Citigroup, the former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, and as Clinton Treasury Secretary, a great deregulator who deserves some of the blame for the current financial collapse. In his book, ‘The Audacity of Hope,’ Obama talks about how much he likes investment bankers, how bright and liberal they are. So calling Obama a socialist is like calling Harper’s Magazine a media conglomerate.

“But the McCain camp’s calling him a socialist might actually help Obama, since these days everybody is a socialist of sorts, even Robert Rubin. Respectable opinion is taking socialism very seriously. However, Obama’s socialism only goes so far. Pressed by John Edwards early in the campaign, he said he favored changing the tax code to tax hedge fund partners’ income as personal income, instead of at the lower capital gains rate. Since Edwards dropped out, he’s pretty much stopped talking about the issue and the relevant bill is stalled in committee. Nowadays, Obama is mainly talking about raising the capital gains rate from the current 15 percent to 25 percent, but for a hedge funder, 25 percent is a lot better than 39.6 percent, which is where Obama wants to raise the top marginal income tax rate. Obama, like Bush and McCain, certainly does favor socialism for … Wall Street, since he strongly backed the Treasury bailout bill.”

MacArthur recently wrote the article “Americans Unwilling to Face Reality.”

RICHARD WOLFFMonthly Review’s first issue in 1949 featured an essay by Albert Einstien titled “Why Socialism?

Wolff said today: “A long-standing confusion and debate over socialism has served to enable all sorts of arrangements to be given that name. Anyone actually familiar with the history of socialism knows that, and thus knows that to use the word itself requires that the user define and justify which of the alternative definitions the user has chosen to deploy.

“In many European countries today, socialism means a large role for the government in its economic affairs. In the USSR and China, socialism has meant an even larger role such that the government owns and operates many industries. More abstractly, socialism has often been defined as state (or ‘social’) ownership of means of production and state planning with both distinguished from capitalism defined as private ownership of means of production and markets. Finally, Marx himself was particularly focused on the internal organization of production (inside the enterprises) where he distinguished capitalism as an organization in which a mass of workers produced a surplus (an output whose value exceeded what was paid out for inputs and for the labor power of the workers) that a tiny number of other people (boards of directors in modern corporations) appropriated and distributed to keep such a capitalism going. Marx then distinguished capitalism from communism quite simply as an alternative organization of production inside enterprises such that the workers displace capitalist boards of directors and instead become, collectively, their own board of directors.

“Re: Obama. He has endorsed precisely none of these major definitions of socialism: not Marx’s focused on the social organization of the surpluses in production, not the Soviet or Chinese models of state ownership of most industries, and not the European notion/model of significant state intervention (e.g. state production of gas, oil, transport; state subsidization of education and national health care; subsidized housing, and so on).”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167