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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 “spread the wealth around.” But don’t call that “socialism” unless you want to make enemies in the media.

 

     The Obama proposal for refundable tax credits is “different from tax cuts or deductions,” according to “CBS Evening News” correspondent Wyatt Andrews Oct. 21. But Andrews said to define it as socialism would be “stretching the facts.”

 

     “McCain calls it one of the biggest differences between him and Barack Obama,” Andrews said. “The claim that most of Obama’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 don’t normally owe income taxes would get refund checks from the government.”

 

     “To Gov. [Sarah] Palin, Obama’s plan reeks of socialism. This McCain Web ad calls it welfare,” Andrews said while showing the ad. “The welfare claim is false. To get Obama’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.”

 

     But whether or not Obama’s proposed redistribution of wealth is technically “welfare” comes down to semantics. Andrews relied on a definition of welfare from Bill Adair of Politifact.com, who claimed tax credits aren’t welfare because welfare has “connotations of someone who is poor, who is just sitting at home, who is not working.”

 

     Roll Call editor Mort Kondracke also disapproved of the connection to socialism, but based his logic on the definitions of “socialism” and “welfare.”

 

     “Well, I think it’s an arcane argument that is not going to be ultimately decided this election,” Kondracke said on the Oct. 21 “Special Report with Brit Hume.” “I 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 – it is not welfare, because the people who get it are only those who are already employed. And it’s not socialism, because socialism means that the government controls the economy, which this is not. So, you know, I think that – I don’t think it’s going to decide the election.”

     But saying something has socialist qualities doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing definition. A McClatchy Newspapers made that obvious while attempting to debunk the “Obama’s proposal is socialism” claim.

 

     “Socialism involves state ownership of the means of economic production and state-directed sharing of the wealth,” David Lightman and William Douglas wrote on Oct. 21 for McClatchy. “America’s democratic capitalist system is neither socialist nor pure free market; rather, it mixes the two, and it has at least since the progressive income tax was introduced 95 years ago. Under it, the wealthy pay higher income tax rates than those who are less fortunate do. It’s a form of sharing the wealth.”

 

     Despite media criticism, Palin didn’t say Obama’s plan was “pure socialism” in her critique – just that there were “hints of socialism.

 

     “There are socialist principles to that, yes,” Palin said of Obama’s plan on Oct. 19 according to CNN.com. “Taking more from a small business or small business owners or from a hard working family and then redistributing that money according to a politician’s priorities. There are hints of socialism in there.” But just uttering the word “socialism” has caused a media frenzy. 

     The Oct. 20 “Rachel Maddow Show” went as far as claiming the socialist labed was a veiled attempt to draw racial ire. She claimed invoking welfare was “racially divisive code” from the decades of the 1980s and 1990s.