Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is Obama a Socialist?

So asks Scott Johnson at Powerline.  This shouldn't surprise me because the guys at Powerline do write some positively insane things and really do seem smitten with conspiracy theories. But, one way to determine whether Obama is a closet socialist is by looking at his proposed policies.  What do we find?  He wants to raise taxes!  Though, if we recall Milton Friedman's old saw, Spending=Taxes.  He wants to institute a pigovian tax on carbon emissions to correct for negative externalities, like that other well known communist Greg Mankiw, oh wait, he was Bush's CEA Chair.  He wants to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, a program inspired by Milton Friedman's proposal of a negative income tax.  These are all center-left positions, not the onset of a new wave of socialism.  If you want to see socialism in action just look at what's happening with the current administration and the financial bailouts, as Brad DeLong put it

"The Bush administration, having entered office as social conservatives, leaves office as conservative socialists, proprietors of the most sudden large expansion of the state's role in the US economy since mobilisation for the second world war."

But one could also look to the policy advisors Obama has surrounded himself by. Jason Furman's selection as Economic Policy Director drew lots of flak because the left views him as an apologist for Wal-Mart.  Here is an online debate between Furman and Barbara Ehrenreich on Wal-Mart.  I hasten to add that Furman has proposed using the same vehicle for reforming the Health Care system as McCain, as chronicled here and elsewhere. Jeff Liebman is the co-author of the LMS Social Security Plan, the M and the S in the LMS plan are Maya McGuineas (former McCain economic advisor) and Andrew Samwick (former member of the Bush CEA).  One of the central elements of the LMS plan is partial privatization.  Very socialist indeed.  And of course there is Austan Goolsbee, of that strong communist foothold in the midwest, the University of Chicago.

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