Republican Socialists of America

by: Paul Rosenberg

Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 19:30


So, John McCain has taken to calling Barack Obama a "socialist".  Why?  Because Obama wants to "redistribute" the wealth.  Of course, every time you tax someone, you redistribute wealth.  And every time that government spends some money that benefits someone, that, too, redistributes wealth.  By McCain's criteria, every government that ever existed in human history was "socialist."  You might think that's sort of a whacked-out extremist position, somewhere two football fields to the right of the John Birch Society.  And you'd be right. Because by John McCain's standards, I'd like to introduce you to four of the most prominent members of the Republican Socialists of America:

Join me on the flip, and I'll tell about them.

Paul Rosenberg :: Republican Socialists of America
Theodore Roosevelt

"I count myself as a conservative Republican, yet I view it to a large degree in the Theodore Roosevelt mold"

Where I come from, you'd never pass high school if you thought Teddy Roosevelt was a conservative.  Sure, he was an imperialist.  And he liked to conserve our wilderness areas.  But he was in an almost constant state of war with the conservative bosses of the Republican Party, and when he felt that his protege, William Taft, had betrayed him by going over to their side after he left office in 1908, he ran against Taft on the Bull Moose ticket, and utterly destroyed the Republicans, reducing them to third party status at the polls.

So, Teddy Roosevelt, a conservative?  Not so much.  In fact, when it came to socialism, this is what Roosevelt said in his autobiography:

Because of things I have done on behalf of justice to the workingman, I have often been called a Socialist. Usually I have not taken the trouble even to notice the epithet. I am not afraid of names, and I am not one of those who fear to do what is right because some one else will confound me with partisans with whose  principles I am not in accord. Moreover, I know that many American Socialists are high-minded and honorable citizens, who in reality are merely radical social reformers. They are oppressed by the brutalities and industrial injustices which we see everywhere about us. When I recall how often I have seen Socialists and ardent non-Socialists working side by side for some specific measure of social or industrial reform, and how I have found opposed to them on the side of privilege many shrill reactionaries who insist on calling all reformers Socialists, I refuse to be panic-stricken by having this title mistakenly applied to me.

So, it looks like Roosevelt would have voted for Obama, if he were still around today.  And it looks that way even moreso, if think about his tax proposals.  Although the income tax did not exist when he was President, Roosevelt was a firm proponent of it--as well as the estate tax.  Talk about a tax-raiser, he was a tax-creator--or at least, he wanted to be.  The following passages are from his 1907 State of the Union.  First, on the income tax:

When our tax laws are revised the question of an income tax and an inheritance tax should receive the careful attention of our legislators. In my judgment both of these taxes should be part of our system of Federal taxation. I speak diffidently about the income tax because one scheme for an income tax was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court; while in addition it is a difficult tax to administer in its practical working, and great care would have to be exercised to see that it was not evaded by the very men whom it was most desirable to have taxed, for if so evaded it would, of course, be worse than no tax at all; as the least desirable of all taxes is the tax which bears heavily upon the honest as compared with the dishonest man. Nevertheless, a graduated income tax of the proper type would be a desirable feature of Federal taxation, and it is to be hoped that one may be devised which the Supreme Court will declare  constitutional.

Next, on the inheretance tax:

The inheritance tax, however, is both a far better method of taxation, and far more important for the purpose of having the fortunes of the country bear in proportion to their increase in size a corresponding increase and burden of taxation. The Government has the absolute right to decide as to the terms upon which a man shall receive a bequest or devise from another, and this point in the devolution of property is especially appropriate for the imposition of a tax. Laws imposing such taxes have repeatedly been placed upon the National statute books and as repeatedly declared constitutional by the courts; and these laws contained the progressive principle, that is, after a certain amount is reached the bequest or gift, in life or
death, is increasingly burdened and the rate of taxation is increased in proportion to the remoteness of blood of the man receiving the bequest. These principles are recognized already in the leading civilized nations of the world....

A heavy progressive tax upon a very large fortune is in no way such a tax upon thrift or industry as a like would be on a small fortune. No advantage comes either to the country as a whole or to the individuals inheriting the money by permitting the transmission in their entirety of the enormous fortunes which would be affected by such a tax; and as an incident to its function of revenue raising, such a tax would help to preserve a measurable equality of opportunity for the people of the generations growing to manhood.

Roosevelt goes on to sharply distinguish this from socialist proposals ("In your face, McCain!" as noted Roosevelt scholar Homer Simpson would say):

We have not the slightest sympathy with that socialistic idea which would try to put laziness, thriftlessness and inefficiency on a par with industry, thrift and efficiency; which would strive to break up not merely private property, but what is far more important, the home, the chief prop upon which our whole civilization stands. Such a theory, if ever adopted, would mean the ruin of the entire country-a ruin which would bear heaviest upon the weakest, upon those least able to shift for themselves. But proposals for legislation such as this herein advocated are directly opposed to this class of socialistic theories.

