Using the four definitions of socialism provided below, even a cursory glance at Barack Obama cannot fail to yield the conclusion that his political framework for viewing the proper role of government in society is socialism. There can be little argument that Barack Obama is a socialist. But Republicans like John McCain and George W. Bush would do well not to apply this term as one of derision- they are socialists too. More on that later. The following list of definitions includes corresponding explanations as to why Obama fits each of them.
Socialism has been variously defined as:
- Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy. 
Any Americans paying attention during the 2008 Presidential Campaign or to any of Obama's rhetoric in the aftermath of his electoral victory should be able to recall that the solutions he is proposing take for granted that it is the proper role of a centralized government to plan and control the economy in order to strengthen and improve it. Can anyone argue that Obama, McCain, Bush, and most contemporary politicians have not assumed it as their proper role to plan and control the economy? Just read the economics issue page at Mr. Obama's website. It is filled to overflowing with "tax this... subsidize that... invest here... fix that."
You may object that the definition above implies total government ownership of property and the means of production, and that Barack Obama does not advocate this. If you do so object, then I must ask what it means for us to own our property. When a government can control, appropriate, distribute, and dispose of a very significant amount of its citizens' property without their individual consent, is it not the operating premise that government owns everything and that you use your property only with government's tacit consent, and only as long as government doesn't presently wish to revoke your rights to this or that portion of your property? In such a society government presumes to be lord of all and the law of the land is "render unto Caesar whatever he says is his."
- The stage in Marxist-Leninist theory intermediate between capitalism and communism, in which collective ownership of the economy under the dictatorship of the proletariat has not yet been successfully achieved. 
This definition is another, quicker answer to such an objection as that above. The word "socialism" does not necessarily imply explicit, total ownership of property by the state, but a society in transition from capitalism to communism, an economy increasingly controlled and governed by the laws and policies of the state. An entirely controlled economy would be more like true communism in action, an entirely free and uncontrolled one would be more like capitalism. The much-pined-for "middle ground" of a mixed market economy with the productive power of capitalism, but also plenty of government controls and intervention, is more akin to socialism. Obama and his political allies on "the American Left" are not alone in supporting such a state of affairs.
- An economic system in which the production and distribution of goods are controlled substantially by the government rather than by private enterprise, and in which cooperation rather than competition guides economic activity. There are many varieties of socialism. Some socialists tolerate capitalism, as long as the government maintains the dominant influence over the economy; others insist on an abolition of private enterprise. All communists are socialists, but not all socialists are communists. 
Here is another definition which serves as an excellent rebuttal to any objections that Barack Obama is not a socialist because he does not support an explicit and total government takeover of all the major industries and means of production in America. This definition really helps to clarify the nuances behind the meanings of the words "socialism" and "communism." Again, a quick reference to Obama's issue pages shows that he is categorically a socialist. It is not only in terms of policy, but in his broader approach to the role of government that Obama is clearly a socialist. For him, change means for government to change things. Fixing the economy means for government to fix the economy. Leading means leading from the Capitol Building and the White House. To Obama and most other politicians, a necessary precondition for prosperity is direct government involvement in the workings of the economy, as opposed to government acting only to maintain a civil society (i.e. one free of aggression).
- A theory or system of social reform which contemplates a complete reconstruction of society, with a more just and equitable distribution of property and labor. 
Imagine conducting this survey:
Circle yes or no: Does the following statement accurately describe Barack Obama's message and self-portrayal?
A social reformer who seeks to fundamentally reconstruct American society to create a more just and equitable distribution of property and labor.
How many of the respondents do you imagine would circle "yes?" It's practically the bite-sized version of Barack Obama's entire campaign platform. And the key means of this reconstruction of American society that Obama envisions is government control and manipulation of the wealth and property created by its citizens. Can there really be any argument over Obama's socialist agenda? I don't think so because it is categorically true, it's a necessary conclusion based off of our definition of the word "socialist." It's also true that George W. Bush and John McCain are socialists. The three of them are more alike than they are different in their view of government, as few of their passionate supporters as there are who would be willing to admit it.
Now if you want, you can argue that it's not a bad thing to be a socialist. That's a great discussion to have, and I will say up front that one of the main focuses of this blog is why socialism is a bad thing, it's just not the focus of this particular essay. For that, allow me to refer you to the following:
Barack Obama's Victory and the Nature of Change
What is Capitalism? The Nature and Advantages of the Free Market
Libertarian Books: The Humble Libertarian's Recommended Reading
1. socialism. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved November 22, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/socialism
2. socialism. (n.d.). The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Retrieved November 22, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/socialism
3. socialism. (n.d.). Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. Retrieved November 22, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/socialism