George Graham

Obama Creating a Welfare State? Really?

Listening to the Republican presidential wannabes describe Barack Obama, I am utterly bemused. Who is that man they talk about? They call him a Socialist and accuse him of trying to convert America to a European “welfare state” society. But I see no evidence of anything like that. Indeed, I wish he would be more “socialist” and less concerned with placating conservatives.

Especially in the early days of his presidency, Obama has bent over backwards to embrace Republicans and their ideas. He appointed several Republicans to key posts and chose Wall Street players to design his economic policies. I believe that’s where he went wrong.

The “stimulus” package, for example, was watered down by ineffectual tax reductions – an olive branch extended to Republicans. If the money had been spent on infrastructure, the impact would have been much more beneficial. Oh well, live and learn. I bet he won’t do that again!

But to hear the Republican candidates talk, you might think it was Obama who introduced such programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance and food stamps.

Of course, he has done nothing of the sort.  Those programs were around long before Barack Obama appeared on the scene. In fact, his mother was on food stamps when he was a child.

I can’t think of a single program the president has introduced to “redistribute wealth” in America. His major effort to ease the suffering of the poor is the health reform legislation that Republicans are so eager to repeal. Ironically, it is based on the Massachusetts plan crafted by Mitt Romney – who is among the most vehement of Obama’s critics.

President Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on millionaires (by a minuscule amount) is not based on ideology but on common sense. The richest Americans have prospered mightily in the past 30 years while the poor and middle class have made little or no financial gains, so it is obvious who can best afford to give America’s economy a hand up when it needs it.

The Republicans say the rich already pay most of the nation’s taxes, but that’s because they are the only ones making any money. The rest of us would be glad to have incomes on which we would pay more taxes.

I can only assume that the demonizing of the president is based on something other than welfare-state legislation.

Here’s how Gary Kamiva explains it in Salon today:

The anti-Obama cult is based on an irrational, grossly excessive fear and hatred of something the cult members call “big government” or “socialism,” and an equally irrational worship of something they call “freedom” or “liberty.” The fear and hatred of big government is irrational and excessive because Obama’s innocuous heathcare bill, the passage of which cult members like Bachmann see as the beginning of the end for America, is far less momentous as a piece of “social engineering” than Social Security, Medicare, welfare or progressive taxation.

As for Obama himself, he is a bland left-leaning centrist, a slightly more liberal clone of moderate Republicans like Dwight D. Eisenhower, and his “socialist” policies are part of a long American tradition that goes back to FDR.

Kamiva attributes the venom directed at the president to desperation bred by the failure of the George W. Bush administration. It left the political “right” with no logical defense, forcing conservative leaders to resort to culture-war scare tactics and Marxist-style sloganeering, he argues. In this debate:

“Big government” mostly means “giving money to undeserving people with dark skin” – a core GOP belief, central to the party since Nixon’s Southern Strategy, that Rick Santorum was rash enough to articulate. But it also has a cultural dimension in which it means pointy-headed elites who look down on “real Americans.” And trickiest of all, it also has a personal dimension in which it means anything that limits individual freedom — which explains the appeal, to those Republicans and independents who are genuine and consistent libertarians, of Ron Paul. (It is because “freedom” does not actually mean anything in the orthodox right-wing universe that non-libertarian conservatives like Romney, Bachmann, Santorum and the rest can advocate for intrusive drug laws, anti-gay laws and massive military budgets, while wrapping themselves in the mantle of “liberty.”)

Inescapably, the president’s race is also a factor in the “cult’s” success. Kamiva points out that:

For many right-wingers, Obama was a foreign object, whose unexpected entrance into the body politic activated their immune systems – hence the “birther” movement and other bizarre right-wing obsessions. Whether the right’s aversion to Obama constitutes classic racism is a Talmudic question; what is undeniable is that his race activated a horde of (literally) white cells, rushing to expel the invader. Like organisms, cults always delineate themselves by drawing sharp lines between Us and Them.

I found Kimava’s dissertation revealing – and depressing.

In 21st Century America, are people so vulnerable to primitive prejudices and crude sloganeering that they cannot separate fact from fiction? Are they no more advanced than Chairman Mao’s China?

We shall find out in November.

Click here to read the Salon article.

About the author

gwgraeme

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 Jamaicans.com