“Will she or won’t she?” That was the question posed by many Americans in early January after a rumored presidential bid by Oprah Winfrey spread like wildfire. News outlets, pundits, and everyday people on America’s streets were either abuzz with excitement or trembling with fear by the prospect of a President Oprah Winfrey. As of this writing, the question of a presidential run by Oprah Winfrey remains unanswered. All we have is speculation and rumor at this point, not confirmed facts. Yet, despite the lack of verified information regarding this issue, fears about the transformation of America to a socialist nation under a dreaded “President Oprah” continue to race fast and thick online. However, such concerns about a shift to a socialistic model largely ignored two elements of importance: the conditions through which socialism thrives, and the American system of laws and government that would oppose it.
The first truth is that a real, by-the-book socialist nation would require all citizens to surrender all private assets to the State. There is no way in Hell that Oprah Winfrey would simply give away all that she’s earned, all that she’s built over the years. In fact, no person of means who previously worked their way to the top of a given profession would simply give away the keys to the kingdom they built through their own effort. Human nature just doesn’t work that way.
The preceding only holds true for the socialist socioeconomic model in its purest form. In reality, most leaders of so-called socialist nations largely fail to divest themselves of their wealth and trappings. While their citizens are sometimes deprived of the most basic of necessities, rulers of the State often enjoy opulent lifestyles. This is why such countries are not truly socialist in nature. Instead, each is more like a corrupted wedding of totalitarianism and socialism wherein their citizens are all red-headed stepchildren not invited to the reception.
Many nations turned to socialism, communism, and various economic and political theories other than capitalism following tragic events that extended throughout each that were of unprecedented impact. Revolutions, wartime defeats, the forced dissolution of Empires, plus other factors which resulted in the destruction of their economies and cultures often led to rampant disillusionment and eventual rebellion against the status quo. Upheaval led to change, and not for the better. This is where the second truth comes into play.
The second truth is that “President Oprah” would face an impossibly large and insurmountably difficult legal task should fears of an attempted socialist remodeling of America come true. Oprah would be a president, not an emperor. A president lacks the authority to change our socioeconomic system to a pure socialism or to any system other than capitalism. Any attempt to do so would take an Act of Congress, and the effort would need to survive the mountains of legal challenges that would be filed against it. Therefore, assuming Oprah Winfrey decides to run and wins the nations highest office, “President Oprah” wouldn’t be able to change our financial system through the power of the presidency alone.
“But, what about Obama?” some may ask. “Didn’t he take actions that were socialistic?” The answer is an unqualified “yes.” President Obama embraced socialism via the $787 billion (that’s “billion” with a “b”) American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. His administration used funds made available through the Act to save the auto industry from ruin with Federal dollars, and this effort was highlighted by the Government’s acquisition of an approximate 60% stake in General Motors. In performing these actions, Barack Obama used the power of Government to gain limited control over the free market economy, thus making his actions socialist in nature. However, it must be remembered that once the financial crisis of 2008 hit, it was Obama’s direct predecessor–President George W. Bush–who first turned to a socialistic remedy for America’s financial ills.
In regards to post-Reagan America, it was President George W. Bush who initially violated the rules governing a free market economy through the direct infusion of Government funds into the private sector. Bush gave money to companies deemed essential to the national interest, companies that were–to use the colloquialism–“too big to fail.” Bush fought for and implemented the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 which authorized his Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, to inject up to $700 billion directly into the private sector via emergency loans in order to put an end to the nationwide financial disaster caused by the subprime mortgage crisis. Of the $700 billion, Congress only authorized half to be used by the Bush administration, leaving the other half to be used by Bush’s successor. That successor, Barack Obama, chose to forego the remaining $350 billion in favor of the far greater expenditure of $787 billion, as noted above.
Notable recipients of Secretary Paulson’s cash infusions included the AIG insurance company, automakers General Motors and Chrysler, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Bank of America. Regarding AIG, the Bush administration gave that firm bailout money in 2008, but in 2009 the company decided to use the Government-provided cash to fund bonuses for its top-level executives, thus angering the newly-installed President Obama who was absolutely powerless to control bailout money AIG already had in its possession. The overall interference in the free market economy by the Government made Bush’s actions socialistic, though not as thoroughly as Obama’s efforts would later be.
A detailed list of the financial stimulus attempts made by Bush and Obama is available through this link. Not surprisingly, the effectiveness and constitutionality of their flirtations with socialism remain the subjects of debate to this day. While neither president had the authority to make wholesale changes to our socioeconomic system, they did have the authority to temporarily add comparatively minor aspects of socialism to our socioeconomic model. So rest easy, America, for the rumored “President Oprah” would never have the ability to eliminate our capitalist economy. No American president ever had that power, and no president ever will.
All the best,
- Amadeo, K. (n.d.). What Did the Bank Bailout Bill Really Do? Retrieved January 12, 2018, from https://www.thebalance.com/what-was-the-bank-bailout-bill-3305675
- Lowrey, B. V. (2013, December 09). U.S. Ends Bailout of G.M., Selling Last Shares of Stock. Retrieved January 13, 2018, from https://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/12/09/u-s-sells-remaining-stake-in-gm/
- ProPublica. (2018, January 8). Bailout List. Retrieved January 13, 2018, from https://projects.propublica.org/bailout/list
- All of the above images are in the public domain.