Viewing left and right capitalism

It’s always interesting when the political extremes agree. The recession and Barack Obama’s presidency brought about one of those bizarre instances when the left and right see eye to eye.Yes, it seems the extremes of the political spectrum are convinced of one thing: American capitalism is more endangered than the hawk-billed turtle.On the left, there was a collective “we told you so” response to the financial system’s implosion. They feel vindicated.  Now they’re just waiting for the morning’s headline to read, “revolution of the proletariat.”On the right, it seems that Joe the Plumber was just the tip of the label-anything-you-don’t-like-socialism iceberg. I can imagine many fiscal conservatives combing through Obama’s budget proposal to look for the stealthy, state-owned factories appropriations.Personally, the imminent demise of capitalism seems like a fairly alarmist prediction.Certainly, our economy has plummeted in the last year. Unemployment struck, and continues to strike, a tragic number of Americans. Household wealth decreased by 18 percent in 2008. Inconceivably large sums of money evaporated seemingly overnight. But that’s what’s so incredible about capitalism. The heights we fell from were so high that, despite all these setbacks, things could be considerably worse.In the almost endless pantheon of human suffering, the current recession barely registers. Famine, disease and social disorder are generally out of the picture in the United States. Obviously some people have lost a lot, like, say, a job. But, thankfully, our democratic capitalism has given us the ability to provide social safety nets. For example, Obama’s stimulus package provided states with funds to boost their welfare programs.While the left basks in what it believes is vindicated glory, the right is running an all-too-familiar play — constantly labeling the opposition socialists.Obama is certainly planning on enlarging the government quite a bit, but it’s important to put “quite a bit” in perspective. His budget predicts that government spending will account for 28 percent of GDP in the short run before it drops down to around 23 percent, which is just a bit higher than during the Bush years. That’s hardly socialism. Western Europe’s style of socialism usually has government spending hovering around half of national GDP. We’ve still got plenty of wiggle room.As for the tax increases, our taxation system has been progressive for decades.Obama’s plan will have taxes on the wealthy slightly higher than during the Clinton years — that hardly seems like revolutionary change.Much of our post-war history centers on finding the right balance of government involvement. Despite grimmer predictions, we will remain well within the democratic, market-driven paradigm.And that’s right where we belong.Justin Baldassare is a freshman History major at UVM. He has been writing for The Cynic since 2009.