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Wednesday, March 31, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

Something must be in the air today that is causing inaccurate comparisons between the Obama administration and various Latin American leaders.  First it was with various Argentine presidents, and now it is with Hugo Chávez.  The one comes from John Hawkins’ (or Right Wing News) Twitter feed:


And I would be happy to start taking these kinds of comparisons seriously if it was at all clear that the people making them had any idea what they are talking about (either in terms of what the terms mean or in terms of their understanding of the comparisons they are making).

One presumes that Hawkins is referring to things like GM and health care reform.

When we look at things like the US government’s partial ownership of GM (or, for that matter, its financial stake in AIG, Citi, etc.) I would note two rather important points.

The first is that US government involvement (whether one likes it or not) came about in the midst of a severe economic crisis and took place in the context of the firms in question seeking federal help.  These were never “hey look, let’s grab that company!” kind of moves for some political reason.  They were emergency moves.

The second point is that many of these moves took place during the Bush administration.  This strikes me as a nontrivial point when it comes to making the assertion that the current administration is somehow radical. 

None of these moves, by the way, have anything in common with capricious, self-serving political moves like Chávez taking over industries and not even paying for them.

Indeed, the fact that the US government is preparing to divest itself of its shares in Citigroup doesn’t fit Hawkins’ assertion at all.

In simple terms:  buying portions of companies as a means of forestalling economic catastrophe is rather different than taking an industry because it is “in the nation interest” just because the President says so.

If Hawkins is referring to health care reform, of the things that one can call it, neither nationalization or a “government take-over” is accurate.  More regulation? Yes.  Government ownership of the health care or insurance systems?  No, not even close.   This is a matter of fact and is not disputable regardless of one’s opinion of the reform.   We do not have a British-style National Health Service as a result of the recent legislation—more to the point health insurance and health care itself remains in private hands.

There are legitimate critiques to be made of US policy vis-à-vis the economic crisis and HCR, but calling them a “Hugo Chavez style takeover of private industry” is inaccurate to the point of absurdity.

As a side note, I really wish someone would explain to me why Chávez has become such the bête noire for so many.  I understand being critical of him and further, I understand thinking that Venezuela would be better off without him.  However, the constant need to make him into one of the US’s archenemies seems to me to elevate him to a position of importance that is unjustified and that really overstates his significance.

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One Response to “Spurious Comparisons Part II”

  1. Brett Says:

    As a side note, I really wish someone would explain to me why Chávez has become such the bête noire for so many.

    I think I can make this easy for you:


    In another era, I think you could have put Castro or some other leftist dictator. I think it comes down to being that Chavez is the most obvious leftist leader in this hemisphere to use to disparage someone. And he is closer than Kim Jong-il, so that makes him scarier.

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