The "socialist" tack of the McCain campaign has really been annoying me, both because of its potential to seriously harm the hopes of either party normalizing its relationship with the other (can you, a red-blooded American congressman, really co-sponsor legislation with the Commies?) and because it is another step down the path of McCain/Rovian prevarication that cynically assumes voters are half-wit slobs to be lied to and manipulated (WHAT, WHAT, Leo Strauss!).
Its upshot is that McCain has somehow managed to link white American men's fears of black people (not to mention terrorists, both of the "washed-up" and homebred sort as well as of the more exotic Arab sort) with their fears of Communism, nothing to sniff at nearly 17 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Obama has done too little to counter this claim, probably because he is too smart to take it seriously. However, I think any voter who can still be undecided at this point probably isn't quite as swift. Obama does need to get out his economic message more clearly tonight, to finally put the nail in McCain's coffin (before a heart attack does it a year into office), by forcefully making the following points:
1. Fully rebut the "Socialist" label: Obama needs to put this thing to rest already. Firstly, he should mention that the richest 2% would still be paying fewer taxes than under Reagan or Clinton and that government revenues from taxes as a percentage of GDP would be lower than under either of those presidents -- or under any president but Bush for that matter. He should most certainly not imply that anything even vaguely socialist is OK.
Obama needs to rebut clearly that he is a socialist and remind people with a bright yellow highlighter that taxes for the richest under Obama would be lower even than under Reagan or any other president besides Bush. If he's a socialist, so is Reagan, GHW Bush, Teddy Roosevelt and Eisenhower.
2. Explain fiscal responsibility and the irresponsibility (and break from American tradition) that Bush's tax cuts have represented. I think a large number of our countrymen no longer have any idea why taxes are necessary at all. This is a huge cognitive disconnect on the part of Americans springing from the fact that Bushian anti-government ideology has, I think, instilled in many a sense that government can just cut taxes ad infinitum and that history has a teleological purpose in getting taxes eventually down to zero, which would've happened years ago if it weren't for Communists masquerading as congressmen.
Obama needs to set out:
a) why government is at all necessary and why it has always been involved in certain aspects of American life (roads, schools, military) -- and why it has retreated from some of these in recent years with dire consequences (as in Katrina);
b) that taxes are therefore needed to restore the traditional place of government;
and that c) huge deficits and fiscal irresponsibility were fine for Bush when he squandered Clinton's surpluses but if the government isn't able to climb out of debt it'll raise interest rates for everyone and really hurt businesses (unlike marginal tax increases). Given that the Republicans have given up fiscal responsibility for those Pillars of Human Learning -- the issues of Creationism, Gun Control, Abortion and Sex Ed -- maybe the Democrats will take up the banner of fiscal prudence.
3. Name the people likely to be on his economic team: Although anyone who's concerned about Ayers or Wright is probably just using those arguments as a cover for racism, these absurd rumors persist, thanks to the Old Man and Twit who circulate them every day. Obama needs to show people that he is the centrist in this election, that any change he represents would act to restore -- not remake -- America, and he needs to do this by saying who his advisers are. When people see that familiar, trusted faces like Larry Summers, Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin and Warren Buffett are the crux of his team, it becomes harder to hold on to fantasies that he's an America-hating Muslim terrorist socialist.
A nice dig at McCain, whose economic advisers are a bunch of partisan hacks (Douglas Holtz-Eakin seems to be a political talking-head bulldog more than an economist); failed business leaders (Carly Fiorina was as apt an exec at H-P as Palin was an interviewee with Katie Couric, only Palin didn't cut 20,000+ US jobs or take a $21 million golden parachute after the interview; Meg Whitman's EBay has never even been profitable); and ideologues (the likes of Phil Gramm and Jack Kemp are Reagan political toadies with no claim to any experience or knowledge about economics at all), would be entirely appropriate here.
4. Give concrete details about job creation plans. Not only is job creation a huge worry for most voters (and rightly so), it's also an Obama strong suit. His job-creation strategies, admirably, are a mix of ideas from some of the world's smartest people. The creation of a $60 billion National Infrastructure Development Bank -- as conceived by Felix Rohatyn to oversee projects of federal, not local, importance -- and focusing on "rebuilding America" will be a huge source of jobs to do long-overdue work and avoid the local, "Bridge to Nowhere"-type projects Palin is fond of.
Obama already mentions his $150 billion "Manhattan Project" for energy independence and the greentech jobs it would bring -- 5 million jobs in building solar panels and turbines, and overhauling the nation's electrical grid -- in his stump, but he needs to do it even better.
His plans for public-private partnerships and investment funds to identify and develop advanced manufacturing techniques that would bring back production jobs to the US are hardly ever mentioned. Neither are the $80 billion in tax credits that would go to small/new businesses or R&D positions. Longer-term goals of worker-retraining, education and healthcare also play a part here...
McCain's plans, really, boil down to nothing more than giving the richest more tax breaks and increasing the house-of-cards aspects of our economy by further puffing up indecorous levels of consumer spending that far outpace production via tax cuts and low interest rates. This is called a consumer bubble; being the world's shopper of last resort, spending credit fueled by the Chinese Communist Party's investment in US bonds and not producing anything, will leave us in a hole much bigger than our current over-leveraged mess, given that real estate spending is a small fraction of overall consumer spending.
BONUS: Call McCain a racist Nazi slut. Conceding that the twin horrors of the 20th century were fascism and communism, if McCain's proxies can call Obama a "Marxist," the equivalent would be to call McCain a "Nazi." Of course, McCain's no Nazi, and Obama's no Marxist. But just as Obama wants to empower the middle class and bridge the wealth gap that is swallowing the country, so are McCain and Palin running a racially charged campaign about which candidate is true to "American culture" and "traditional American values" or, more simply put, is "American." That's as Nazi as Obama is Marxist, if not more so.