Is Obama a socialist? What does the evidence say?
Some critics cite government 'takeover' of business and 'giveaways' to the poor as signs that President Obama is a socialist. Members of the Socialist Party are among those who disagree.
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The socialism tag is nothing new for the White House. In speeches, Obama chalks up the criticism to "just politics."
But he also works to counter it, sprinkling speeches with words about the appropriate role of government. "Government cannot and should not replace businesses as the true engine of growth and job creation," he said June 2 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
That may be one reason some tea partyers doubt that Obama himself is humming "The Internationale" before breakfast.
Which policies qualify, precisely?
Gingrich, in his book, cites a "government takeover" of GM as specific evidence of the socialistic political shift.
The United States owned 60.8 percent of the common stock of GM and 9.9 percent of Chrysler as of April 21, the latest figures available. The government's goal, according to the Treasury, is not to be long-term investors.
"With the successful restructuring of GM and Chrysler behind us, the primary goal of the administration's auto efforts now is to monitor the investments and facilitate smooth exits from our investments in the companies," says US Treasury spokesman Mark Paustenbach.
OK, so maybe Obama wants to get out of owning the companies, allows Johns of the Heritage Foundation. But the government has already used its ownership stake to impose sweeping mandates and regulations on the companies, such as closing hundreds of dealerships, he says.
"They forced changes in management that should more properly have been left to the company's private shareholders," says Johns.
Not true, according to GM. The US did not exert pressure to close the 1,100 shuttered dealerships, says spokeswoman Noreen Pratscher. "The government has taken a very hands-off approach."
How about the Obama response to the crisis in the financial services industry? Has it veered into socialism?
The largest ownership stake for Uncle Sam in the financial world is AIG, which ran into financial difficulties (not bankruptcy) in September 2008 after a complex series of financial transactions turned bad. The US government still owns almost 80 percent of AIG, which has received at least $182 billion in government assistance.
In his book, Gingrich implies that government officials stormed into AIG's headquarters and took over the company. "They have taken over AIG, America's largest insurer," he writes.
The actual "takeover" of AIG occurred under President Bush in 2008, right after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.