12/01/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Senator McCain, Regulated Capitalism is Not Socialism

After Joe the Plumber came on the scene, it was only a matter of time before John McCain also threw the kitchen sink at us, clogged up, however, as only he can do so.

McCain's recent hyperbolic characterization of Barack Obama's economic and tax plans as "socialist" is not just a desperate move to instill uncertainty in the minds of voters in the final days of the Campaign -- it also completely undermines the vital consensus on economic policy which our country desperately needs right now.

Using the pejorative word "socialism" to describe an honorable progressive income tax is shameful in these difficult times -- and it is also just plain wrong. We have had a progressive income tax since America first enacted income taxes in 1913, and John McCain has conveniently forgotten his own strong opposition to President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in 2001 and again in 2003. And he sure as heck has forgotten his year 2000 statement to a group of college students that "when you reach a certain level of comfort, there's nothing wrong with paying somewhat more."

But the worst part of this false accusation by McCain is what gets lost amidst the sturm und drang around it, which is the nationwide focus on turning around our now very sick, and very unfair, economy that we need right now. And as a career-long businessman, I can tell you that this is a combined effort we all need to make.

Senator Obama's economic policies, however you want to describe them, would be the very best thing right now for American businesses, American workers and the American economy. His particular economic prescription would give us back vibrant, thoughtfully regulated capitalism of the sort that we know with certainty promotes and fosters economic growth from the bottom up. Growth which will give us back full employment, a pathway to ending poverty, and progress toward solving the problems associated with our current health care, education, trade, taxation and ecology practices.

The very best thing for America -- workers and businesses alike -- is and has always been a vibrant middle class that grows from the bottom up. And Senator Obama reminds us of this in almost every speech.

From vigorously enforcing our domestic labor laws to enabling all workers to have an unrestricted ability to join a union, a President Obama would provide all workers, but especially lower-wage workers, with the opportunities and the tools and the policies they need to realize again the American Dreams that, lately, have been torn from their futures.

Barack Obama's economic policies have the needed incentives for American companies to create and retain high-quality jobs that can't be offshored -- jobs in industries such as renewable energy, clean technology, and biotech that will comprise the next frontier of American economic growth. He will end tax breaks for companies which ship jobs overseas. And his elimination of all capital gains taxes on start-ups and small businesses will further spur innovation and job creation.

When it comes to trade agreements, Senator Obama will implement policies that better open up foreign markets to American exports and that eliminate the illegal subsidies and currency manipulations which have benefited foreign companies and governments at the expense of American companies and workers. And he'll use our trade agreements to encourage strong labor and environmental standards around the globe.

And last but certainly not least as we try to restore our economy, are Senator Obama's progressive tax policies, which would bring immediate benefit to 95% of American taxpayers, on the order of $1,000 per working family and also by eliminating income taxes entirely for seniors making less than $50,000 per year. No individual making less than $200,000 and no family making less than $250,000 will see a nickel or a dime of tax increase, and even the wealthiest Americans will not see their taxes increase beyond Clinton-era levels.

Senator Obama's economic policies and his restoration of fairness and progressivity to the individual income tax are vital to getting our economy back on track and to getting back our own moral standing with American workers. And none of it, my dear friend Senator McCain, can or should ever be called "socialism", which you know is true, because when you really were "straight talking", you said so yourself.

Leo Hindery, Jr. chairs the Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation, and is managing partner of a New York-based media industry private equity fund. Previously, he was CEO of AT&T Broadband and its predecessor, Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI). He is the author of "It Takes a CEO: It's Time to Lead With Integrity" (Free Press, 2005).