One day after the revelation of a videotape in which Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said that the 47% of US taxpayers who did not pay income tax were dependent people who would not vote for him, an audiotape of President Barack Obama applauding “redistribution…at least at a certain level,” has surfaced.

The tape is from an event that took place at Loyola University nearly fourteen years ago. Obama, careful in his phrasing, doesn’t advocate a wholesale confiscatory redistribution of tax dollars. Nor is it clear that he’s even talking about federal monies, as the other references are to local government agencies, which have separate taxing authority.

But the suspicions of many are bound to be aroused by any talk of redistribution of wealth, conjuring up images of Robin Hood taking from the rich to give to the poor.

And while that conversation will happen as a result of this audio’s disclosure, I’m more interested in the underlying assumption behind most talk of redistribution.

While I’ve often addressed the dangers of materialism and consumerism (sinfully caught up in them as I may be as an American). But there is a school of thought that says that continuing economic growth, even if it allows more of the have-nots to enter the ranks of the haves, is both negative and unrealistic: Negative, because growth inevitably leads to environmental degradation, this school of thought says, and unrealistic, because the pie is only so big.

It’s on this latter point that most talks of use of the tax code for resource redistribution often hinges: The belief that growth is inherently limited and that consequently, the job of government is to redistribute wealth.

In an article in the July/August edition of Foreign Affairs, Danish scholar Bjorn Lomborg shows that assumptions of the finitude of potential economic growth, first posited some forty years ago, are inaccurate. Human beings are very creative in expanding the overall economic pie, with new technologies, some of them both economically and environmentally friendly

Does Barack Obama believe in wealth redistribution through the tax code? What does he mean by that, if he does? And on what economic assumptions does he build if he does think the federal government should play Robin Hood?

These are all questions raised by the audio.

[This has been cross-posted on my personal blog.]
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Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice
  • Argon

    If Obama was in favor of a large redistribution of wealth (toward the poor, I’d assume), than he’s done a pretty weak job of it so far. So, I guess that’s yet another GOP boogieman we can put to rest.

    Also, people can stop stockpiling ammunition too. That’s another thing that hasn’t been seriously threatened under Obama.

  • slamfu

    Also a few of the other GOP greatest hits:

    Obama is an apologist, he was the first president with a trillion $ deficit, he’s a foreign muslim, he has weakened border security, he’s soft on deportation of illegal immigrants, he’s over regulated industries and cost jobs, he has stymied oil and gas production, take your pick. Their entire platform on Obama is made up BS because the only legit reasons to go after Obama are things the GOP isn’t gong to touch either.

    As far as this quote they are rehashing, 2 things. First, controlling the flow of income via progressive taxation is a powerful tool for keeping income disparities from growing great enough to harm the economy. History has shown that when too much flows to the top, not only does the economy stall as the consumer class doesn’t have enough money to power the economy, but the money at the top has no where to go but into ever more risky and complicated investment vehicles as all the legit investment strategies get over capitalized. We had a massively progressive tax system in this nation during and following the Depression and WWII for decades and it served us well. Business didn’t dry up, innovation didn’t cease, “job creators” didn’t take their ball and go home, nor did the investment markets dry up. Turns out rich people were still interested in making a profit by investing money.

    Second, does Romney really want to open the can of worms where we start taking quotes from the past about what you said and believed 10 years ago? Lol. Something about stones and glass houses comes to mind….

  • ShannonLeee

    Hasn’t he already talked about tax increases on +250k?

  • roro80

    It’s quite a powerful GOP machine that can turn a centuries-old hero legend into a villian.

  • slamfu

    Robin Hood was not a hero to the rich.

  • StockBoyLA

    Slamfu: great points and I couldn’t agree more.

    Roro8o: LOL! That’s great!

  • roro80

    Nope, slam, the king was none too happy with him. It’s just interesting to think that the GOP has convinced Americans to side with the king over the destitute. Who was it with the line about the US poor all thinking themselves “temporarily embarassed millionaires”?

    Furthermore, who can be said to be king if not Obama himself? In any case, I agree heartily with your points above.

  • The_Ohioan


    Good points.


    Great line!

    “Romneyhood” was a good line too.

  • bluebelle

    The GOP has done a lot of research into how to sell this lemon to the masses. You see them using the word success a lot, another is job creators. Well most Americans are capitalists that don’t believe in standing in the way of success and many fools would give the wealthy more tax cuts so as not to stand in the way of the job creators. They never realize that the success is the success of a strictly limited elite group, and that there is no correlation between tax cuts and job creation.

    Its genius really.

  • ProWife

    Argon, I totally agree with what you say, ….”people can stop stockpiling ammunition too….”.
    I’ll take it a step further and say that the Romney’s shouldn’t stockpile the “ammunition” Ann claims is in the families tax returns.

  • Rcoutme

    Hey! Wait just a cotton-picking minute there! I want people to stockpile ammunition! I happen to live in New England and we have Colt, Remington, and Springfield here! We need the business! Go GOP, keep getting the crazies to buy even more bullets that they can then use to shoot off on July 4th celebrations!

  • slamfu

    Psst….I heard Obama was going to repeal the 2nd Ammendment. Pass it on. Also, he’s going to turn the Capital Building into a mosque. Seriously.