On Obama, Socialism and tax policy.

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WASHINGTON–John McCain is going after Barack Obama again on Wednesday –painting him as a Socialist because he told “Joe the Plumber” he wanted to spread the wealth. Brace yourself, but there are “socialistic” elements in our civic life already.

What Obama is doing is raising questions about tax equity. That happens all the time. To suggest that makes one a Socialist–an inflammatory word in U.S. politics–is nutty.

As retired Gen. Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State said Sunday, “Taxes are always a redistribution of money.”

The U.S. already has a progressive federal income tax structure. Those with higher incomes already pay more. The nation has Medicare–nationalized, subsidized health insurance for seniors as well as some others. Congress just approved a bail-out that partly nationalized banks–a deal Republicans and Democrats supported.

After Powell endorsed Barack Obama on Sunday, he talked to reporters about sticking the “Socialist” label on Obama, and he made some points that I think should not be lost, so I am posting them here.

“A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of the crisis, the campaign said ‘we’re gonna go negative’, and they annouced it, ‘we’re gonna go negative’ and attack his character through Bill Ayers,” said Powell.

“And now I guess the message this week is we’re gonna call him a socialist. Mr. Obama is now a Socialist, because he dares to suggest that maybe we oughtta look at the tax structure that we have. ….

“Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to the ones who pay it. In roads, in airports, in hospitals, in schools, and taxes are necessary for the common good….

“…There is nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is, who should be paying more, who should be paying less. For us to say that makes you a socialist, I think is an unfortunate characterization that isn’t accurate, and I don’t want my taxes raised, I don’t want anyones taxes raised.

“…But I also want to see our infastructure fixed, and I don’t want to have a 12 trillion dollar national debt.

“…I don’t want to see an annual deficit that is over 500 billion dollars, heading toward a trillion.”

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