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Is Obamacare Really Socialism?

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Authored by Geoff Vaughan in Politics
Published on 10-02-2009

Probably the most polarizing political issue of 2009 is the debate over healthcare reform. Now that the Democratic Party has complete control over both the executive and legislative branches, they believe the time is right to enact sweeping legislation that overhauls this country’s healthcare system. President Obama and the Democratic controlled Congress have been pushing for a reform package that includes a government-run health insurance option, while Republicans desire more moderate changes that do not include a public option; insurance would continue to be provided only by private insurers.

Many on the right describe President Obama’s proposed plan as Socialistic. One of the main arguments for this point of view is that the plan is thought to be an expensive one for the country, eventually requiring tax increases to pay for it which would undoubtedly come from the country’s highest wage earners. In addition, a proposal currently under consideration is to levy a tax on the value of the health insurance benefits workers receive from their employers. These plans are not currently taxed, so taxing this benefit would help pay for healthcare costs for those who do not have insurance. This so-called “redistribution of wealth” can be considered a tenet of a Socialistic society, where the rich are taxed for distribution to the poor with the goal being an egalitarian society.

Another main Socialistic ideal is the idea of public ownership of the allocation of resources, and certainly the government-run health insurance option can be said to fall under this principle. Many argue that while private insurance companies would still initially be allowed to operate as they wish, they will soon be driven out of business because of the difficulty in competing with the Federal Government. This would leave just the government insurance option as the only choice, which would be a very Socialistic situation.

Another argument that “Obamacare” is Socialistic is that the currently proposed plan does not legally require verification of a government-subsidized health insurance participant’s Social Security Number, or require him or her to present a government issued photo identification card to participate in the plan. While this does not technically open the plan up to illegal immigrants, the lack of enforcement creates a de facto loophole where it would be possible for an illegal immigrant to receive free healthcare by using a fake Social Security Number. This bolsters the argument that the Democratic plan amounts to a redistribution of wealth.

So, is Obamacare Socialistic? Not entirely, but there are some Socialistic aspects to it. We won’t all suddenly have to work for the Government at the exact same salary as everyone else if it’s enacted, and there will still be private health insurance options out there, at least for now. But the idea of taxing the country’s highest wage earners to pay for free government-run healthcare for the poor, whether that appeals to one’s political sensibilities or not, follows several main principles of Socialism; the redistribution of wealth as well as a public-owned and administered method of resource allocation.

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