Circulating the wires today is a 2001 Barack Obama radio interview clip concerning wealth redistribution. As with all things political, your perspective and your prejudices will determine your interpretation of this clip.
I understand the rightâ€™s desire to turn this clip into the smoking gun proof that Obama is going to seize our wealth and turn us all into comrades. I think many on the right have convinced themselves that such a nefarious goal is â€œthe truthâ€ about Obama and see evidence of that truth in every Obama utterance, much like many on the left tend to see every George W. Bush move as an attempt to enrich his cronies and advance theocracy.
Thereâ€™s plenty of reasons to be concerned by Obamaâ€™s tricky tax plan, but Iâ€™m not going to play along with this â€œObamaâ€™s a socialist/Marxistâ€ nonsense.
First of all, the clip in question is an intellectual discussion not a policy debate. In many instances, Obama is speaking theoretically. When he does directly address his own philosophies, one of the clear points he makes is a major positive: he believes change should come through the democratic means of legislation rather than the manipulation of courts and the misuse of the Constitution.
On the matter of wealth redistribution, heâ€™s clearly in favor of it. But why is this a surprise? Equality is the central tenet of liberalism. Universal health care. Affirmative action. Gay rights. Welfare. Minimum wage. Labor laws. Hate speech laws. Progressive taxation. Theyâ€™re all attempts to equalize us. When handled responsibly, the drive for equality promotes a necessary level of fairness within our society. When handled with too much fervency, the drive can trample other rights and lead us towards distasteful moral equivalencies and, ultimately, the kind of totalitarianism spawned by communism.
So, the concern isnâ€™t that Obama supports redistribution of wealth (both parties support it to varying degrees). The concern is with how much redistribution he supports. Are his goals within the American mainstream or are they radical? While Iâ€™m sure many believe Obama is hiding his true objectives, Iâ€™d argue that his platform gives us as clear a picture as we’re likely to get of how much redistribution Obama desires. And, I gotta say, as much as I dislike the messiness of his tax credits, Obama isnâ€™t suggesting any radical moves. Could he support something more onerous once in office? Sure. But, even with a Democratic majority, thereâ€™s little likelihood that anything radical will get through the legislative process.
I think itâ€™s important to note that, like all mainstream American liberals, when Obama talks about redistribution, heâ€™s talking about equality of income. He wants what liberals always want: for the government to give a helping hand to the poor and for the government to place various restrictions on the rich to keep them from centralizing too much of our nationâ€™s wealth.
This is not a radical philosophy. If Obama had used words like â€œincome fairnessâ€ or even â€œwealth equality,â€ the radio clip in question would have remained on whatever shelf it was found. But â€œredistributionâ€ sounds scary. Itâ€™s this electionâ€™s bogeyman word and some are going to keep treating the radio clip like the smoking gun that proves Obamaâ€™s wicked plans. As for me, I think Iâ€™ll assume the more likely scenario: Obama is a liberal.
Shocking. But true.