"Socialism!": the rallying cry of Republicans opposing the "stimulus" bill just signed by President Barack Obama. It was also, late in the game, the rallying cry of John McCain and his supporters last fall, especially after the Joe the Plumber incident. They are undoubtedly correct that this law, and Obama’s plans in general, are leading us ever further down the road to serfdom, although from an economic standpoint it’s at least as much fascist as socialist — not that the distinction matters greatly for the two are the same in principle.
While it’s good to see some actual GOP opposition to government growth again, it’s very difficult to take it seriously. Here, for example, is just a sampling of the socialist programs and policies instituted and/or supported by a significant number of Republicans, with Ron Paul frequently being the lone exception:
Social Security. Republicans may not have started this program, and occasionally they will speak of its insolvency, but they seem to have no real problem with its continuation. The best we get out of them is Bush’s stillborn plan to give those of us forced into Social Security the option of diverting a small portion of the loot stolen from us into various government-approved investments. Given the current state of the stock market, we should be grateful that this plan never got off the ground. Imagine the bailouts to all the individual Social Security "investors" who expected to get ever-increasing returns on their investments! Name the last Republican who spoke of abolishing, rather than "shoring up" or "reforming" Social Security.
Medicare. Not only does the GOP not suggest ridding us of this blatantly socialist takeover of the health care system; but George W. Bush, with the support of many members of his own party, pushed through Medicare prescription drug coverage, the largest new entitlement program in four decades. Again there is talk of "fixing" or "saving" Medicare but none of ending it — all while Republicans try to convince us that they, and they alone, are standing between us and the Democrats’ plans to nationalize health care.
Welfare. Yes, we have welfare "reform," but where is welfare repeal? Add a few mild work requirements to the program, and the GOP is on board.
Faith-Based Initiatives. Getting religious charities on the government dole was another Bush policy that seemed to please much of his base as long as their preferred charities were the ones robbing the rest of us. Sure, it meant that those charities had to water down their messages, but it was worth it to see that "liberal" charities didn’t get their hands in the till. Proof of the socialist nature of these programs is that Obama intends to retain and expand them, in the process forcing charities to distance themselves even further from their religious underpinnings.
Public Education. In 1994 the GOP promised to rid us of the Department of Education. Instead we got Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, greatly increasing control of the education system from Washington. Every once in a while some Republican will timidly suggest school vouchers or tuition tax credits to allow parents to send their children to the schools of their choice, but in these programs (especially vouchers) lie the same dangers for private elementary and secondary schools that private colleges and universities whose students accept federal money already have experienced. (See my alma mater, Grove City College, for a prime example.) In any event, Republicans seem uninterested in reducing federal control over the education system. For that matter, when was the last time you heard a Republican suggest curtailing or eliminating state control of any level of schooling?
Infrastructure. Where are the Republicans demanding that Uncle Sam get out of the road- and bridge-building business? Where are those demanding even a cutback in such spending? Republican President Dwight Eisenhower gave us the Interstate Highway System, a fact to which most GOP stalwarts point with pride. Even scarcer is the Republican at the state or local level voicing the opinion that perhaps the government of which he is a part is doing us all a disservice by continuing to maintain socialist infrastructure to the exclusion of all competitors.
Law Enforcement. Republicans are always the first to defend the police, the FBI, and other government agencies whenever any allegations of abuse or wrongdoing are lodged against them. They have shown great eagerness to increase local, state, and federal cops’ powers and immunities, especially if they can use the excuse of fighting wars on drugs or terrorism. They passed the PATRIOT Act with alacrity when the opportunity presented itself; and Bush aggrandized, with his fellow Republicans’ approval, much unconstitutional power to the executive branch, including the ability to imprison people indefinitely on the president’s say-so. They even granted retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that had assisted the Bush administration in violating the Constitution by eavesdropping on Americans’ telephone calls — with the assistance of noted socialist Obama. Give even the slightest hint that you think law enforcement agencies should be curtailed or certain criminal statutes repealed, and Republicans will be the first to denounce you as "soft on crime" or "with the terrorists." And don’t even suggest that private security could do a better job than government "security."
Financial Bailouts. Republicans maintained that the abuses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could have been prevented by better oversight, which the Democrats opposed. They did not say that these abuses could have been prevented by abolishing Fannie and Freddie and various other government loan programs. Bush had, in fact, exacerbated the problem with his now laughably named American Dream Downpayment Act of 2003, which allowed people to obtain mortgages with no down payment and even without mortgage payments for the first two years. Bush, of course, also stumped for and signed into law the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which gave the Secretary of the Treasury $700 billion to hand out at will. Even Obama’s latest outrage on this front, yet another mortgage bailout, "originated with a Republican," writes Ilana Mercer. "Only a week or two back," she explains, "minority whip Sen. Mitch McConnell proposed a similar scheme whereby the government would lower home-loan interest rates and guarantee the loans." One doubts that Republicans would be crying "Socialism!" had McConnell’s plan come up for a vote.
The Military. This undoubtedly is the socialist program most beloved of Republicans. They may be willing to admit that in all other instances government is wasteful, inefficient, and bungling and that it usually fails to solve the problems it sets out to solve while simultaneously creating new ones; but when it comes to the armed forces, suddenly all that skepticism melts away into an infatuation worthy of Romeo and Juliet. Maybe the Pentagon does spend a wee bit too much on screwdrivers and toilet seats, and perhaps even certain actions taken by the boys in uniform (such as Abu Ghraib) have negative effects, but those are aberrations in an otherwise stellar record. Every good Republican knows that the U.S. military always acts in the best interest not just of America but of the entire world. As far as the GOP is concerned, "defense" spending must never be cut, no matter how out of proportion it is to the actual threats our country faces or to the spending of the rest of the world; and one must never, ever criticize the military. To cut the military’s budget or suggest that it might be just as wasteful, inefficient, and bungling as the rest of the government is to "hate the troops" and to "blame America first." One wouldn’t expect private defense to enter these people’s minds, but few Republicans are even willing to consider constraining either the Pentagon’s spending or its adventurism. All other government programs are fair game for cutting and criticism, but the military is sacrosanct.
One could probably make a list ten times as long of all the socialist institutions supported by the very same Republicans who now pose as defenders of capitalism. They are correct that Obama’s plans are socialist in nature, but they fail to see — or conveniently forget — that they, too, are guilty of giving America a huge push down the slope of socialism. While their opposition to the "stimulus" is welcome, it’s a bit like Bugs Moran’s criticizing Al Capone for bumping off his enemies. Unfortunately, we the taxpayers are the ones who were massacred on this St. Valentine’s Day.
Michael Tennant [send him mail] is a software developer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.