“is” vs. “does”
I have always had problems with the use of certain words in the imperfect medium of communication via language.
The -ing words are the most blatant. They should only be employed to describe live events, precisely defined at the time, and so are wholly useless to use in print to be consumed at a later time, unless used to describe a circumstance one can only know after the fact.
For example, I never answer questions asked during sports events or before elections that ask who is winning or losing.
Whoever actually wins was always in the process of winning, and vice versa.
Therefore, with respect to sports, I always answer by saying who is “ahead” or “behind”.
With respect to elections, there simply is no way to answer an -ing question at all, given that we don’t keep a live tally of votes, as they are cast.
Which brings me to the issue at hand, i.e. Barack Obama’s relationship to “socialism” and the word “is”.
Liberals have avoided a lot of deserved criticism over the years with respect to economic policy and many political issues due to the limitations of language and Republican stupidity in falling into rhetorical traps revolving around the word “is” and its limitations, coupled with sound bite TV journalism, and the usual GOP timidity.
Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society.
The definition of socialism is vague, except for the last clause, which describes the goal (and to which we shall return shortly).
The fact is that since the New Deal thru yesterday, both parties have supported and will always, rightly in a post-agrarian society, some socialistic policies, especially those that comprise what Reagan referred to as “the safety net for the truly needy.”
We will return to this issue shortly, but now, let’s turn to the issue of the word “is” (though not in the context of a Bill Clinton sexual harassment deposition, though the logical argument is similar).
Democrats use many devices to avoid facing the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of their party of late. One is the straw man of ranking issues and taking refuge in the fact that Republicans are taking action on an issue that might not be number one on the list.
But the more potent argument is when they argue against Republican labeling of actual, live identifiable, democrat human beings.
Republicans will call a Democrat a liberal, and the Democrat will point out a statement or a vote where the particular Democrat agreed with or voted with Republicans on a particular issue or will point out where President Bush or some other Republicans (see Hagel, et al) took a liberal position.
Hence, the difficulty in defining an actual human being with one word.
Which brings us to the “socialism” label as applied to Barack Obama.
This all started when Joe The Plumber confronted Barack The Messiah with an undeniable fact regarding Obama’s tax plan:
Obama would raise taxes on individual taxpayers who claim more than $250K in income.
Obama defended this policy by saying that: “And right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody, and I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”
Obama has also said that things can get so bad that he would not favor higher taxes. One wonders how bad things have to be for Obama to oppose tax hikes, but I digress.
My purpose here is to show the best way to attack Obama concerning this particular statement, in context. So, what is the context and what is not the context.
1) This is not 1980-1988, when Reagan effectively defined the liberals with that one word thanks to their overt opposition to policies that worked, and the recent, fresh memories of life under dem policies ala Carter and Tip O’Neil.
2) Republicans are stupid, spineless and saddled with recent years in the majority when they not only failed to reduce the size of socialistic government but actually increased same.
Given the above, Republicans, including McCain-Palin, must be specific and follow Joe The Plummer’s argument, Obama’s own admission and the American value of a meritocracy.
We have done well on the latter, but we must avoid the tendency to try and reduce our arguments to one word, i.e. “socialism.” That can only work with a compliant media or a groundwork laid by rhetoric as events occur.
Obama has admitted that tax cuts “during a slow down” would be bad.
He might as well have admitted that water is essential to life, but here we are in America today… God help us.
We are in a slow down. A HUGE slowdown.
Joe The Plummer wants to move on up (play The Jeffersons’ theme), but wonders if its worth it, given that Obama wants to raise taxes for those that move on up.
This is the argument.
Obama wants to counter that he only wants to put taxes where they were when we were in the late 90s Clinton salad days (39%). He might as well argue for the Ike 90% salad days.
Its about now and what raising taxes mean now.
A great case can be made that Obama is a socialist, given his past life, statements, including this one, and votes. We can also make a great case that he is a male. But so what?
The argument we need to make is that his policies would lessen incentives for Joes to work harder.
The label doesn’t matter.
McCain wants to lower taxes for Joes. The label that matters is McCain vs. Obama.
McCain wins that one word argument.
Let’s not get trapped in a bait and switch argument over what Obama “is”. Let’s point out the fallacies of what he proposes.