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Obama: ‘Socialism’ Label ‘Doesn’t Make That Much Sense’

During an interview on Friday’s broadcast of HBO’s “Real Time,” President Obama stated that “the label Socialism doesn’t make that much sense in a context where there’s no economy that doesn’t have some Socialist elements,” and “if we have a big chunk of the country that just discounts what 99% of scientists say completely” on climate change, “it’s hard to figure out how we move the democracy forward.”

Obama said, in response to host Bill Maher asking what the president thinks about the idea that some things shouldn’t be for the profit motive, “[F]irst of all, in some ways the label Socialism doesn’t make that much sense in a context where there’s no economy that doesn’t have some Socialist elements, meaning that there’s some common goods that we all agree everybody should have. That’s what Social Security is. That’s what Medicare is, to some extent, what public schools are. We all chip in to make sure that everybody, no matter the circumstances of your birth, have these baseline goods. And, as you know, I felt pretty strongly that healthcare should be one of those goods. I’ve also said in the past that if I were designing a system from scratch, I would have probably looked at a single-payer system, but we do have legacy systems, and that’s the only thing that, sometimes when I’ve had conversations with [Senator] Bernie [Sanders] (I-VT), I’ve said to him, we don’t start from scratch.”

He added, “[T]he criminal justice system should not be infected by the profit motive. This is the awesome power of the state, saying we can take somebody’s freedom away. We can lock them up, because they’ve breached some part of the social contract, the notion that you want to — you might incentivize people to lock more people in, or keep them there longer, or not provide the kind of rehabilitation services so that they can get out of there. I think that’s a problem.”

Obama further stated, “When it comes to the media, that’s a tougher call because, look, state-run media, that’s what they’ve got in –.”

After Maher cut in that he was referring to networks not needing to make a profit off of the news Obama responded, “Partly because they had a monopoly, though, to some degree, right? So, they were fat and happy. In this kind of environment, it’s hard to figure out how you would do that, but I think the question I’d have when it comes to the media is, how do we create a space where truth gets eyeballs and is entertaining, and we can build a common conversation? What is true, when I leave here, one of the things I’m most concerned about, is the Balkanization of the media, where you’ve got 800 stations, you’ve got all these web sites. People have difficulty now just sorting out what’s true and what’s not. And if you don’t have some common baseline about facts we can have a disagreement about how to deal with climate change, but if we have a big chunk of the country that just discounts what 99% of scientists say completely, it’s hard to figure out how we move the democracy forward.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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