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Mitt Romney: Closeted Redistributionist

Posted: 09/20/2012 1:57 pm

Four years ago yesterday, John McCain and Sarah Palin were 1.9 percentage points behind then-Senator Barack Obama in the RCP poll-of-polls. Today, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are 2.8 percentage points behind President Obama in the RCP poll-of-polls. Romney is currently doing worse than McCain's ill-fated attempt at the presidency.

And there's nothing on the horizon that could really change the dismal course of events in Romney's favor, shy of a major presidential gaffe or an out-of-the-blue scandal of some sort. (Though I hasten to warn: this thing is far from over and any number of factors could dramatically shift the outcome of the election.)

So knowing all of this, it's astonishing to me that Mitt Romney would rewind back to the failed McCain/Palin campaign and, specifically, its big bad red-scare "redistributionist" attack against Obama. It's not surprising given how Romney has an impulsive habit saying whatever pops into his bulbous head no matter how ludicrous, contradictory or inaccurate -- anything to get him through the day, anything that might work. Why not resurrect McCain's failed attack, too? In fact, why not indiscriminately leap onto something that right-wing propagandist Matt Drudge posted on his site: a 14-year-old piece of video in which the president said, "I actually believe in redistribution at least at a certain level..."

Shock horror!

At a fundraiser in Georgia yesterday, Romney responded by saying, "He [Obama] really believes in what I'll call a government-centered society. I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we'll all be better off. It's known as redistribution. It's never been a characteristic of America. There's a tape that came out just a couple of days ago where the president said yes he believes in redistribution. I don't. I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others but to create wealth for all."

That's a big lie. Of course Mitt Romney supports redistribution. Everyone supports redistribution to some extent. It's literally how the government collects and spends tax revenue, regardless of whether it's via progressive taxation or a single flat tax rate.

Elsewhere, Paul Ryan joined in, "You know, President Obama said that he believes in redistribution. Mitt Romney and I are not running to redistribute the wealth. Mitt Romney and I are running to help Americans create wealth."

Ooga-booga! Be afraid! By the way, yes, they're absolutely running to redistribute the wealth. Everything from their military spending position to their support for charter schools is about redistribution. Paul Ryan's Medicare plan is about redistributing Medicare trust fund money to private insurance companies.

The reason a well-known and accepted function of government has become a rhetorical boogie man was chiefly due to McCain/Palin's relentless demonizing of the word itself, accompanied by McCain's over-used "dick-quote" finger gestures every time he said "spread the wealth around," thus allowing slack-jawed ignoramuses to assign their own fear-induced, uninformed definitions to the term. Mainly, the Obama government is plotting to abscond your hard-earned money and give it to lazy, shiftless brown people. Secondarily, as I noted earlier, more than a few McCain supporters assigned a 1950s red scare collectivist/communist usurper definition to the word. Sean Hannity and a characteristically unhinged Michelle Malkin in particular leaned on the red scare McCarthy button the other night, even though the president, in the 1998 video, specifically pitched the capitalist ideas of decentralized competition in the marketplace, "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."

Regardless of the facts surrounding what the president really said, the upshot from the flailing, desperate Romney campaign is the same as the McCain/Palin 2008 message: we should fear the ultra-liberal black man who's surely going to hork your money (and guns and God)!

New York Times' editor David Firestone defined redistribution like so: "Government takes money from those who have it and uses it for the common good, whether that involves building roads or submarines, or handing some of it over to those who are desperate. In that sense, even a flat tax would redistribute wealth somewhat, although far less efficiently. Social Security and Medicare, though considered 'insurance' programs, actually take money from one generation and hand it to another."

It's as simple as that. No liberal bias, just the factual process by which the nation collects and spends money.

Come to think of it, the whole idea of Romney and surrogates like Chris Christie demanding that everyone in the "47 percent" pay taxes in order to have "skin in the game" is absolutely a redistributionist concept. Romney said on Fox News Channel, "I think people would like to be paying taxes." Skin equals taxes. The game equals government. The government collects taxes, shoves the revenue into a massive pile and then spends it on predator drones, bailouts, roads, schools, soldiers, healthcare for retirees, disaster relief for Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry's state budget deficit (stimulus money helped to balance his budget), Secret Service protection for Mitt Romney, health clinics for Paul Ryan and a million other things, including, yes, welfare programs, Medicaid and food stamps for poor people -- the majority of whom live in red states. That's "redistribution." (McCain dick-quotes intentional.)

Are Romney and Ryan seriously against using tax revenue to build roads or our military? Are Romney and Ryan suddenly opposed to Social Security? Are they opposed to federal aid to nations like Israel? If so, they're even farther to the right than objectivist Ron Paul who, in spite of his adolescent Ayn Rand hero worship, collects Social Security: quite literally money that's paid into a trust fund by today's workers and is redistributed to Ron Paul every month.

Hell, if all three of these anti-redistributionist hypocritical demagogues are so rabidly opposed to wealth redistribution, can we have it all back, please? Can we have back the $10 million in redistributed government money that Romney received as a bailout for Bain Capital? Can we have back the redistributed stimulus money and the healthcare reform money that Paul Ryan received for his home district? And when will Ron Paul return his redistributed Social Security money?

Short of crackpots and contrarians, find me someone who's seriously against this process. Everyone else who claims to be against redistribution is either intentionally lying about what it is, or they're utterly clueless about what it means. Actually, those two groups are busily swapping the scare-definition of term back and forth like a rhetorical, incurable herpes virus.

Cross-posted at The Daily Banter.
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