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October 29, 2008


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Joe Clement

"Spread the wealth! Why would McCain presume that the majority of people want wealth concentrated? Is he trying to express a new ideology that makes explicit its claim to power? The privilege of the few, the rich?"

I don't think this is the appeal he was making. I think the trickle-down effect is still pre-supposed in McCain's attack. I can't pull any quotes off hand, but in the last debate when "spread the wealth" became an issue, McCain framed it as Obama taking away ability of people to privately spread their wealth as they saw fit.

This what Joe the Plumber was all about, a phony kind of populism that amounts to admitting that wealth doesn't really trickle-down from the top directly, but only by a kind of entrepreneurial activism. It's a throw-back to the rags-to-riches myth, where rather than aspire (much less be able) to true ruling class status, the petty-bourgeois are being whipped into a fervor. Obama doesn't entirely part with this idea either, unfortunately. His appeal to Joe the Plumber was that now that he's successful, what can be done to help people "behind him" (i.e behind him on the route from rags to riches) should be done, and he calls that spreading the wealth.

The truly socialist response, of course, would have been that no one should be in rags in the first place. What I think is worth noticing is the fight over the meaning of the middle-class as its conventional status deteriorates, which Marx said would be important in the progress of class-struggle.

I agree with you that socialism is now showing its face in a way it hasn't in decades. I was watching the view yesterday morning, or the morning before, and I was taken back by how Whoppi Goldberg made the most direct defense of socialism I've seen in such a mainstream American venue. It was in the vein of Obama's notion of "spread the wealth," but it was the fact that she said that socialism shouldn't be a bad word that impressed me.


I admit: I'm approaching giddiness in anticipation of this evening's Obama-mercial. I can't wait to see how -- if at all -- Obama tries to trouble the dogmas of wealth, to reclaim the idea of (if not the word) socialism. That NOT spreading the wealth led to so many foreclosures is the important/easy point to make, of course. If he comes up with an economic speech as compelling as his race speech, I think Powell'll be right in calling him a transformative figure.


oh well. nevermind.

Bob Allen

Excellent. Joe the Plumber is the quintessential petit bourgeois aspirant of course, liar and hypocrite though he is, what we see is the blending of "entreperenuer" businessman type and "workers", an antisocialist vision that wipes out class distinctions, but yet as Jodi brilliantly observes it creates space for the discussion, even virtual reinvention of socialism in American politics of all places. The myth of the saving worker, the rags to riches thing, is all the unwashed poor whites have left, Marxism has been supressed in the low culture and these phony memes are all that's left even though disproved by real events...

Jason Read

Well said. I couldn't agree more.


Sounds great in principle, until the time comes to decide who gets to spread, and who's spreaded

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