Hounding Obama 8 – Fabianism

Peter Namtvedt's picture
There has been noise. False, ridiculous accusations. Who could imagine that we could have elected a socialist to the presidency? After all socialism means permanent government control of production and central planning of all economic and educational activity. We have no such thing going on. Temporary ownership of a part of carmakers and a few banks is thoroughly consistent with a mixed economy. Moreover, how can anyone think Obama is a Fascist? A Fascist government, after all, forms league with all the powerful leaders of a nation and go to war with all, torturing its own people, jailing people on mere suspicions, suppressing science. Such accusers must surely be thinking of George W. Bush.

Maybe not socialist

Rather than engaging in such incendiary talk, we must look more carefully at the facts. This author has accused Obama of being a socialist, a fascist and a corporatist.

Assessing Obama on his actual merits, he is no socialist or fascist. He is not moving to have the government own or control all businesses. He appears to make a few moves in the socialist direction, but hardly espouses the full-blown thing. Like Hilary Clinton, when asked why she never referred to herself as a Liberal, replied “I am rather a Progressive,” Obama might refuse the “Liberal” along with the “Socialist” tag, perhaps even claim the same “Progressive” label. He must surely be aware of how thoroughly socialism has been discredited, disproved.

The Obama-Biden Agenda for Change has promised many things that resemble a socialist platform. They want a more progressive income tax, more power to labor unions, universal health care, voluntary service to the country, more help to fight poverty and disabilities. This is hardly a mighty move toward control of all production, the real classical socialist program. This looks more like just plain old mixed economy.

No, Obama's program is more subtle. Give him credit for being cleverer than that.

Taking away the right incentives. Establishing bad incentives.

Obama, you want people to spend the stimulus money that comes their way, the tiny reduction in paycheck deductions, whatever loan the local bank can give them. The trouble is that for two decades government has been saying just that, and laying fines on banks who do not lend to low income people, setting interest rates so low that people borrowed and spent like crazy. People got burned. They do not want to repeat that. They now want to save.

However, the incentives to save are wispy thin, inflation eating up some, taxes taking some, and very little interest paid on it to begin with.

Moreover, you say, Obama, you want the people making less than $250,000 to continue starting businesses and creating jobs. However, unless they had saved they are not likely to do that. Borrowing to do it costs too much in interest or is not possible because banks are not lending. They are probably going to try to keep their income below that level, to escape the rise in taxes on the rich.

Besides that, the other frequently used funding source for starting new businesses and creating jobs has also dried up, Obama, and you are promising to tax them more heavily. They are therefore less likely to inject venture capital investments into those small businesses.

Obama as Fabian

Obama is no revolutionary. What he is aiming at may be the familiar old socialism of the past century and a half, but not by one bold move, one big bomb or one gigantic upheaval. He is moving by a process of evolution. One step at a time.

Move to a state health care system by going after the big employers. Make the largest employers forge a partnership with the government in a venture to compete with, not abolish private insurance. Let the small firms and their uninsured employees stay out without penalty to start with. Just make sure that those covered by the centralized plan experience good health care at a lower cost. Step one.

Later comes step two, perhaps even to be done by another president. This step increases costs a small amount in order to pick up coverage of another tier of workers. Then make health insurance mandatory for everyone, even for those who can perfectly well insure themselves. Subsidize the lowest income participants.

On another front, whole industries will gradually feel the power of directions being issued from the government, perhaps without any state ownership. Maybe a bureaucrat and a union member will be required to be included in every board of directors. Instead of new legislation being used to richened firms into paths desired by the government, presidential or cabinet secretary directives will nudge firms into new behavior patterns, keep the atmosphere uncertain, and have everyone on their toes.

As Jerry Bowyer wrote November 3, 2008 in Forbes magazine, “Who needs Molotov when we've got Alinski?” Obama is not an outright Socialist, he is a Fabian.

Fabians believed in gradual nationalization of the economy through manipulation of the democratic process. Breaking away from the violent revolutionary socialists of their day, they thought that the only real way to effect "fundamental change" and "social justice" was through a mass movement of the working classes presided over by intellectual and cultural elites. Before TV, it was stage plays, written by George Bernard Shaw and thousands of inferior "realist" playwrights dedicated to social change.

Therefore, it is time to consider whether the problem I should write about is Obama's broken promises. In its “Politifact” website, the St. Petersburg Times is doing a good job tracking Obama's promises with the Obameter . So far they have found, out of 514 promises, 27 have been kept, 7 compromised, 6 broken, 3 stalled, and 63 in the works.

The Fabian approach to achieving socialism counts on partial implementation of programs that end up complementary, when all of them are in place. It is important that there are not too many completed at the same time, to avoid revealing the direction it is taking us. It takes time for large groups of people to get used to new ideas. After all, to boil a live frog you do not drop it into already boiling water.

Peter says:

The road to hell is paved with good intentions...

Peter also writes for Ada Byron's Blog.