T Nation

Is Bush a Socialist?


#1

Great article by Andrew Sullivan:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-1795921,00.html

While I do not read his blog regularly, I appreciate Sullivan's differentiation between Conservative and Republican. I wonder why more conservatives are not upset about the current administration's big spending, big government policies.


#2

The Sunday Times September 25, 2005

Andrew Sullivan: Is Bush a socialist? He's spending like one

Finally, finally, finally. A few years back, your correspondent noticed something a little odd about George W Bush?s conservatism. If you take Margaret Thatcher?s dictum that a socialist is someone who is very good at spending other people?s money, then President Bush is, er, a socialist.
Sure, he has cut taxes, a not-too-difficult feat when your own party controls both houses of Congress. But spending? You really have to rub your eyes, smack yourself on the forehead and pour yourself a large gin and tonic. The man can?t help himself.

The first excuse was the war. After 9/11 and a wobbly world economy, that was a decent excuse. Nobody doubted that the United States needed to spend money to beef up homeland security, avert deflation, overhaul national preparedness for a disaster, and fight a war on terror. But when Katrina revealed that, after pouring money into both homeland security and Louisiana?s infrastructure, there was still no co-ordinated plan to deal with catastrophe, a few foreheads furrowed.

Then there was the big increase in agricultural subsidies. Then the explosion in pork barrel spending. Then the biggest new entitlement since Lyndon Johnson, the Medicare drug benefit. Then a trip to Mars. When you add it all up, you get the simple, devastating fact that Bush, in a mere five years, has added $1.5 trillion to the national debt. The interest on that debt will soon add up to the cost of two Katrinas a year.

Remember when conservatism meant fiscal responsibility? In a few years, few people will be able to. I used to write sentences that began with the phrase: ?Not since Lyndon Johnson?s Great Society spending binge. . .? I can?t write that any more. Johnson ? the guns and butter president of liberalism?s high-water mark ? was actually more fiscally conservative than the current inhabitant of the White House. LBJ boosted domestic discretionary spending in inflationadjusted dollars by a mere 33.4%.

In five years, Bush has increased it 35.1%. And that?s before the costs for Katrina and Rita and the Medicare benefit kick in. Worse, this comes at a time when everyone concedes that we were facing a fiscal crunch before Bush started handing out dollar bills like a drunk at a strip club. With the looming retirement of America?s baby-boomers, the US needed to start saving, not spending; cutting, not expanding its spending habits.

This was one reason I found myself forced to endorse John Kerry last November. He was easily the more fiscally conservative candidate. Under Clinton, the US actually ran a surplus for a while (thanks, in part, to the Gingrich-run Congress). But most conservatives bit their tongues. Bush promised fiscal tightening in his second term and some actually believed him.

They shouldn?t have. When Bush casually dismissed questions about funding the $200 billion Katrina reconstruction with a glib ?It?s going to cost what it costs?, steam finally blew out of some loyal Republican ears. When the house majority leader Tom DeLay told the conservative Washington Times that there was no fat left to cut in the budget and that ?after 11 years of Republican majority we?ve pared it down pretty good?, a few conservatives lost it.

Here?s the chairman of the American Conservative Union: ?Excluding military and homeland security, American taxpayers have witnessed the largest spending increase under any preceding president and Congress since the Great Depression.? That would be correct. When you have doubled spending on education in four years, launched two wars and a new mega-entitlement, that tends to happen.

Here?s Peggy Noonan, about as loyal a Republican as you?ll find, in a Wall Street Journal column last week: ?George W Bush is a big spender. He has never vetoed a spending bill. When Congress serves up a big slab of fat, crackling pork, Mr Bush responds with one big question: Got any barbecue sauce??

Here?s Ann Coulter, the Michael Moore of the far right, a pundit whose book on liberalism was titled Treason: ?Bush has already fulfilled all his campaign promises to liberals and then some! He said he?d be a ?compassionate conservative?, which liberals interpreted to mean that he would bend to their will, enact massive spending programmes, and be nice to liberals. When Bush won the election, that sealed the deal. It meant the Democrats won.

?Consequently, Bush has enacted massive new spending programmes, obstinately refused to deal with illegal immigration, opposed all conservative Republicans in their primary races, and invited Teddy Kennedy over for movie night. He?s even sent his own father to socialise with ageing porn star Bill Clinton.? Ouch.

Conservatives have been quietly frustrated with Bush for a long time now. Honest neoconservatives have long privately conceded that the war in Iraq has been grotesquely mishandled. But in deference to their own party, they spent last year arguing that John Kerry didn?t deserve his Vietnam war medals. Social conservatives have just watched as the president?s nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court pronounced that the constitutional right to abortion on demand merited respect as a legal precedent. This hasn?t cheered them up. The nativist right, long enraged by illegal immigration, has been spluttering about foreigners for a while now. But since few want to question the war publicly, oppose the president?s nominees to the court, or lose the Latino vote, the spending issue has become the focus of everyone?s discontent.

