socialism for the rich, capitalism for the rest of us

As you know, President Obama is trying to institute a measure to cap earnings of the CEOs of banks that are being propped up with taxpayer money. It's a narrowly defined measure that will affect very few people, and at a half-million dollars will hardly send anyone to the poorhouse. But it's a symbolic action that could quell - or at least dampen - some public anger at another taxpayer-funded free ride for the rich.

Naturally, US neocons are accusing Obama of being a socialist and of instigating "class war". The $750 billion transfer of public funds to private enterprise? Capitalism. Putting conditions on the use of those funds? Socialism. Good old US of A, socializing the losses, privatizing the profits.

The first time time I heard "class war" hurled in this bizarre context was against Howard Dean, then a candidate for the 2004 Democratic nomination. Dean said that too many USians vote against their economic interests. Sounds like class war to me! Yessirree, straight out of Das Kapital, that is.

It makes my head spin.

Here's a nice little piece on it, sent to me by James - something I never would have seen, but perhaps readers of CNBC's stock market section took note.
Class war?

That's what lots of people are calling this move to limit executive compensation at companies that are on the Federal dole.

Oh, please! That's not class war, it's barely a class skirmish.

When it comes to the real class war, the stuff that matters, not just optics about CEO earnings, the rich are thrashing the rest of us, just like they always do.

It's class war when Washington passes a $700 billion TARP bailout for Wall Street with feverish haste, but struggles to pass an $800 to $900 billion stimulus package for everybody else.

Think about that for a second.

Bail out the banks, no problem! But give a helping hand to poor, working class, and middle class people? That we have to debate endlessly. Washington knows how to bail out the rich, but our incredibly popular President is having trouble bailing out the other 99% of the country.

That, my friends, is class war. And it's so institutionalized that we don't even realize it's going on. The establishment in this country is so tilted in favor of the folks at the top, that we scream "socialism" when executives at banks that have taken billions of dollars of bailout cash from the government because they ran their companies into the ground aren't allowed to earn more than $500,000 a year.

As far as I'm concerned, that's not a real victory for the proletariat, or the middle class, as everyone in this country likes to think of themselves. It's totally symbolic.

When you go below the symbolism and look at the substance — sure there are salary caps, because we already gave these banks hundreds of billions of dollars — it's pretty clear which side is winning this war.

Ezra Klein also has a nice, brief take on it.
Does anyone else find it a bit weird that the state will happily jail an individual who has one too many drinks at a birthday party and decides to drive home but will spend weeks debating whether a $500,000 annual income is too draconian a limit for executives whose reckless decisions basically destroyed the American economy?

Whatever the problems in Canada - and I acknowledge them and am part of the struggle - I'm so happy to live in a country where a socialist party holds a significant number of seats in Parliament, and has real potential to influence policy, rather than the one that Ezra Klein describes above.

Joe Grav - liberal Democrat, political junkie, Joy of Sox gamethreader, Red Sox and Bruins fanatic, friend of wmtc - sent me this yesterday.
For some reason my roommate was watching fox news last night and it was priceless. "Obama is turning this country into Canada piece by piece," raved the pundit. If only we could be so lucky.

To which I replied: "If only it were true! Now if we can get rid of Stephen Harper, we can turn Canada back into Obama's US!"

Hold your fire, I was only kidding. You know I only want to turn Canada back into Canada.

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