Yes, it is indeed similar to fascism.
Since my April 2 column that compared Barack Obama’s economic policies (and others) to those of Italy’s Benito Mussolini, I have been denounced on the pages of the Economist, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Toronto Star, and the New York Times (less strongly denounced there than in the others, oddly enough), and by Chris Matthews (and guests Tony Blankley and Larry Sabato) on Hardball, and also had the idea made fun of by CNN morning hosts while they played a rather tame and sober interview they had done with me on the subject.
Never mind that in the New York Times on April 7 , David Leonhardt went farther, comparing the policies to the economics of Hitler in the course of saying that was a good thing because Hitler’s economics worked. Somehow, the rather fact-based piece I wrote was seen by the media elite as out of bounds, but Leonhardt’s was acceptable analysis because it was meant to praise Obama rather than bury him.
Yet Leonhardt’s column is proof enough that it is not some right-wing conspiracy theory that sees fascistic leanings in the big government, corporatist approaches taken by The One in the Oval Office.
Since then, the evidence has grown only stronger. As the Examiner noted yesterday, the Obama takeover of General Motors is astonishing in its scope and reach. The money quote from GM itself: “The U.S. Treasury will be able to elect all of our directors and to control the vote on substantially all matters brought for a stockholder vote.”
This is scary stuff. It is not just a diminution of freedom, but a frontal assault. And it’s only part of the story, the whole of which is even worse. We now have the government refusing to accept repayment of loans it made to various banks — preferring to keep control of the banks to regaining the taxpayers’ money quickly. Moving from economics to coercion and the use of the state to target political enemies, we have a Homeland Security Department targeting veterans and anti-abortionists as potential terrorists, and a White House leaving open the option of prosecuting its predecessors over honest policy choices made in a time of war and without identifying any specific domestic law supposedly broken. We see selective release of previously classified information for political purposes. We have the advancement of “hate crimes” legislation that makes it a prosecutable offense to think unapproved thoughts. (House Republican Leader John Boehner was right to say the bill makes him “want to throw up.”)
On the domestic level, again I say, all of this is straight out of the Mussolini playbook.
But again, to make this clear for those too dim to understand it the first time, let it be said that to compare policies to those of Mussolini is not to engage in radical name-calling or comparison to Hitler. Mussolini was bad, indeed awful — an authoritarian thug and bully, along the same lines as dozens of other authoritarian thugs and bullies through the years. The comparison definitely ought to scare those who love freedom — but no more than a comparison to, say, Fulgencio Batista in Cuba.
Authoritarianism is not totalitarianism, though. There is a big difference — a difference educated people once understood. We are not talking about pure evil, not talking about genocide, not talking about brutal attempts at foreign conquest, not talking about Mengele-like experiments and deliberate killing of “defectives.” What we are talking about is the beginning of a tendency toward authoritarianism (so far minus the thuggishness), especially in the economic realm. And we darn well ought to be able to make sober, factual, valid historical analogies, by way of warning — much as Leonhardt did, in his rather twisted attempt at praise of Obama — without being accused of foaming at the mouth.
It is especially appropriate to make such comparisons if one has already shown that it is not merely a partisan accusation. Some of us noted even when Bush started us on this path that it had similarities to fascist economics. And I take a back seat to nobody in having fought against real neo-Nazism on the right, as a founding board member of the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism (which carried the fight against David Duke).
Again, this is a question of freedom. It’s a question of free enterprise, free markets, and free minds. When an administration takes over banks and car companies, and makes moves to force through a takeover of the entire health care industry without the ordinary procedural safeguards, and (even under Bush) forces banks to buy other banks against their will, then this isn’t the America we know and love. This is instead a country ruled by a top-down, command-and-control, invasive, barely accountable, self-selected elite.
And that is dangerous. And, minus the antipathy to labor unions, that is the very definition of Italian economic fascism. And if Chris Matthews would put me on his show to have a civil discussion about it, his viewers would find it a reasonable and edifying conversation — with not a single bit of what Matthews described as “red hot language.”
Meanwhile, I hope Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder don’t charge me with a “hate crime” for using the word fascist with regard to their policies.