For Immediate Release
Is Obama A Socialist?
MacArthur is publisher of Harper's Magazine and author of the new book "You Can't Be President: The Outrageous Barriers to Democracy in America."
MacArthur said today: "Obama's number one bundler is Goldman Sachs. He
is advised on economics by Robert Rubin, the extremely wealthy director
and senior counselor of Citigroup, the former co-chairman of Goldman
Sachs, and as Clinton Treasury Secretary, a great deregulator who
deserves some of the blame for the current financial collapse. In his
book, 'The Audacity of Hope,' Obama talks about how much he likes
investment bankers, how bright and liberal they are. So calling Obama a
socialist is like calling Harper's Magazine a media conglomerate.
"But the McCain camp's calling him a socialist might actually help
Obama, since these days everybody is a socialist of sorts, even Robert
Rubin. Respectable opinion is taking socialism very seriously. However,
Obama's socialism only goes so far. Pressed by John Edwards early in
the campaign, he said he favored changing the tax code to tax hedge
fund partners' income as personal income, instead of at the lower
capital gains rate. Since Edwards dropped out, he's pretty much stopped
talking about the issue and the relevant bill is stalled in committee.
Nowadays, Obama is mainly talking about raising the capital gains rate
from the current 15 percent to 25 percent, but for a hedge funder, 25
percent is a lot better than 39.6 percent, which is where Obama wants
to raise the top marginal income tax rate. Obama, like Bush and McCain,
certainly does favor socialism for ... Wall Street, since he strongly
backed the Treasury bailout bill."
MacArthur recently wrote the article "Americans Unwilling to Face Reality."
Wolff said today: "A long-standing confusion and debate over socialism
has served to enable all sorts of arrangements to be given that name.
Anyone actually familiar with the history of socialism knows that, and
thus knows that to use the word itself requires that the user define
and justify which of the alternative definitions the user has chosen to
"In many European countries today, socialism means a large role for the
government in its economic affairs. In the USSR and China, socialism
has meant an even larger role such that the government owns and
operates many industries. More abstractly, socialism has often been
defined as state (or 'social') ownership of means of production and
state planning with both distinguished from capitalism defined as
private ownership of means of production and markets. Finally, Marx
himself was particularly focused on the internal organization of
production (inside the enterprises) where he distinguished capitalism
as an organization in which a mass of workers produced a surplus (an
output whose value exceeded what was paid out for inputs and for the
labor power of the workers) that a tiny number of other people (boards
of directors in modern corporations) appropriated and distributed to
keep such a capitalism going. Marx then distinguished capitalism from
communism quite simply as an alternative organization of production
inside enterprises such that the workers displace capitalist boards of
directors and instead become, collectively, their own board of
"Re: Obama. He has endorsed precisely none of these major definitions
of socialism: not Marx's focused on the social organization of the
surpluses in production, not the Soviet or Chinese models of state
ownership of most industries, and not the European notion/model of
significant state intervention (e.g. state production of gas, oil,
transport; state subsidization of education and national health care;
subsidized housing, and so on)."