Sunday, March 1, 2009


Larry Kudlow, that Republican ideologue on CNBC, calls the Democratic budget and tax policy "socialistic." As the use of this term seems to date Kudlow back about 50 years, I would not think other Republicans would pick this up. Does anyone out there in Republican land really believe that universal health care is "socialistic?" Or that a progressive tax policy that increases income taxes on people who make over $250K indicative of an unfair "soak the rich?" Or how about establishing more regulation for banks and brokerage firms to prevent stuff like the Bernie Madoff scam?

But in today's Week in Review in The New York Times, Mark Leibovich writes:

"The early fiscal activism of President Obama has provided a heap of new fodder for anti-socialists, effectively turning a useful label meant to inspire fear into a we-told-you-so taunt. Last week’s blizzard of economic developments — the administration’s new budget, its partial takeover of another major bank — was fortuitous timing for CPAC, which ran from Thursday to Saturday, giving conservatives an opportunity to give full-throated voice to this re-fashioned refrain."

This is all too reminiscent of hearing people in Queens and Brooklyn some 50 years ago criticize FDR and the Democrats for their socialistic programs. Back then, providing social security retirement income was a radical communistic program for some Irish Catholics at St. Thomas parish who thought that Joe McCarthy was a Catholic saint and that there should be a law against Jews, Italians and Puerto Ricans moving in and "disrupting" Irish neighborhoods like Woodhaven.

Writes Leibovich:

"Of course, there is nothing remotely new about “socialism,” or the willingness of conservatives to hit the opposition over the head with the term, just as the name callers among the liberals have bludgeoned conservatives as “fascists,” “fundamentalists” and “plutocrats” and whatnot for decades.

"But the socialist bogey-mantra has made a full-scale return after a long stretch of relative dormancy. . . .

"“The right would use ‘socialist’ against Franklin Roosevelt all the time in the 1930s,” said Charles Geisst, a financial historian at Manhattan College in the Bronx. “To hear him referred to as Comrade Roosevelt during that period was not unusual.” But while socialism is being invoked repeatedly now, Mr. Geisst said, it is a less potent slam than it once was."

Calling Obama and Democrats "socialists" seems to highlight a lack of coherent and rational opposition in the Republicans these days. The Republican platform seems thin and weak. Other than tax cuts, what do Republicans stand for? They have no program for the forty million without health care, they have no program to restore the economy, they have no program for withdrawal from Iraq. So in the absence of any thought-out policies, Republicans fall back like children and start to call names.

Leibovich reports:

"“Americans are just genetically opposed to socialism,” said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group headed by Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader.

"Mr. Kibbe had just finished moderating a CPAC panel in a packed ballroom on Friday morning called “Bailing Out Big Business: Are We All Socialists Now?”

"After four speakers took turns whacking the S-beast, Mr. Kibbe ended the proceeding with a quick survey:

“If anyone here is not a socialist, raise your hand,” he said, before heading off to a reassuring mass of palms."

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