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.

April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail