Once again the Republican bloc has invoked the “socialist” brand in describing President Obama, this time during the Republican convention over the weekend. Following the list of talking points, Obama is weak on economic recovery, has inflated government spending and public sector employment, and is withering the private sector upon which our great democratic (read: capitalist) nation is built. However, there are a few things that don’t quite jive with that characterization, and although they’re all things that grate on me personally, in the fairness of what is (rather than what the GOP would “have be”), I think they’re important to mention.
Government spending: The national debt is the highest that it has ever been, this is undeniable. However, Obama’s tactic in providing federal stimulus dollars to large banks and the auto manufacturers struck me as a strangely “trickle-down” approach, whereas President Bush’s (Jr.) approach before him had been to simply cut a check to the people in the form of a tax break. Now, of course, Democrats are also attempting to do that with low federal interest rates and payroll tax deductions. This twist gets stranger still when you see the Republicans fighting to protect big business (which Obama’s TARP accomplished), and Democrats wagging their fingers at the very goliaths they bailed out in the first place.
Private sector pain: The most recent jobs report was grandly underwhelming, a fact that many Democrats and left-leaning pundits are trying to downplay and Republicans are trying to politicize as further evidence of Obama’s failing. However, the number that many are not talking about (for different reasons), is the current level of private sector employment. As Daily Kos points out, when Obama took office the number of private sector jobs was 110,985,000 and plummeting (having lost 800,000 just the month before). Now, Obama’s administration has officially added 35,000 jobs, bringing the total number of private sector workers to 111,020,000. It could also be noted that when George W. took office, the private sector was at 111,631,000.
Public sector pain: The public sector, on the other hand, has seen one of the greatest decreases in employment of any presidential administration; slashing about 608,000 public sector jobs during Obama’s tenure. By contrast, George W. Bush actually inflated the public employment sector by about 1.7 million public sector jobs.
Economic recovery: There are as many ways to measure recovery as there are ways to spin the measurements themselves. One of the most commonly cited (and least reflective, in my opinion) is stock market performance numbers. Under the Obama administration, the stock market has increased 64%, the Dow increasing from 7,949 to over 13,000 (higher than it ever was under George W. Bush.) In addition, the recent flap over gas prices and Obama’s supposed “anti-oil” stance doesn’t hold water (no pun intended) when you note that there are now more active domestic oil drilling operations than under any other U.S. president.
When Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, or John Boehner attempts to paint Barack Obama as a big government friendly socialist, or anti-energy, or any of the other politicized caricatures they want their party to embrace, they automatically lose the battle with reality. Barack Obama, it could be argued, is one of our more staunchly capitalist president, despite what his own campaign might even have you believe. He’s no more a socialist than Mitt Romney is the radical conservative ideologue, a caricature created by the Obama campaign and just as unsubstantiated.