"Is Barack Obama a socialist?" is the question asked once again, this time by the liberal New Republic magazine. (Reporters asked John McCain that same question recently, and he cheekily replied, "I don't know.") It is a question I addressed some time back:
Such campaign season silliness aside, it is certainly true that Obama has chosen to pursue government solutions rather than market solutions to problems such as possible climate change, healthcare, Social Security solvency, income inequality, the trade deficit, and education. Compare those views with those of Bill Clinton, who cut capital gains taxes, pushed free trade, and floated the idea of having the government invest Social Security dough in the stock market.
Here is a great example of Obama's thinking: He wants to create something called a "Clean Technologies Venture Capital Fund" and invest $10 billion a year in emerging energy technologies. Now the private VC industry is already pouring billions into alternative energy, but Obama thinks that's not enough and wants Uncle Sam to get in on the action at taxpayer expense. Interestingly, a new study by the University of British Columbia looked at the performance of the Canadian government's venture capital efforts. It found that government venture capital isn't nearly as successful as private venture capital.
Bottom line: I continue to sum up Obama's views this way until someone shows me I'm wrong:
What is the economic philosophy of Democratic front-runner Barack Obama? I will elaborate on this later, but for now, think of it this way: He's Robert Rubin on trade (pretty much keep it open but help workers), Warren Buffett on taxes (higher rates really don't affect what rich folks do, so crank 'em up! ), and Robert Reich on spending (balance the budget later, "invest" now in education and science).
You also might want to check out this analysis of Obama's economic advisers in the Weekly Standard.