Saturday, December 22, 2012

If This Be Socialism, Make the Most of It

Bless his heart, President Obama is still doing standup comedy.  He shouldn't give up his day job.  Well, maybe he should.  Take it away:
During an interview with Noticias Univision 23, the network's Miami affiliate newscast, Obama pushed back against the accusation made in some corners of south Florida's Cuban-American and Venezuelan communities that he wants to instill a socialist economic system in the U.S. The president said he believes few actually believe that.

"I don't know that there are a lot of Cubans or Venezuelans, Americans who believe that," Obama said. "The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican."
Those "corners of south Florida's Cuban-American and Venezuelan communities" would be considered neo-Nazis in genuinely reality-based parts of the world.  (Oh, all right, I'm exaggerating a bit there.  They're really paleo-Nazis.)  Only rich right-wingers who think Pinochet got a bum rap 1) can afford to leave their Latin American countries when they go socialist and 2) would be welcomed as legal immigrants by the US government from their countries.

Remember that when Obama talks about moderate Republicans, he means Ronald Reagan.  Reagan was a far right-wing Republican, though political realities forced him toward the center once he was in office.  Not that Obama is wrong about the similarities between them.  As Mark Green and Gail McColl wrote in 1983, when Reagan was President:
The misinformation is on the subject of just how much the President wants to cut.  He has acted to eliminate Social Security benefits for students who are children of deceased and disabled workers; proposed cutting the minimum benefit for Social Security recipients; and allowed his Health and Human Services Secretary to propose cutting benefits at 62 years of age -- a proposal rejected by the Senate, 95-0 [There He Goes Again, pp. 87-88].
Of course, we've moved so far to the left since then that the Senate wouldn't reject a proposal to cut Social Security benefits by 95-0; nowadays they might accept it by that margin.  Obama wants them to, though that alone would be enough to make the Republicans reject it.

Pandering to right-wing Cuban exiles was second nature to Reagan too.  As were austerity measures for everybody but the rich, coddling scandal-ridden bankers and financiers, multiple wars (including the first War on Terror), slashing civil liberties -- though in many ways Obama is to the right of Reagan.

Notice that the ABC story on Obama's moderate politics claimed:
Some on the left have long argued that the president's policy beliefs closely resemble moderate Republican views from the 1980s and 1990s. Ezra Klein made the argument in a 2011 column, citing his adoption of the individual health insurance mandate, an idea developed in conservative think tanks.
Klein actually wrote:
Rather, it appears that as Democrats moved to the right to pick up Republican votes, Republicans moved to the right to oppose Democratic proposals. As Gingrich’s quote suggests, cap and trade didn’t just have Republican support in the 1990s. John McCain included a cap-and-trade plan in his 2008 platform. The same goes for an individual mandate, which Grassley endorsed in June 2009 — mere months before he began calling the policy “unconstitutional.”
But Klein did seem to think that the policies the Democrats picked up from the Republicans on their Long March to the right were "moderate."  The individual health-insurance mandate came from the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which boasts of its ideological compatibility with Rush Limbaugh.  Limbaugh is certainly a mainstream Republican, but he's no moderate.  It isn't "moderate Republican views from the 1980s and 1990s" that Obama's policies resemble, but views of the right-wing Republican fringe.

Obama really should stop trying to win over Republican paleo-Nazis, who are never going to vote for him anyway.  Even appeasing them is a waste of time, and a tactical error.  Why not try to please his actual base?  Maybe he should consider that the people who voted for him want him to "instill a socialist economic system in the U.S."  As they do: they want to expand the reach of Social Security and Medicare, raise taxes on the rich, and reduce the influence the wealthy have on American politics.  If he did that, the Democrats might be able to hold onto the Senate, and maybe even make gains in the House, in 2014.

A popular theme in upper-strata circles is that America has moved to the right since, say, the 1960s.  This is at best debatable.  True, the Democratic Party leadership has been chasing the Republican party leadership rightward since the 1980s, as the Republican leadership chases the horizon even further rightward.  But this only refers, as usual, to a tiny fraction of the American population: the richest one percent plus their hangers-on and toadies.  The majority of Americans have stayed pretty much where they always were, favoring socialist programs and the downward redistribution of wealth.  (As opposed to the elites, who want to redistribute wealth upward, and have largely gotten their way for the past thirty years, aided by both political parties.)  That doesn't necessarily mean we're right, of course: the majority can and often has been spectacularly wrong.  But the top one percent, if anything, has been wrong more often.