All I can say is: about time. I believe in lower taxes. But I also believe in basic fiscal responsibility. If you do not cut spending to align with lower taxes, you are merely borrowing from the next generation. And if a Republican president has legitimised irresponsible spending, what chance is there that a Democrat will get tough?

This may, in fact, be Bush?s real domestic legacy. All a Democratic successor has to do is raise taxes to pay for his splurge, and we will have had the biggest expansion of government power, size and responsibility since the 1930s. What would Reagan say? What would Thatcher? But those glory days are long gone now ? and it was a Republican president and Congress that finally buried them.


#3

I guess this means you can't just blame liberals for big government.


#4

Many are, and rightly so.


#5

Most conservatives are extremely pissed regarding his spending record.

Due to the relentless and mostly baseless attacks on Bush and American interests regarding Iraq, most conservatives end up defending Bush regarding his war stance and his spending record is ignored.


#6

Bush has not only dropped the ball on spending, but on immigration as well. My next vote for president will take these into cosideration very seriously

Governments don't build giant deficits by taxing too little, they do it by spending too much.


#7

Actually, many, many conservatives are upset about Bush's spending. But on balance they think the Democratic alternatives are all worse.


#8

Either that or you can't assume all Republicans are conservative :slight_smile:


#9

Before we call Bush a Socialist, we should define the term -- not just leave it out there as a grey intangible.

Now, anyone can look up a term in a dictionary. But what does the word 'Socialist' mean to the typical Joe?

To me, a Socialist is someone who thinks that the main purpose of a person's life should be the well-being of Society. To work for your own benefit is to be a selfish brute. A true Socialist would tell you to consider the well-being of Society before yourself. Hitler (National Socialist) is a prime example of the Socialist -- put the good of the Aryan race before your own good. Stalin (Soviet Socialist) was a true Socialist -- put the good of the Proletariat before your own good.

If you don't want to work for the good of the Aryan race or the good of the Proletariat, it's off to Death camp or Gulag with you.

So, is Bush a Socialist? Since he creates massive deficits, he is forcing you, the taxpayers, to work for the benefit of others. Since he happily endorses programs initiated by Ted Kennedy and a Socialist crowd like that, then I would say: "Yes, Bush is a Socialist. Forcing others to work for the 'greater good', against their will and with threat of jail or confiscation of property, is the mark of a Socialist."


#10

I have said repeatedly that Bush is a liberal. He way overspends.

The Republican Party is succeeding so well because it has moved so far to the left. The Democrats have reacted by moving even further to the left. And because of this they are imploding.

But that also means larger deficits. People complain about the spending on the war, but the new senior drug benefits are going to cost us way more then the war ever will.

The big thing that differentiates him from most liberals is his tax policy. So instead of being a tax and spend liberal, he is a low tax, and still spend liberal.

I use the definition of liberal as wanting a larger, more powerful government, while a conservative wants a smaller, less powerful government.

(Truly I fall between a conservative and a libertarian.)

As far as future voting, the candidates must be looked at objectively. I dislike the voting party line like many people do. It involves no thinking. And the people who vote against a party instead of for the candidate really shoot themselves in the foot. For example I would vote for Hillary Clinton before I would ever vote for David Duke, even though I would probably vote Pat Buchanan before I would vote for Hillary, though it would pain me to do so. (Starting to see the hierarchy here?) And I would happily vote Lieberman way before I would vote Buchanan.


#11

I think this is correct. You can trace it to Gingrich getting his political @$$ handed to him for the government shutdown back in the late 90s.

Since the "Gingrich who stole Christmas", the Republicans have returned to their previous pre-Reagan position of "Democrat light" in terms of spending, though with a few actual conservative programs attempted to be tossed in (such as vouchers and personal accounts for health care, though they didn't fight hard enough for them and let them get evisercated by Teddy K and crew). It's a weird mix of populism and political opportunism that creates the Republican spending bills.

And as far as it goes, I think Bush has just decided to give in on the Congressional pork in order to have more leverage with the Congressional leadership on stuff he considers higher priority (read: Iraq, trade, tax cuts, etc.).


#12

I heard just today that CURRENT entitlement programs (SS, Medicare / Medicaid) represent 51% of the federal budget. This is BEFORE figuring in the $700+ billion over the next ten years - which is probably on the low side - for the new "free" prescription drugs plan.


#13

Headhunter, we have been through this a million fucking times. Neither Hitler nor Stalin were socialists- in a socialist movement, there are no dictators whatsoever. Hitler was a nationlist- no socialist is a nationalist. The whole idea is "internationalism". They were both fascists who supported state run capitalism. Stop calling them socialists! They were NOT!


#14

Irish,

I gave a definition of socialist, but am unclear on your definition. Please state exactly what a socialist is. If you can refute my definition of a socialist, then we both gain.

