John McCain has been describing Barack Obama as a “socialist” because the Illinois senator would impose higher taxes on the wealthy than on the working class and poor. McCain says this amounts to an “unacceptable” redistribution of wealth.

Let’s grant, for a moment, that the Obama plan really amounts to redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. Let’s grant, just for the moment, that this really can be defined as a form of “socialism.”

How then would we define the upward redistribution of wealth that Congress approved in the Wall Street bailout package? The deal takes tax money from folks who earn $40,000 annually and hands it to bankers who, at the low end of their scale, make $4,000,000 per year.

McCain says he wants everyone to have the chance to get rich. But doesn’t the massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich that Congress just approved make that even more impossible than it already is? I’m not an economist, by any means. It seems to me, however, that the bailout only worsens the enormous income inequality between workers and Wall Street execs. It seems to me this only puts further out of reach for more millions the age old American Dream of “moving on up.” It seems to me that Obama’s approach would put that dream a bit more in reach and allow more people to move up a bit. It seems to me that the Obama approach makes for at least a little more economic democracy.

So far, nothing has been done to help bail out Main Street and none of the $700 billion approved for Wall Street has yet been used to help anyone other than the Wall Street moneymakers themselves.

Thus far Wall Street bankers have used the handout that we pay for to buy up other companies. They have even used some of it to go on $500,000 all-expense-paid “retreats” to discuss their next moves. They decided, during one of these “retreats,” to use some of the bailout money to pay lobbyists who will — guess what — lobby for additional taxpayer handouts. There is also evidence that quite a bit of the bailout money they have already received is being hoarded.

Be all that as it may, one thing is clear. They are not using the money for what we were told they were going to use it: pumping it into the market so that credit would again be available not just to Wall Street but to Main Street.

The issue during this major crisis of American capitalism is not that Obama or anyone else is trying to slip “socialism” into the picture. The issue is, as the economist, Dean Baker put it recently:

“Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson mailed $150 billion in checks to the big banks. From that point forward, the CEOs and all other top executives of these banks are now our dependents. They are living off the tax dollars of schoolteachers in Iowa, truck drivers in Montana and even Joe the Plumber.”

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