The Big Lie: The president believes in “redistribution,” which is against free market principles.
The Truth: Both parties believe in redistribution – it’s just that Republicans want to redistribute upward.
What do you do when a secret video shows your candidate disparaging about half of the American electorate as self-pitying “victims” who cannot be convinced to take responsibility for their lives?
After Mitt Romney basically affirmed that the leaked video reflected his views in a not-so-elegant way, his campaign — aided by the Drudge Report, Fox News and the rest of the vast right-wing media complex — decided to focus on another video that supposedly shows the president in 1998 saying he’s for “redistribution.”
Typically, the old Obama video was edited to leave out the section where he clarifies what he meant when he said, “… I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.” He went on to say:
How do we pool resources at the same time as we decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities?
Basically, the president was saying he believes in some redistribution, in ways that increase competition.
Who else believes in this strange concept?
Anyone who says “you’re passing on debt to your grandkids” and thus acknowledges that as a nation, we share debt — and that debt will have to be paid by other Americans — understands redistribution. Anyone who believes in a progressive tax system in which those who earn the most should pay the highest tax rates believes in redistribution. Anyone who believes that Social Security and Medicare should keep the national promise to elderly Americans who have outlived their contributions is swearing by redistribution.
Two-thirds of working class whites — Mitt Romney’s coveted base — believe that taxes on those earning $1 million or more should be raised. Social Security and Medicare as they’re currently structured are two of the most popular things the American government does.
And you know who else believes in redistribution of wealth? Mitt Romney.
When describing how George Romney was on welfare when he first came to America, Mitt defended the idea that Americans support those in need — also known as redistribution: “By the way, that’s the way America works, we have big hearts, we care for people who have needs. We help get them back.” He just didn’t call it redistribution.
Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher points out that Romney isn’t being honest about why we give to those in need. “We don’t have a safety net because we have big hearts, we have a safety net because a widespread descent into poverty drags down the entire economy, and examples like Romney’s dad and former National Chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly Danny Vargas demonstrate the necessity and efficacy of that safety net, even as they try to rip it down for those who come after them.”
By attacking redistribution, Romney and Ryan seem to be suggesting that America’s problem is that too much is being taken from the rich. Nothing could be less true. We’ve pointed out that for the rich taxes are at near-all-time lows while inequality is about as high as it has ever been — possibly worse than in 1774, even if you factor in slavery.
In 2011, the richest 400 Americans saw their net worth increase by 13 percent to a total of $1.7 trillion. To match the wealth of the six heirs to the Walmart fortune, you’d need to work seven million years at Walmart. Meanwhile, the majority of tax breaks in our tax code go to the richest Americans.
But to Romney and Ryan, the problem is that the rich need more wealth redistributed to them. Robert Greenstein of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities looked at Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget — which was the inspiration for many of Mitt Romney’s proposals — and said, “It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history, and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).”
As Ezra Klein wrote, “In a sense, almost every choice the government makes about how to spend or how to tax involves a decision to redistribute in some way or another.”
Klein examined Romney and Obama’s budgets and sees that both have plans to redistribute wealth.
Romney would transfer wealth — in the form of health care, food stamps and Pell grants — from the poor to the rich via tax breaks and spending on defense. Obama would transfer a small percentage of wealth from the rich to the poor.
Like John McCain with Joe the Plumber, Mitt Romney is trying to distract from his flawed plans and callous comments, by conjuring the spectres of Communism and Socialism. And like McCain, he’ll likely fail.
Because when it comes to whether and how wealth should be redistributed in this country, most Americans agree with the president.
Photo credit: AP/Jason E. Miczek