Mike Kueber's Blog

November 24, 2013

R is the new L word

Several months ago, I blogged about the difference between a liberal and a progressive.   As I noted in the blog post, there is arguably a distinction, but many people consider a progressive to be a liberal who simply refuses to be associated with a term that has been thoroughly discredited.

Apparently, the same thing can be said about the term “redistribution.”  According to a column in yesterday’s NY Times, titled “Don’t Dare Call the Health Law ‘Redistribution,’” the White House is so averse to the term that President Obama hasn’t uttered it for 18 months.    His last use of the term then was the following during an Ohio campaign speech:

  • Understand this is not a redistribution argument.  This is not about taking from rich people to give to poor people. This is about us together making investments in our country so everybody’s got a fair shot.”

The Times’ column also described an important presidential appointment that wasn’t made because a prospective appointee has said the following almost 20 years earlier:

  • A commitment to economic justice necessarily implies a commitment to the redistribution of economic resources, so that the poor and the dispossessed are more fully included in the economic system.”

Surely, that sentiment is shared by most progressives and liberals in America, but it is also untenable in politics.  That reflects the fact that America, even in the age of Obama, remains a center-right electorate.  Ironically, political correctness typically restrains conservatives, but in this instance it restrains liberals and progressives.

Coincidentally, Time magazine columnist Joel Stein authored a humorous column this week that also examined redistribution.    The column, titled “My 3% Problem,” made fun of the fact that the top 1% (or in Stein’s case, the top 3%) “feel bad for the 97%… but not enough to give my money away….  I want them to know that I vote for candidates who will raise my taxes because I want a more just society and not because I’ve noticed that even when they win, they never succeed in raising taxes.”  This guy is sometimes Jon Stewart funny.

Where do I stand on income redistribution?  Like most conservatives, I abhor the thought of income redistribution because, instead of increasing the size of the economic pie, it simply re-divides it and likely results in a smaller pie.  But like Joel Stein, I also abhor the income inequality in America.  Instead of being motivated by Obama’s refrain of “spread the wealth around,” I think America needs to develop policies that help the underprivileged to rise up in the modern world economy.  And I think taxing policies should be carefully crafted to reflect one’s ability to pay.  Finally, the estate tax should be utilized to reduce the extent of intergenerational transfers of Rockefeller-esque wealth.

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