Column: GOP Furor Over Socialism Damaging, Echoes McCarthyism

This story was written by Casey Skeens, Badger Herald
Its no secret Sen. Barack Obama has been condemned as socialist by Sen. John McCain in recent weeks. Republicans accuse Obama of trying to spread the wealth around and take money from hard-working Americans so the government can decide how to spend it: clearly socialism at its worst. By pouring taxes into government programs, Republicans fear Obama will create a web of safety nets for the less fortunate, thereby taking away any incentives for ambition and hard work. They fear this will indisputably lead to a tyrannical government taking a hammer and sickle to the free market system.

By presenting Obama in this light, McCain is attempting to echo 1950s McCarthyism. During this period, Sen. Joe McCarthy sought to control the public through fear by suggesting communists and communist sympathizers had infiltrated the United States. This tactic is often resurrected during election years to paint political opponents as un-American enemies of the state. Americans see communism as the enemy of capitalism, and many confuse communism with socialism, but they arent the same. All communists are socialist, but socialists are not necessarily communist.

To be precise, capitalism uses greed and humanitys thirst for competition to profit and grow within a free market. Greed cannot exist under communism, a system in which there is no private ownership, only governmental control. A socialist system, on the other hand, maintains equal opportunities by preventing the wealthiest citizens from exploiting and oppressing the public to maintain their wealth. At the heart of socialism is genuine democracy.

Ironically, it isnt the wealthiest of Americans who need capitalism to succeed, its the least fortunate. Capitalism offers them a way to better themselves and the opportunity for a better life for their children. These ideas are the cornerstone of America, and no amount of government programs will take away these incentives for success.

Gordon Gecko, the character from the 1987 movie Wall Street, is famous for the speech in which he says, Greed for lack of a better word is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.

But the truth is: Greed is a fickle mistress. Greed is the reason socialism doesnt work. Greed and compassion are both parts of human nature. But when it comes to desperate self-preservation, compassion never comes first. People dont help others unless they can already take care of themselves. Yet greed is also the reason a purely capitalist system doesnt work. Unchecked capitalism is just as disastrous for the public as unchecked governmental control. Both total private and governmental control accommodate cheating and allow greedy, unscrupulous people to use and abuse the system for personal gain.

In a perfect America, every honest, hardworking American would have a healthy family and a beautiful home with a white picket fence. Unfortunately, history has shown us repeatedly that capitalism without governmental restraint breeds corruption. This is why the current economic crisis has hit during the height of the deregulation trend: Without governmental restraint, the evil side of greed was allowed to thrive as investors became reckless in gambling with other peoples money. These parasites have continually sown wealth in the private sector while leaving the public sector to reap the losses. As Gecko said, The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest.

Its clear the government needs to take a bigger role in regulation for honest competition, ambition and hard work to stand a fighting chance. The United States government rcently took control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: $5 trillion in Mortgage Market assets combined. Meanwhile, the recent bank bailout cost taxpayers $700 billion: more than the cost of the Iraq War to date. The current Republican administration has already exhibited starkly socialist tendencies in its attempt to solve the financial recession; if McCains supporters dont think so, theyre kidding themselves.

Even if new government programs create safety nets for the lower classes, this merely suggests the poor will only be able to fall so far off the social ladder. By shortening the climb to the top, it will usher in a new era of healthy competition under capitalism. If social Darwinists are truly among the fittest, then they have nothing to fear and will be able to defend their wealth and prosperity against any industry that comes along. However, those willing to remain passively content with their class status and who have no desire for growth are against American opportunity, innovation and democracy. It is these citizens, who have no desire to be honest, hard-working members of society and not socialists, who are truly un-American.