George Graham

How U.S. Politicians Use Empty Labels to Frighten Voters

I bet the vast majority of American voters could not accurately define “liberal” or “Socialism,” yet these words seem to scare them half to death. In a recent blog, I questioned John McCain’s ability to balance the budget and erase the deficit while cutting taxes, and received this comment from a reader:

It has been proven over and over that when you lower taxes, government income increases, since more jobs are created, hence more people paying taxes. Increasing taxes and federal spending only leads to one place, Socialism and Communism. If that is what you want in Jamaica, it is your prerogative (I feel sorry for you), but that is not what we want in the U.S. The less government interferes, the more money everyone can keep for themselves (and) the better off everyone is. But if you want Socialism, we can always send you Obama….. That is what he wants after all.

O.K. So forget about the fact that this reader obviously thinks I live in Jamaica when I actually live in Florida, and focus on the economics described in the comment. I don’t know if the theory the reader outlines has ever worked but I know it could not possibly work in today’s global marketplace. Think about it.

Step 1: Government lowers corporate taxes

Step 2: Companies make more profits and can invest some of the profits in expansion.

Step 3: Companies hire more workers.

Result: More prosperity in the good ol’ U.S. of A., and more people paying taxes, swelling the government’s coffers.

You’ve probably already spotted the flaw in the argument. Right? I mean, who says the workers that get hired will be American? The way things are today, the company will hire the extra workers in China or Taiwan, or some other part of the world where wages are lower than they are in America.

It’s the same old “trickle down” idea that was bandied about in Ronald Reagan’s time. The idea then was that if the rich get richer, the poor will get richer, too, because the rich will buy things from the poor, give them jobs and maybe even handouts. An Irish politician summed it up by saying, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

Except that the rich don’t necessarily spend their money at home. Nobody in America – rich or poor – buys American-made goods any more. Check your purchases the next time you go to Wal-Mart. You’ll likely find a label that says, “Made in China.” I don’t suppose the rich shop at Wal-Mart, but I know they spend a lot of their loot on foreign-made goods. McCain’s $520 shoes (photo below) weren’t made in the U.S.  They were made in Italy.

shoesTake the $3,000 handbags you see those trophy wives carrying … you think those were made in America? I doubt it. They were probably imported from Europe. I don’t know how much of the $300,000 that Cindy McCain spent on her convention outfit (photo below, left) stayed in the U.S., but I bet most of that money found its way into foreign cash registers. Furthermore, the rich do a lot of traveling, and they own property all over the globe. Growing up in Jamaica I met a lot of celebrities and millionaires (back then you were rich if you were a millionaire). Errol Flynn had a plantation a few miles from our home, for example.

outfitUnless you ban the importation of foreign goods and stop people from traveling, I don’t see how you can keep money from leaving the country. I seem to recall that when I was quite young a brilliant man named Norman Washington Manley became prime minister of Jamaica. He dumped a bundle of  government money in the island in an effort to stimulate the Jamaican economy. But from what I heard, Jamaicans spent the money shopping in Miami. I don’t think he tried that again.

If federal spending means Socialism, George W. Bush (photo below, right) must be the biggest Socialist this world has ever seen. Under his watch America has piled up a $9 trillion national debt and is on track to be $53 trillion in the hole in a few years if current policies remain unchecked. True, he hasn’t collected taxes to pay the country’s bills; he’s left them for someone else to pay some day – and with what else but taxes? bushAs for government interference, this administration has tapped its citizens’ phones, snooped on their emails and tried to dictate what gender their life partners must be. McCain says that if he is elected he will appoint Supreme Court justices who will revoke American women’s right to choose whether they have a baby or not. If that’s not government interference, what the hell is? I would have a hard time spotting a Socialist if I bumped into one today. The old labels and theories just don’t apply any longer. For example, I don’t think there is such a thing as free enterprise. There can’t be – unless you buy a remote island somewhere and trade beads for coconuts. Also, I cannot think of one Communist economy in the world. Karl Marx (photo below, left) would look askance at the way China’s government operates, and Cuba long ago opened its markets to foreign investment and trade. The fact that a dictator is in power doesn’t make a country Communist.

marxWhat about liberals? There used to be a Liberal Party in England back in the old days that believed in “laissez-faire” – French for letting things be. Those liberals had a hands-off government policy. But I’m sure that’s not what politicians mean today when they call somebody a liberal. Now, it seems that anybody who thinks the poor and the sick should not be left to die in the streets is a “liberal.” And you might think a “conservative” is someone who believes in conservation, yet today’s “conservatives” seem hell-bent on trashing the world God gave us.

Even though I defy you to tell me what “liberal” and “Socialist” really mean today, I’ll bet you know a lot of people who cringe when they hear the words. Politicians have used skillful propaganda techniques to imbue these empty labels with dread. So much so, that most Americans would rather rush headlong down the path of economic and social ruin than be tagged with such terrifying epithets.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for