Of course, I'm not actually aware of any socialists of any real stature who actual made any such arguments. But, Professor Simpson does get easily enthused, and must be allowed to have his say from time to time.

Back to Roosevelt:

Our aim is to recognize what Lincoln pointed out: The fact that there are some respects in which men are obviously not equal; but also to insist that there should be an equality of self-respect and of mutual respect, an equality of rights before the law, and at least an approximate equality in the conditions under which each man obtains the chance to show the stuff that is in him when compared to his fellows.

So, Roosevelt quoting Lincoln to the everlasting humiliation of McCain/Palin Republicanism.

Sweet!


Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower firmly rebuked the reactionary wing of the Republican Party.  In a 1954 letter to his brother, Edgar Newton Eisenhower, he wrote:

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas.5 Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

He did cut taxes, though. In 1953, when he took office, the top marginal income tax rate was 92%.  Ike thought this was outrageous.  He cut the rate to 91%.  That's well more than twice the top rate that Obama proposes.


Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon tried to implement a form of negative income tax as a way of substituting direct cash payments for bureaucratic forms of welfare assistance:

Nixon had experienced the sting of poverty as a child, and he never forgot it. But while he sympathized with the poor, he also shared many Americans' conviction that the welfare system had grown into an inefficient bureaucracy which fostered dependency and low self esteem among welfare recipients and contributed to the breakdown of families by providing assistance only to households which were not headed by a working male.

With the assistance of Urban Affairs Council secretary Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Nixon created the Family Assistance Plan. FAP called for the replacement of bureaucratically administered programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Food Stamps, and Medicaid, with direct cash payments to those in need. Not only single-parent families, but the working poor would qualify for aid. All recipients, save the mothers of preschool age children, would be required to work or take job training.

Nixon revealed FAP in a nationwide address on August 8, 1969. Heavy criticism followed. Welfare advocates declared the income level Nixon proposed -- $1600 per year for a family of four -- insufficient. Conservatives disliked the idea of a guaranteed annual income for people who didn't work. Labor saw the proposal as a threat to the minimum wage. Caseworkers opposed FAP fearing that many of their jobs would be eliminated. And many Americans complained that the addition of the working poor would expand welfare caseloads by millions. A disappointed Nixon pressed for the bill's passage in various forms, until the election season of 1972. He knew a bad campaign issue when he saw one, and he let FAP expire.

What's more, as can be seen below, under Nixon, the tax rates--particularly on high earners--were as high or higher as they were under Kennedy and Johnson:


Ronald Reagan

Even more than Teddy Roosevelt, McCain likes to associate himself with Ronald Reagan.  But though Reagan talked a good conservative game, when push came to shove, he often switched directions.  In fact, he not only rolled up record deficits, he raised taxes, saved Social Security, and greatly expanded the same type of negative income tax measures (refundable tax credits) that McCain is railing at Obama for.

In my earlier diary, "John McCain Makes A Fool Of Himself, Again--Obama the Socialist Edition", I brought up the most successful form of negative income tax in US history--the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC or EIC).  It was introduced under Republican President Gerald Ford, and then expanded under Ronald Reagan:

Enacted in 1975, the initially modest EIC has been expanded by tax legislation on a number of occasions, including the more widely-publicized Reagan EIC expansion of 1986. The EIC was further expanded in 1990, 1993, and 2001 regardless of whether the act in general raised taxes (1990, 1993), lowered taxes (2001), or eliminated other deductions and credits (1986). Today, the EITC is one of the largest anti-poverty tools in the United States (despite the fact that most income measures, including the poverty rate, do not account for the credit), and enjoys broad bipartisan support.

Reagan also helped save Social Security, in partnership with House Speaker Tip O'Neill, as Joshua Green explained in an article for Washington Monthly in early 2003, "Reagan's Liberal Legacy":

Reagan also vastly expanded one of the largest federal domestic programs, Social Security. Before becoming president, he had often openly mused, much to the alarm of his politically sensitive staff, about restructuring Social Security to allow individuals to opt out of the system--an antecedent of today's privatization plans. At the start of his administration, with Social Security teetering on the brink of insolvency, Reagan attempted to push through immediate draconian cuts to the program. But the Senate unanimously rebuked his plan, and the GOP lost 26 House seats in the 1982 midterm elections, largely as a result of this overreach.

The following year, Reagan made one of the greatest ideological about-faces in the history of the presidency, agreeing to a $165 billion bailout of Social Security. In almost every way, the bailout flew in the face of conservative ideology. It dramatically increased payroll taxes on employees and employers, brought a whole new class of recipients--new federal workers--into the system, and, for the first time, taxed Social Security benefits, and did so in the most liberal way: only those of upper-income recipients. (As an added affront to conservatives, the tax wasn't indexed to inflation, meaning that more and more people have gradually had to pay it over time.)

