By Rich Trzupek
I love letters to the editor. This week we got a great one, in which the author quite sincerely, if dubiously, decries the fact that so many Republicans and conservatives want to hang the “socialist” tag on Barack Obama, his administration and his allies in a Congress controlled by fellow Democrats. That charge, our correspondent says, is wholly unfounded, mean-spirited and inflammatory. The president is simply investing in America. This is, of course, the kind of argument that a great many of the president’s supporters make all of the time.
Obama has spent money and increased national indebtedness to a degree that knows no parallel in American history outside of the monumental effort that was World War II. That’s deeply troubling, especially when we consider what it means for our children’s futures, but government spending in and of itself does not create socialism. Socialism is a matter of institutions; who controls those facets of a society that allow it to function: private individuals and enterprises or government? If the answer is predominantly the former, then you have a nation based on individual liberty and capitalism. If the answer is mostly the latter, you’re part of a socialist system, whether you’re willing to admit it or not.
After America and the Allies won World War II, the country was left with a massive debt, but it was a debt burden that Americans willingly shouldered because the investment was dedicated toward a specific, one-time only purpose and because it did not create any permanent institutions that would hinder or control free enterprise in the long run. In 1941, there is no way that Americans would have invested in the war, or would have approved of taking on massive debt to fight the war, if they believed that doing so would have created more dependence on government. The independent, “frontier” spirit still ran strongly through the veins of the average American back then.
The debt obligations that the Obama administration is happily creating are secondary, albeit troubling, issues. The larger problem is the fact that Obama is forcing government dependency upon the populace on an unprecedented scale. The healthcare bill is the most troubling, but hardly the only, example of the neo-socialist state Democrats are creating. One sixth of the United States economy is now under the control of the federal government. That’s stunning. That’s unprecedented. The faceless, soulless bureaucrats from the IRS who administer the tax code are both feared and despised. But, the IRS bureaucracy is nothing compared to the kind of bureaucracy that the health care bill creates. And, once a bureaucracy is entrenched, it’s almost impossible to dislodge. Republicans can make noise about repealing the healthcare bill – and nobody would be happier to see that happen than I – but it’s hard to see how that could happen at any point in time, much less while Obama is president.
The GOP may win a majority in one or both chambers of Congress in November, but it won’t be a veto-proof majority. That means that healthcare is here to stay through at least 2012. That’s quite enough to time to establish the kind of dependence that will make it impossible to get rid of, just as happened with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and host of other government programs that provide government goodies. They become “indispensible” in the public’s eyes and therefore untouchable politically, and thus our ability to make choices for ourselves slowly erodes in favor of nanny-state socialism.
Am I pessimistic? You bet. It was recently revealed that about half of the population of the United States not only pays no net income tax, they actually get more money back from the government than they put in. We’re not talking about returns in terms of programs, assistance and all the rest, we’re talking about actual cash money. If you’re one of those people, what’s not to like? Effectively, you’re not paying taxes, you’re getting a nice subsidy courtesy of the rest of us suckers. If the government can do that for you, why wouldn’t you want more government?
General Motors and Chrysler, in a free market, would have declared bankruptcy, restructured their crippling debt obligations (chiefly caused by unsustainable pension programs) and moved on. Instead, the US government took them over and taxpayers became responsible for their past and future red ink. Yeah, that kind of sounds like socialism to me.
There are nations that prefer socialism, like Sweeden for example. Perhaps that’s America’s destiny now and, if it includes the equivalent of the Sweedish Bikini Team, there may be an upside. But don’t be fooled about what’s going on. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc. Obama and the Democrats can protest all they want about the way that their actions are being portrayed by crabby conservatives like me, but the evidence is plain to see. The government runs your life more than it ever has, and we’re not even halfway through the Obama era.