The Socialism Argument

June 02, 2009 6:33 pm ET — Kaitlyn Golda

On June 2, 2009, two different ends of the conservative spectrum produced two different blog posts on two different websites to make one common, unoriginal, and incorrect point: the "government takeover" of car manufacturers is socialism.

The Charge Of Socialism

The theme is "government takeover," and the result is "socialism." The phrase government takeover has been used again and again to describe the proposed legislation to improve health care, protect the environment, and rescue the failing economy (a "takeover" that started under a Republican administration). On June 2, 2009, two different ends of the conservative spectrum produced two different blog posts on two different websites to make one common, unoriginal, and incorrect point: the "government takeover" of car manufacturers is socialism.

Conservative commentator Phyllis Schlafly made the point in her aptly titled post on Townhall, "Obama Is Remaking America Into Socialism," and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland made virtually the same point in his post on The Hill, "Big Government, the only winner from government-ordered dealer closings."

According to Ms. Schlafly: "Socialism requires a totalitarian system -- that gives the ruling gang the power to distribute the fruits of other people's labor to its political pals. That is what is happening to the United States as President Obama proceeds with his goal of 'remaking America.' The RNC, which is the governing body of the Republican Party, has helpfully spelled out the differences between the two political parties. The 'clear and obvious purpose' of the Democratic majority in Congress is to implement 'socialist programs through federal legislation' and to restructure American society 'along socialist ideals.' Obama's takeover of the American auto industry is so breathtaking in scope and power that it proves all the RNC's accusations about socialism. The takeover was followed by orders to close 789 local Chrysler dealers, notices to 1,100 General Motors franchises that they will be shut down by next year and estimates that total dealer shutdowns will rise to 3,000."

According to Rep. Bartlett: "The only possible winner will be those who want bigger government and more control over the economy. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, I thought our country and the world learned the lesson that government control ruins economies rather than saves them."

Ms. Schlafly and Rep. Bartlett are wrong on both counts. As Media Matters Action Network makes clear, the government did not order GM and Chrysler to close down dealerships.

More importantly, no amount of insistence or twisted arguments will make the assertion that government takeover is leading the United States down a short road towards the Soviet Union, Part II true. Even as major shareholders in corporations who willingly took government money because they were no longer viable without it, the government has not made decisions for the car companies. This is yet another case of conservatives crying socialism - and we remember what happened to the boy who cried wolf.

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