Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Mandate for Spreading the Wealth

Two days before he lost the election, John McCain summarized what had become the central message of his campaign: “Redistribute the wealth, spread the wealth around — we can’t do that.”

Oh yes we can.

The 2008 presidential election became something of a referendum on “spreading the wealth.”

“My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody,” Barack Obama said on Oct. 12, in a conversation with an Ohio resident named Joe. The candidate quickly added: “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

McCain eagerly attacked the concept, most dramatically three days later during the last debate. While instantly creating the “Joe the Plumber” everyman myth, McCain sharpened the distinctions between the two tickets while the nation watched and listened. He charged: “The whole premise behind Senator Obama’s plans are class warfare — let’s spread the wealth around.”

Obama has routinely reframed the issue in terms of fairness. “Exxon Mobil, which made $12 billion, record profits, over the last several quarters,” he replied during the final debate, “they can afford to pay a little more so that ordinary families who are hurting out there — they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to afford food, how they’re going to save for their kids’ college education, they need a break.”

This fall, the candidates and their surrogates endlessly repeated such arguments. As much as anything else, the presidential campaign turned into a dispute over the wisdom of “spreading the wealth.” Most voters were comfortable enough with the concept to send its leading advocate to the Oval Office.

In the process, the top of the GOP ticket recycled attacks on the principles of the New Deal. Like Franklin Roosevelt when he first ran for president in 1932, Barack Obama put forward economic prescriptions that were hardly radical. Yet, in the next few years, Obama’s administration could accomplish great things — reminiscent of the New Deal, with its safety-net guarantees and its (redistributive) progressive income tax and its support for labor rights and its mammoth commitment to public works programs that created jobs. Today, we need green jobs that cure our economy and heal our environment.

Let’s be clear: Despite their rhetoric, even McCain and Palin know that spreading the wealth from greedy elites to the masses of people is quite popular in our country. That’s why their campaign emphasized how Palin “stood up to the oil industry” in Alaska. She did it by imposing a windfall profits tax on big oil that put money into the hands of every man, woman and child in the state. If it’s good for Alaska, why wouldn’t it be good for America as a whole?

Obama and his activist base won a mandate for strong government action on behalf of economic fairness. But since election night, countless pundits and politicians have somberly warned the president-elect to govern from “the center.” Presumably, such governance would preclude doing much to spread the wealth. Before that sort of conventional wisdom further hardens like political cement, national discussions should highlight options for moving toward a more egalitarian society.

Government policies in that direction would be a sharp reversal of what’s been happening over the last few decades. No matter how you slice it, more of the economic pie has been going to fewer people.

“The top 1 percent of households received 22.9 percent of all pre-tax income in 2006, more than double what that figure was in the 1970s,” the Working Group on Extreme Inequality reports. “This is the greatest concentration of income since 1928.” And: “Between 1979 and 2006, the top 5 percent of American families saw their real incomes increase 87 percent. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth saw zero increase in real income.”

Current tax structures are steeply tilted to make the rich richer at the expense of others: “In the 2008 tax year, households in the bottom 20 percent will receive $26 due to the Bush tax cuts. Households in the middle 20 percent will receive $784. Households in the top 1 percent will receive $50,495. And households in the top 0.1 percent will receive $266,151.”

We can reverse those trends. The time and opportunity have come to “spread the wealth.”

When President Franklin Roosevelt heard pleas for bold steps to counter extreme economic inequality, he replied: “Go out and make me do it.”

Barack Obama won the presidency after clearly saying that he wants to spread the wealth. Let’s make him do it.

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail