Statements that President Obama is a "socialist" don't fly with the Socialist Party, USA. Billy Wharton, the Socialist Party's co-chair, says Obama is far from being a socialist, and that labeling Obama a socialist "clearly means that people don't understand what socialism is." Most socialists believe that consumers and workers affected by economic institutions should either own or control those institutions, but Democratic socialists are more interested in protecting ordinary people from unregulated capitalism through progressive taxation and regulation. Many institutions in the U.S. are already socialistic under that definition: Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits, public education and Pell grants for college students all have socialistic origins. Card-carrying Socialists scoff at the idea that the newly-passed health care reform is "socialized medicine." They wanted national single-payer health insurance with a government option, but new law doesn't have any of those features. Instead, it just strengthens private health insurance companies by delivering 32 million new customers while giving them no incentive to change, Wharton points out. Some point to the Wall Street bailout, actually started under the Bush administration, as socialist, but government failed to nationalize the troubled banks, instead just giving them money with few or no strings attached. And what about the bailout of the Detroit auto industry? Just having a stake in it doesn't make it socialist, according to Frank Llewellyn, national director of the Democratic Socialists of America, "If that was true, you would say that we have a socialist army. The government owns the army." Obama is "trying to save capitalism from itself," not trying to change into a new system, Llewellyn says.
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