At a conference at Loyola University in 1998, Barack Obama spoke of the need
to resuscitate the notion that government action can be effective at all…. We need to resuscitate the notion that we’re all in this together, we leave nobody behind…. How do we structure government systems that pool resources and facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution.Of course conservatives are jumping all over this, calling Obama a Communist and so forth. Drudge has this huge headline beneath Obama’s photo:
But except for the word “redistribution,” how is Obama’s philosophy different from that of George W. Bush and the entire Republican party? Bush proposed, the Republican House and the Democratic Senate passed, and Bush signed—as his signature domestic achievement—a federal law with the moronic, Soviet-sounding title No Child Left Behind. Bush, in order to achieve the Communist or at least socialist goal of group racial equality in home ownership, aggressively pushed the granting of home mortgages to people who lack the means of paying for them, meaning that ultimately the taxpayers would pay for them. Was that not redistribution? And of course our century-old progressive tax system is a form of redistribution.
I’m not saying that I’m for or against progressive taxes. I’m just saying that there’s something more than a little fake about Republicans going wild over Obama’s 14-year-old remark endorsing redistribution, when as a society we accept redistribution. The question is not whether we believe that redistribution is proper and just—we do. The question is how much redistribution we believe is proper and just. Obviously Obama believes that a lot more redistribution is proper and just than Republicans do. But the Republicans lack the intellectual honesty or perhaps the intellectual readiness to state the issue in those terms—probably because they themselves have never thought out in conceptual terms how much redistribution they think is proper and just.