Chris Hedges on Brand Obama

Though President Obama is daily if not hourly accused of being a socialist, to many socialists President Obama is just the latest installment of American corporatism. In what is sure to be a controversial column over at TruthDig, a Web magazine that provides coverage of current affairs as well as provocative content assembled from a progressive point of view, the polemicist Chris Hedges complains that Obama is but a brand "designed to make us feel good about our government while corporate overlords loot the Treasury, our elected officials continue to have their palms greased by armies of corporate lobbyists, our corporate media diverts us with gossip and trivia and our imperial wars expand in the Middle East." That's just the appetizer.

Mr. Hedges goes on to bemoan that the Obama Administration has "spent, lent or guaranteed $12.8 trillion in taxpayer dollars to Wall Street and insolvent banks in a doomed effort to reinflate the bubble economy, a tactic that at best forestalls catastrophe and will leave us broke in a time of profound crisis" while also allocating "nearly $1 trillion in defense-related spending and the continuation of our doomed imperial projects in Iraq, where military planners now estimate that 70,000 troops will remain for the next 15 to 20 years." Still, he's only warming up.

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The Next Time Someone Cries "Socialism!", Tell Them This

Typically, resorting to name-calling is tantamount to admitting you've lost the argument; and when the Republicans begin throwing what they see as the most disparaging of all insults - "Socialism", "Marxism" - at progressive policies it also shows they're desperate.  They'd call the stimulus package a peanut butter sandwich if they thought it would scare you into voting against it. But the fact is that anyone who calls President Obama's initiatives "Socialism" doesn't know what the definition of Socialism is.

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What Happened to Definitions in the Socio/Political World?

It has been so easy lately for anyone who disagrees with anyone else in politics to label them as radically as possible. In the past week or so, for instance, I've heard Obama, with his handling of the Economy and his goals for healthcare and education, called a "socialist", a "communist", a "fascist" and other things, some too nasty to mention.

Both parties (the major, parties, that is... the hundreds of mini-parties, those single-issue groupings of certain individuals, are prime offenders at name calling, but have relatively little effect) are guilty of this kind of stuff... and they do it to themselves as well as the other side (just look at what Republicans are doing to Michael Steele and what Paul Krugman is pumping out about Obama.)

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How Not to Blow It

It's hard to overstate the transformative moment that we're in as a nation and, particularly, as progressives. In just a few years, we've gone from the high point of conservative power to a stunning rejection of conservative federal leadership and the historic election of a progressive African-American president.

But the electoral sea change is just part of the extraordinary national moment. The financial meltdown and slide toward deep recession have crystallized Americans' anger over deteriorating economic security, stagnant mobility, growing inequality, and policies of isolation instead of connection. Americans are ready for a new social compact and a transformed relationship between the people and our government. They are calling for a new era of big ideas and different values than we've seen over most of the past three decades.

The electorate has shown an unprecedented willingness to overcome racial and ethnic barriers to take on daunting shared challenges. Young people, people of color, and low-income people turned out to register and vote in unprecedented numbers that bode well for a far more participatory and egalitarian democracy going forward.

Even before this year's remarkable events, opinion research showed a historic, progressive shift in Americans' views on issues that (not coincidentally) were barely mentioned in the election. Perhaps most striking is the shift on criminal justice and problems of addiction, where the U.S. public has moved broadly to support rehabilitation and treatment over incarceration and retribution, as well as assistance and integration for people emerging from prison.

But an unprecedented opportunity for progressive values and ideas is not the same as victory for a progressive social and policy vision. The stark challenges of rising inequality, faltering security, and broken systems of health care, immigration, and criminal justice are the same on November 5 as they were on November 4. What's changed is only the chance for transformative change.

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The Triumph of Socialism

Senator John McCain and the Republican party has tried very hard in these last few days of the 2008 election to paint Senator Barack Obama as a Socialist, claiming from a very old quote taken out of context, that as president Obama would try to "spread the wealth" and "raise your taxes."

This is particularly ironic in that Governor Sarah Palin is governor of one of America's most Socialist states: Alaska.   Alaskan residents participate in not just socialism, but collectivism, as the natural mineral wealth of their state is collected and the money from the exploitation of that wealth is literally spread to all the residents making them not tax-payers, but beneficiaries of the state-owned enterprise.  Of course, that is not the whole truth either, as private companies get to extract their profits first, enjoying state enforced monopolies for the contracts they hold.

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