In the words of Earnest Everhard of Iron Heel fame, put it in my hand. (no, guys, it is not one of 'those' kind of books.)

And I still don't understand why Hitler and Stalin called themselves socialists if they were not. Didn't they want victims, er ..., other people to live for the 'alleged' greater good?


#15

When the well runs dry, we all better run!


#16


WHICH type of socialism?

Since the 19th century, socialist ideas have developed and separated into many different streams. Notable ideologies that have been referred to using the label "socialism" are:

* African socialism
* Libertarian socialism
      o Anarchism
            + Anarcho-syndicalism
            + Anarcho-communism
      o council communism
      o autonomist Marxism
* Christian socialism
* Islamic socialism
* Communism (see also Marxism)
* Democratic socialism
* International socialism
* Syndicalism
* Utopian socialism
* Guild socialism

The socio-political or intellectual movements basing themselves in the Marxist-Socialist tradition can generally be further divided into:

* Castroism
* Council communism
* Hoxhaism
* Juche
* Angka
* Left communism
* Leninism
* Luxembourgism
* Mao Zedong Thought or "Maoism"
      o Gonzalo Thought
* Marxist humanism
* Stalinism
* Trotskyism
* Situationism

Several forms of "socialism" are considered by those further to the left to be reformist or revisionist. These include:

* Austromarxism
* Evolutionary socialism
* Fabianism
* Social democracy
* Popular Socialism
* Yellow socialism
* Socialism with Chinese characteristics and other forms of market socialism
* Bernsteinism
* Kautskyism
* Titoism
* Labor Zionism

#17

Depending on the context, the term socialism may refer either to these ideologies or any of their many lineal descendants. While these cover a very broad range of views, they have in common a belief that feudal and capitalist societies are run for the benefit of a small economic elite and that society should be run for the common good.

"Socialist" ideologies tend to emphasize economic cooperation over economic competition; virtually all envision some sort of economic planning (many, but by no means all, favor central planning). All advocate placing at least some of the means of production -- and at least some of the distribution of goods and services -- into collective or cooperative ownership.

Now, after reading this, who still thinks Bush is a Socialist?


#18

I think we're looking for a common thread within the concept of Socialism. For example, you've seen many types of tables, but what is 'table'?

To me, Socialism means that society comes first. Capitalism means that capital comes first. Communism means that the commune comes first. In other words, what do individuals live for? Do they live for the state? Do they live for themselves? For the community?

So, the common thread appears to me to be that Socialism requires that individuals live for the good of the society. They allegedly benefit because everyone else lives for each other, in a big brotherhood utopia.

It is my contention that this sort of society cannot work, without resort to force. There will always be individuals who simply don't want to work for the benefit of others. We then see the hell-on-earth societies, like Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge. The Founding Fathers understood this and created a society where individuals could be left alone. Is Bush eroding this in his actions?


#19

The "founding fathers" must have read Marx.


#20

Have you actually read what I posted?

Do not try to oversimplify a complex issue.

Capitalism is an economic system, which is not precluded by Socialism. Socialism REGULATES Capitalism, it does not replace it.

So that means one can have a Socialist Government ruling over / with a Capitalist Economy.

In fact, FightingIrish is absolutely correct when he said that the old USSR ran an economic system that is called State Capitalism.

And Communism is a form of Socialism.

So why are you talking about the three like they were mutually exclusive?

They are NOT, in fact the USSR, as stated above, had all three at the same time...

If Socialism sounds complicated, it's because it is. If that makes it easier for you, use "left" and "right", which are defined henceforth:

RIGHT:

The right defends the preservation of corporate rights through constraints on government power, the preservation of wealth and power in the hands that have traditionally held them; Basically, the defend social stability, i.e. the preservation of the original feudal status quo, in both economic and social terms; hence the association with conservatives (meaning Conservatism and Right-Wing can be used interchangeably).

LEFT:

The left has historically opposed the concentration of wealth and power, especially in an institutionalized form, in the hands of those who have traditionally controlled them. As such, the left often works to create or support equality in the state. Although specific means of achieving these ends are not agreed upon by different left-wing groups, almost all those on the left agree that some form of government or social intervention in economics is necessary to achieve that equalization of rights and, most of all, equalization of opportunities.

Peter Singer (Princeton University, Professor of Philosophy) defines "the left" as being those who place minimizing suffering above other moral imperatives, such as those provided by tradition.

A number of scientifically literate leftists, such as Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer, view the iterated prisoner's dilemma as a key in understanding exploitation of the masses by the powerful.

You feel that does not encompass well all possible variations? Well, most libertarians conceive of an additional spectrum (libertarianism-totalitarianism) upon which they place themselves which intersects the left-right political spectrum and places them 90 degrees away from traditional left and right, basically allowing for four quadrants (libertarian left, libertarian right, totalitarian left and totalitarian right).