Conor Clarke in The Atlantic:
Have you heard that the United States is headed toward socialism? Jonah Goldberg says it is. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby says it is. Phyllis Schlafly says it is. Richard Viguerie says it is. The Republican National Committee says it is. We must be getting pretty close.
How close? This is what socialism looks like:
The hot-pink portion of this pie chart is the percentage of listed American business assets that have recently been nationalized by the American government (ie, General Motors). Obama's version of socialism is so sneaky you can hardly see it!
And let's not forget that Obama has said repeatedly that the government is taking an ownership stake (meaning owning stock, not controlling the companies) only for the time being. He wants AIG and GM to eventually go private again.
Furthermore, if Obama was really a socialist he would be seizing entire industries, not reluctantly getting involved in specific companies which requested the government involvement in the first place.
Government having an ownership stake in companies is nothing new anyway. The First National Bank established in 1791 was owned partially by the government. As was the Tennesee Valley Authority and, in present times, Amtrak.
Still, some conservative critics have responded to Clarke's chart negatively, saying that it doesn't reflect government spending as a percentage of GOP. To which, Clarke responds:
But I wasn't interested in the government spending as a percentage of GDP! The socialism charge that I've been hearing for the past week hasn't had much to do with the size of the federal government. The charge has been that the government now thinks it can run private industry — GM, AIG, whatever — better than, well, private industry.
I don't have a whole lot to say about this, except (1) I agree that it's "not pretty" and (2) If you're going to equate an increase in the deficit or in federal spending as a percentage of GDP with socialism, then every modern American president (with the partial exception of Bill Clinton!) is a socialist. In which case I'm not sure Barack Obama has a lot to worry about.