What exactly differentiates the goals, ambitions and/or philosophical drives of, say, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party from European social democrats? Is there anything fundamental to social democracy that Nancy Pelosi (forget Obama for the moment) disagrees with because she is a liberal and not a “socialist”? Is there anything Nancy Pelosi believes about the role of the state that would cause the average Swedish or British social democrat to object?OK. Let me try to explain this very slowly, using no big words.
I am sure that there are some cultural differences to account for. Swedes are culturally different from Belgians who are different from San Francisco liberals. But are they philosophically all that different?
American liberals believe that the government should offer a "social safety net," including elements such as unemployment benefits; cash transfers; food stamps; price subsidies for "essentials" such as food, electricity, public transport, or housing; public works; public subsidies for health care; public education; and so on.
"Socialists" (European or otherwise) believe in all that, too, of course. But what they also believe in is the collective or common ownership of the means of production, at least for major industrial components ("the commanding heights"). [Aside: there are important debates about how this should be implemented -- through state ownership, worker cooperatives, or what have you.]
This distinction is what sets off American liberals from European socialists. The belief in collective ownership is held by very sizable minorities in most European countries, and in fact is a programmatic element of the party platforms of many European social democratic parties. By contrast, in America, almost no one believes in collectivizing the means of production; and it's certainly not a view propounded in any fashion by Pelosi, much less Obama.
On the basis of this distinction, it is clear that the recently-passed health care bill, despite the Luntzian claims of a "government takeover," was a perfect example of non-socialism: yes, the federal government put into place mandates and subsidies (e.g. liberalism); but what it did not do was to nationalize (e.g. to collectivize the ownership of) the health care industry (e.g. socialism).
Either Goldberg understands this distinction, and chooses to ignore it because it would collapse his ability to red-bait, or he really is incredibly stupid.
(Update: OK, maybe not "stupid," but at minimum willfully obtuse.)