by Jeffrey Folks

Barack Obama’s lovefest with socialist leaders attending the Summit of the Americas conference has widened suspicions concerning the president’s predilection toward socialism. The president’s handshake with Hugo Chavez, an avowed socialist and constant critic of the U.S., appeared to be more of a comradely embrace of solidarity than a conventional diplomatic greeting. Beyond that, Obama’s unilateral decision to relax restrictions on Cuba, a gesture that was not reciprocated in any way by the repressive regime in Havana, conveys a similar impression of camaraderie. Toward more rightist allies in Latin America such as President Uribe of Columbia, Obama was distant and officious.

Just a few weeks earlier, questioned by New York Times reporter Peter Baker as to whether he was, in fact, a socialist, Obama responded with a weak denial accompanied by his condescending little chuckle. “Are you a socialist as some people have suggested?” Baker asked. “The answer would be no,” the president replied, quickly steering the discussion to other topics.

Immediately following this unconvincing denial, the Obama spin machine sought to preempt any and all use of the “s” word by conservative critics. On the same day that he denied being a socialist, the president felt impelled to telephone the Times and make excuses for his evasive answer. “It was hard for me to believe that you were entirely serious about that socialist question,” Obama said (or read?). Subsequently, in his daily strategy calls with the liberal media, the president’s chief of staff must have had “quash the ‘s’ word” at the top of his list. What else could explain the carefully scripted derision on all the liberal talk shows of the very notion that Barack Obama could possibly betray the least amount of sympathy with anything resembling socialism?Within hours, Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson, and Katie Couric and their “news” teams all rushed into action with “news reports” of the president’s business-friendly agenda. Yet the fact that the Obama administration has become so alarmed is, of course, tantamount to an admission. Look for a hard-hatted Obama to appear more and more frequently at small business work sites, mingling with mom-and-pop operators, corporate vice-presidents, and technology entrepreneurs, even as he moves to tax them out of existence.

As it is, Obama’s socialist agenda is evident enough in the array of income transfer provisions tucked into his stimulus bill, his omnibus spending bill, and his budget bill. Nearly every aspect of these spending bills aims to redistribute wealth, and, more importantly, to transfer control of the economy from the private to the public sector. Those who have made no effort to become productive members of a free-market capitalist economy—the welfare moms, absentee fathers, school dropouts, addicts, and homeless, along with the no-growth radicals, antiglobalist hooligans, and parasitical union leadership—are to be rewarded. Those who simply get up every morning, drive off to work, and make an effort to support their families, and do so faithfully for forty years, are to be punished. These are the decent citizens whom Obama criticized during the campaign for not doing enough for their country: “merely” going out and earning a living for one’s family is not enough. To be a real America, the president suggested, one should be out there supporting all sorts of schemes for income redistribution, social justice, and repeal of personal liberty.

Obama believes that government has the right to seize the earnings of productive individuals and businesses and to redistribute them to the indolent. Not only that, he believes that government has the right to dictate how productive citizens shall be allowed to spend the few remaining dollars that they are allowed to keep. So pervasive is the hand of a control economy in Obama’s proposals that it is hardly possible even to begin to list all the provisions here. Actually, it is not necessary to do so, for the simplest measure of socialism is not the number of new initiatives but the level of federal spending in relation to the nation’s gross domestic product. By this clear and unequivocal measure, it is obvious where we are headed.

The level of federal spending to GDP among the social democratic states of continental Europe averages about 35%, even after efforts by European “conservatives” to reform benefits. By contrast, peacetime spending in the United States has averaged approximately 18% during the post-World War II era. 18% of GDP is already grossly above where it ought to be, yet Obama’s spending plans for 2009 already take us to the 25% level, and this figure, as Obama smugly declares, is only a “down payment” on future spending for health care, environment, education, and other major initiatives. Nor does this figure take into account cap and trade, universal health coverage, increased Medicare Advantage charges, federal excise tax increases, and hundreds of other stealth taxes. If these charges are factored in, federal spending rises to the level of spending in the social democratic regimes of western Europe. In a few short months the United States has been set on the road to serfdom. By 2012, it will have been transformed from a free market economy with 18% GDP spending to a socialist economy with federal spending of 35% or more.

Yet even this is not the whole story. If one considers the large tax increases looming at the state, city, and county level—most of which are the work of Democratic politicians—the total tax burden for middle-class Americans rises to over 50% in many localities. Consider the newly imposed New York state tax rate of 12.65% combined with an effective federal rate of 42% on top of city and county taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, etc. A reasonably well-off family in New York City is paying so many taxes, and paying so repeatedly on the same earned income, that it would require a better accountant than I to estimate the total tax rate. If anything is left after all of this rapid-fire taxation and re-taxation, another major payment comes due when the taxpayer dies. At that point, under the Obama plan, almost half of estates of over $3 million will be seized by the government and put to the noble service of universal income redistribution intended to insure a permanent Democratic Party majority. At this point, who can deny that we have arrived at socialism?

Obama seems intent on transforming our nation into an authoritarian socialist state not unlike Chavez’s Venezuela, but where is the outrage among the American people? The recent spate of tea parties was well enough, but altogether they attracted only six-tenths of one percent of the American population. What were the rest of us doing—watching American Idol podcasts?

The liberal media will do everything in its power to disguise the fact that Obama is a socialist, but the American people are more clever than Rahm Emanuel and George Stephanopoulos combined. When the reality sinks in that our country is in the hands of a socialist president and Congress, the American people will rise in disgust and cast aside those who have deceived them.

Dr. Jeffrey Folks taught for thirty years in universities in Europe, America, and Japan. He has published nine books and over a hundred articles on American culture and politics in national journals and newspapers. He is currently writing on issues in American literature, media, family, and education.

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