Seeing red in the U.S.A

BY BEAU ELLIOT | MARCH 10, 2009 7:27 AM

Well, comrades, how do you like your socialism now?

Oh, I know — any real, self-respecting socialists would look at the United States and see a capitalistic titan (though some might prefer the term “capitalistic monster”). But given the size and scope of the Obama administration’s economic-stimulus plan, some of our conservative comrades are seeing socialists coming out of the woods.

(Though why socialists hide themselves in the woods is never quite explained. I have an inkling that some conservatives can’t see the forest for the reds.)

In today’s version of America, socialists are apparently everywhere. As Harold Meyerson pointed out in a wonderful piece last week in the Washington Post (that bastion of socialism that editorially supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq), “ ‘We are all socialists now,’ proclaims Newsweek. We are creating ‘socialist republics’ in the United States, says Mike Huckabee, adding, on reflection, that ‘Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff.’ ”

Hmm. I had no idea the revolution could start without me. Of course, I also have to wonder just exactly what Newsweek and Huckabee are smoking. And where I can get some.

Meyerson, who is the editor-at-large of American Prospect and the LA Weekly, also had some questions about the perceived tsunami of red flooding the country (as opposed to the tsunami of red ink). As he noted, “Even as we all turn red, I’ve still encountered just two avowed democratic socialists in my daily rounds through the nation’s capital: Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders [who, I believe, as mayor of Burlington, Vt., identified himself as a socialist] … and the guy I see in the mirror when I shave.”

But, harrumphs Newt Gingrich, Europe is exporting its style of socialism to Washington, D.C.
Frankly, I had no idea Europe was exporting much of anything anymore, given that everyone’s economy is doing about as well as the U.S. economy (The economy has fallen off a cliff, Warren Buffett said on Monday, giving yet another of his cheerful assessments).

(Given that reds are coming out of the woods and the economy is falling off a cliff, it would seem we’re about to drown in metaphors — if the red ink doesn’t get us first.)

I can sympathize, somewhat, with Meyerson, having spent most of my so-called adult life being identified as a “socialist” more often than I’ve been identified by my name. Or so it seems. I even have a friend who regularly refers to me as his favorite socialist, when he’s not referring to me as his favorite communist. (Of course, he also assured me last May that if the Democrats nominated Barack Obama, John McCain would clobber him in the election. And we all know how that one worked out.)

I am, however, no socialist. Liberal progressive, sure. But no one, who, like me, lived in Berlin soon after the Wall came down could ever be a full-blown socialist having seen the wreckage of a state-driven central economy in East Berlin.

And President Obama is no socialist, either. In fact, he’s rather a centrist, as liberal progressives are now discovering, if they hadn’t discerned it before.

Oh, sure, I know — his economic plans are huge. But, as many economists (including Nobel economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman) have pointed out, Obama’s plans are most likely not nearly huge enough. Yes, Obama’s projected deficit is the largest for this country since World War II (No. 2 belongs to — drumroll — Ronald Reagan’s 1983 budget). But, as the New York Times points out, Obama’s projected deficit for 2013 is “3 percent of the overall economy, a level that economists consider sustainable.”

In any case, there are roughly three ways to get the economy moving, at least from what I’ve read: consumer spending (not happening), private investment (not happening), and exports (not happening). That, you have to admit, is a whole lot of not happening happening.

And critics say string theory doesn’t exist. Hah. (For further evidence on the existence of string theory, see Ramirez, Manny.)

So, comrades, how do you like your socialism now? Well, if you’re like me, you’d prefer a little less socialism for rich people and a little more for the rest of us.

Oh, OK — call me a socialist.

I’ve heard it before.

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