Republican hype notwithstanding, the scale of the economic crisis and the Obama administration's break from past policies are reshaping U.S. politics--not only at the top, but throughout society.
March 11, 2009
TO HEAR the Republicans tell it, President Barack Obama is proceeding, as the Russian revolutionary Lenin once put it, to "construct the socialist order."
"The stimulus, the omnibus, the budget--it's all one big down payment on a new American socialist experiment," House Minority Leader John Boehner told the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. "They're laying the groundwork for everything in these bills--expanded welfare, government-run health care, green jobs, the works. They even want to pay irresponsible neighbors' mortgages off for them."
Boehner's rant shows--if more proof was needed--just how out of touch the Republicans are.
Expanding welfare? Only a traitorous Red could be in favor of such a measure as unemployment soars to its highest level since 1982. A government-led expansion of health care? Every patriotic American knows that if 50 million people in the U.S. lack health insurance, it's because they don't appreciate how the free-market system works. Green jobs? That's an anti-capitalist scheme cooked up by '60s radicals.
And only a communist revolutionary could be in favor of helping homeowners in danger of losing everything because they got stuck with one of the extortionate sub-prime mortgages pushed on them by outfits like Countrywide--which, after all, were only out to make a profit, and isn't that the American way?
But if you're a member of the Republican Party right now, you're duty-bound--in addition to pledging allegiance to Rush Limbaugh--to regard the Obama administration's proposals as tantamount to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The corporate media haven't been much help in separating fact from fantasy. They've had a hard time comprehending the new era in U.S. politics, where the dogmas of the past that they repeated for years--about big government being bad and tax cuts as the solution to every problem--don't fit anymore.
Their bewilderment was encapsulated in the empty-headed cover story in a recent issue of the far-from-radical Newsweek, titled "We're all socialists now."
Obama, for one, doesn't think so. When a reporter aboard Air Force One asked him if his policies amounted to "socialism," the president laughed it off. But with the S-word being bandied about so frequently, he apparently thought he better take the question more seriously--so he called the New York Times personally to defend himself:
It wasn't under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks. And it wasn't on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement, the prescription drug plan, without a source of funding. We've actually been operating in a way that has been entirely consistent with free-market principles, and some of the same folks who are throwing the word socialist around can't say the same.
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SO MUCH for socialism, Obama-style.
Still, what's actually taking place in Washington needs to be recognized as a break from the period of conservative dominance in U.S. politics that began under Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and ran through the Bush presidency.