By expanding rather than scaling back entitlements, Reagan--and Newt Gingrich after him--demonstrated that conservatives could not and would not launch a frontal assault on Social Security, effectively conceding that these cherished New Deal programs were central features of the American polity.

Ragan also raised taxes a lot more often and more freely than any conservative would dare to admit.  Here's just a snippet of what Green has to say on that:

The historic Tax Reform Act of 1986, though it achieved the supply side goal of lowering individual income tax rates,  was a startlingly progressive reform. The plan imposed the largest corporate tax increase in history--an act utterly unimaginable for any conservative to support today. Just two years after declaring, "there is no justification" for taxing corporate income, Reagan raised corporate taxes by $120 billion over five years and closed corporate tax loopholes worth about $300 billion over that same period. In addition to broadening the tax base, the plan increased standard deductions and personal exemptions to the point that no family with an income below the poverty line would have to pay federal income tax. Even at the time, conservatives within Reagan's administration were aghast. According to Wall Street Journal reporters Jeffrey Birnbaum and Alan Murray, whose book Showdown at Gucci Gulch chronicles the 1986 measure, "the conservative president's support for an effort once considered the bastion of liberals carried tremendous symbolic significance." When Reagan's conservative acting chief economic adviser, William Niskanen, was apprised of the plan he replied, "Walter Mondale would have been proud."

What's more, when he was governor of California, Reagan faced a budget crunch, and responded by agreeing the the Democratically-controlled legislature to respond with a balance of spending cuts and tax hikes raising the highest tax bracket.  That's a step that the so-called "moderate" Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger has been either unwilling or unable to take.

Ronald Reagan: Socialist!


Oh, and I almost forgot this one:

John McCain

Back in 2001, John McCain was one of just two Republican senators who voted against Bush's tax cuts.  As the Washington Post recalled earlier this year:

In 2001, just days before Bush's first tax cut passed, McCain lamented on ABC's "This Week" that, "I'd like to see much more of this tax cut shared by working Americans. . . . I think it still devotes too much of it to the wealthiest Americans."

John McCain.

Another Republican Socialist of America!


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Socialist Candidate For President (0.00 / 0)


My Promise.., (0.00 / 0)
I believe virtually nothing that John McCain claims -- but the claim that Obama might be a secret socialist of some sort leads me to wish it were so.  Maybe McCain sees something I don't, so I will act on the premise that the claim is correct.  

Thus my promise...

Assuming Obama wins, and we otherwise have a good night on Tuesday, I will raise a glass of sherry to the future, and go to bed for a long peaceful late fall's sleep.

But when I get up the next morning, I will arise, comb my hair, stand at quasi attention at the foot of my bed, and belt out the Socialist Version of The International full voice -- in Danish.  I only know it in Danish.

In case you don't know that there are two versions of the song -- the Socialist being the original and older version, realize that when the Menchiviks split with the Bolsheviks, forming the Third International, the Bolshe's stole the tune and wrote words about the starving slaves of the world and all.  The Socialists, or Second International, kept the mid 19th century version which is rather romantic, all about a quite imprecise struggle for the rights of the people in both the mountains and valleys of the world.  

 


I Will Be Reposting My 2005 Diary, "Star Trek Socialism" Tomorrow (4.00 / 1)
Which is very much in the spirit of the romantic, imprecise struggle for the rights of the people in both the mountains and valleys of the Alpha Quadrant.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Very good story, Paul! (4.00 / 1)
I love those anaylses that put idiotic ideological slogans into the proper historical context. Great points here, especially on Teddy Roosevelt (I really have to put a biography on my Christmas wishing list). And why didn't the Dems put more emphasis on McCain's outrageous flipflopping on the tax cuts? The quote shows that he advocated exactly the same kind of tax cuts for "working Americans" that he now lambasts as "redistribution of wealth". Very mavericky, indeed. Normal people would call this simply lying, of course.

Less A Maverick, More A Stray (0.00 / 0)
And McCain has strayed all over the landscape, from one position to its exact opposite, on Bush's tax cuts, just like on immigration, and so much else.

I really don't know why the campaign didn't focus more on McCain's flip-flopping.  It would seem to be a no-brainer for Obama to say that he agreed with John McCain--the John McCain of 2001, that is.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
I wonder why (0.00 / 0)
the Obama Campaign does not make use of these in their response to the McCain/Palin accusations?

The TR aspect seems ideal as it directly addresses the current issue as framed by Palin/McCain. It would have been an ideal vignette in the 30 minute Obama Variety Show, and effect, I think.

Is there a possible downside to employing this argument that I don't see?  

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


People Might Learn Some History??? (4.00 / 1)
Is there a possible downside to employing this argument that I don't see?

They might get curious about how people responded to the last Gilded Age?

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
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