Media Defend Obama Against 'Socialism' Charge
Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama said on the campaign trail that it would be a good idea to â€śspread the wealth around.â€ť But donâ€™t call that â€śsocialismâ€ť unless you want to make enemies in the media.
The Obama proposal for refundable tax credits is â€śdifferent from tax cuts or deductions,â€ť according to â€śCBS Evening Newsâ€ť correspondent Wyatt Andrews Oct. 21. But Andrews said to define it as socialism would be â€śstretching the facts.â€ť
â€śMcCain calls it one of the biggest differences between him and Barack Obama,â€ť Andrews said. â€śThe claim that most of Obamaâ€™s tax cuts are actually government giveaways. On this claim, McCain has a point. Obama has proposed four new refundable tax credits, which are different from tax cuts or deductions. The refundable designation means that millions of taxpayers who donâ€™t normally owe income taxes would get refund checks from the government.â€ť
â€śTo Gov. [Sarah] Palin, Obamaâ€™s plan reeks of socialism. This McCain Web ad calls it welfare,â€ť Andrews said while showing the ad. â€śThe welfare claim is false. To get Obamaâ€™s new refund checks, most taxpayers would have to have a job, a home mortgage or save $1,000 a year. It is not the old concept of money for nothing.â€ť
But whether or not Obamaâ€™s proposed redistribution of wealth is technically â€śwelfareâ€ť comes down to semantics. Andrews relied on a definition of welfare from Bill Adair of Politifact.com, who claimed tax credits arenâ€™t welfare because welfare has â€śconnotations of someone who is poor, who is just sitting at home, who is not working.â€ť
Roll Call editor Mort Kondracke also disapproved of the connection to socialism, but based his logic on the definitions of â€śsocialismâ€ť and â€śwelfare.â€ť
â€śWell, I think itâ€™s an arcane argument that is not going to be ultimately decided this election,â€ť Kondracke said on the Oct. 21 â€śSpecial Report with Brit Hume.â€ť â€śI mean, I think the idea of whether this is a tax credit or a rebate or an extra earned income tax credit or a giveaway or a handout â€“ it is not welfare, because the people who get it are only those who are already employed. And itâ€™s not socialism, because socialism means that the government controls the economy, which this is not. So, you know, I think that â€“ I donâ€™t think itâ€™s going to decide the election.â€ť
But saying something has socialist qualities doesnâ€™t have to be an all-or-nothing definition. A McClatchy Newspapers made that obvious while attempting to debunk the â€śObamaâ€™s proposal is socialismâ€ť claim.
â€śSocialism involves state ownership of the means of economic production and state-directed sharing of the wealth,â€ť David Lightman and William Douglas wrote on Oct. 21 for McClatchy. â€ś
Despite media criticism, Palin didnâ€™t say Obamaâ€™s plan was â€śpure socialismâ€ť in her critique â€“ just that there were â€śhints of socialism.
â€śThere are socialist principles to that, yes,â€ť Palin said of Obamaâ€™s plan on Oct. 19 according to CNN.com. â€śTaking more from a small business or small business owners or from a hard working family and then redistributing that money according to a politicianâ€™s priorities. There are hints of socialism in there.â€ť But just uttering the word â€śsocialismâ€ť has caused a media frenzy.
The Oct. 20 â€śRachel Maddow Showâ€ť went as far as claiming the socialist labed was a veiled attempt to draw racial ire. She claimed invoking welfare was â€śracially divisive codeâ€ť from the decades of the 1980s and 1990s.