President Barack Obama is a socialist.
That’s not meant as a pejorative or a slur. It’s simply a reality. Judging by historical standards of what it means to practice socialism, there is no doubt that Obama is, in fact, a socialist.
But so is Mitt Romney.
In fact, almost every member of Congress, governor and major political figure in the United States today is a socialist, as well.
It seems crazy, but it’s true.
How did the America become a nation of socialists?
The modern Socialist Party of America was founded in 1901. By 1912, its presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs, received 6 percent of the popular vote. That same year, the party developed its most thorough party platform to date.
That platform contained more than 30 demands, including:
• A minimum wage.
• A federal old-age pension.
• The adoption of a graduated income tax.
• An inheritance tax.
• A Department of Education.
• An independent Department of Labor.
• A federal Department of Health.
• Federally owned railroads.
• Government ownership of forests and water power.
• Federally managed land for conservation.
• The lending of money to states and municipalities, without interest, for the purpose of carrying on public works,
• Government-run unemployment bureaus.
• A collectively managed currency system.
None of those things were a reality in 1912. In fact, most of them were considered radical ideas, only supported by marginal candidates and fringe activists. Few mainstream Americans took the platform seriously. But now, only a century later, every single one of those policies proposed by the Socialist Party in 1912 is a fact of life in America.
The next year, in 1913, the 16th Amendment was ratified, creating a federal income tax. By 1916, Congress had also instituted a death tax. That same year, the National Parks Service was born, ensuring the federal ownership of land for conservation purposes. The NPS would later expand, giving the government control over much of America’s forest lands.
In 1935, Congress passed a federal old-age pension, called Social Security. Four years later, a federal minimum wage was enacted.
Amtrak gave the government control over most of America’s long-distance commuter rail services. The Fed was created, then expanded, putting the nation’s currency in the hands of the government. The government-owned TVA manages dozens of dams. There are now federal Departments of Labor, Health and Education.
While modern Americans had little to with adopting an income tax or establishing the Department of Labor, not all of these planks of the Socialist Party platform were instituted decades ago. The idea to “lend money to states and municipalities, without interest, for the purpose of carrying on public works” was a big part of Obama’s stimulus package.
Any member of the Socialist Party from the early 20th century who saw America today, 100 years later, could claim victory. The United States is clearly a socialist nation.
More troubling still is how little America’s leaders — even those who claim to be champions of liberty, limited government and the free market — seem to care.
Attempts to overturn these socialist policies — such as efforts to abolish the federal minimum wage, privatize Social Security and eliminate the federal Department of Education — are often met with contempt, even among Republicans.
With America continuing to inch away from individual responsibility, free market economic policies and the constitutional limits on government, there’s no reason to believe the outlandish policy proposals that constitute the 2012 Socialist Party platform won’t be a reality 100 years from now. And that extremist platform includes government ownership of all financial and insurance institutions, the airline industry, large farms and fossil fuel reserves; a steeply graduated income and estate taxes; an income tax preventing anyone from making more than 10 times the minimum; lowering the retirement age to 55 and the voting age to 15; and taxpayer-funded auto insurance.
There is an apocryphal saying credited to six-time Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas that goes, “The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of ‘liberalism’ they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.” (Most likely, the statement was actually invented for a radio commentary by Ronald Reagan, himself a socialist, but to a much lesser degree than most modern politicians.)
The statement, whoever its author, has proven unquestionably true.
As a result of the success of socialists in enacting their ideas — not by members of the Socialist Party, but by Democrats and, more and more, Republicans — it won’t matter whether Obama or Romney wins the election Tuesday. A socialist will be in the White House either way.