President Obama: History's Worst Socialist?

Newt Gingrich, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, is fond of calling President Obama a socialist. He even wrote the book on it. If he winds up with the GOP nod, you can expect these kind of accusations to surface during debates, on account of the president will probably want to comment on his being a secret Nazi.

To be very fair to Gingrich, the president's agenda is not entirely devoid of socialism. No, really! After all, he defends Social Security, which is a forced savings program. He nationalized the troubled automakers in his first months as president -- totally socialist. He signed a law expanding the health care regulations and requiring Americans to buy medical insurance, which I suppose you could classify as socialism-lite; although public decency and child abuse laws already require families to buy clothes and food, and nobody complains much about those.

But when it comes to tax policy and redistribution, a not-insignificant part of modern democratic socialism, it's fair to say that President Obama is in the running for worst socialist in history. Rather than raise taxes, he has inherited the lowest tax rates in a generation ... and lowered them repeatedly while presiding over a period of exacerbating income inequality and a stupendous wealth comeback on Wall Street. From the folks at Business Insider, these charts from Jeffrey Gundlach of DoubleLine Funds struck me:

Federal tax receipts, as a share of the economy, are at their lowest since the early 1950s
1.jpg
Marginal income tax rates are at their lowest since the 1930s, save for a brief period in the last 1980s (Note: These are not effective marginal rates, which would include items like tax expenditures)
3.jpgNow, these graphs aren't definitive on the issue of the president's alleged socialism. There are more ways to control the means of production than overall tax policy, and it's difficult to imagine a graph that can sum up the impact of federal regulations on the private sector, so take this as a targeted rebuttal. To date, the "socialist" White House has presided over the lightest overall tax burden in half a century.
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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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