Last week brought positive economic news: Unemployment sank to a four-year-low with the addition of 236,000 jobs and the stock market traded at record levels.
Not a bad record for a socialist president!
The accusation that President Obama is a socialist is a staple of the political right. Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and others warn that the president is trying to impose Western European-style socialism at best or Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism at worst on American society.
Of course, President Obama is no more a socialist of any stripe than his accusers, but that doesn’t stop Peter Ferrara from penning an op-ed in Forbes, a respected business magazine, labeling Obama “a Marxist.” Those who call the president a socialist either don’t know what the word means, or do but cynically are willing to throw the term around because they know it resonates with Obama haters.
The joke is that under our socialist president the rich are doing very well while the poor, well, not so well.
As for the rich: Not only is the stock market soaring these days, but corporate profits are at record levels. In the third quarter of 2012, corporate profits stood at 14.2 percent of national income, the largest share since 1950. Conversely, the share of income paid to employees sank to 61.7 percent, approaching the lowest since 1966. The reason for the disparity is twofold: With unemployment still too high, companies face little pressure to raise salaries; also, higher worker productivity allows companies to increase sales without adding workers.
The rich keep getting richer in America. Since the 1980s, the wealthiest Americans have been earning an increasingly larger share of overall income, with the top one percent now earning one-sixth of total income and the top 10 percent about half. Moreover, during the recovery the top one percent earners have taken 93 percent of the income gains. The reasons for the increasing concentration of wealth in fewer hands are complex, but the salient point here is that our “socialist” president has not reversed the trend.
A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute finds that the top one percent of American households possesses a much larger share of national wealth than the bottom 90 percent: 35.4 percent of wealth for the top one percent; just 23.3 percent for the bottom 90 percent.
Obama the socialist has been very busy redistributing income!
The socialist accusation gained currency during the fight over passage of Obamacare, which the right labeled socialized medicine. It’s hardly that, built as it is around Republican-introduced ideas of market competition and managed care. But truth hardly mattered; what did was that it was proposed by President Obama, and many of his critics are predisposed to oppose anything he proposes, even when it was originally their idea.
Nor is the president acting much like a socialist when it comes to stimulating a flagging economy. True, his first order of business in 2009 was the stimulus bill, but even that tilted far too heavily toward tax cuts in a failed attempt to gain Republican support and too little to job creation.
Obama largely has given up on stimulating the economy, either because congressional Republicans have won the argument or because the president does not believe the government should pump money into the public sector. No matter which, the result is the same: Instead of economic stimulation, we now have austerity in government spending. It doesn’t take a prescient observer to know what austerity in Europe has accomplished.
Not only is the president not a socialist, he isn’t even a Keynesian. “The boom, not the slump,” famed economist John Maynard Keynes said, “is the time for austerity.” Most economists agree with Keynes that public spending should increase in times of economic slowdown in an attempt to stimulate the economy.
The rich have done very well under President Obama even as they may not admit it and even as their hired guns in the press and politics may continue to level the charge of socialist at him.
It’s a wonder the rich don’t vote socialist!