Nonsense. The context simply shows that he wants to redistribute wealth more efficiently. Obama said the words “I actually believe in redistribution.” Which part isn’t clear? The “I”? The “believe”? Or the “redistribution”? Let’s give the man some credit for saying what he means and meaning what he says.
The reason Obama’s 1998 comment is so revealing is because it is a more explicit declaration of the themes and policies he has pursued as president. This is the same candidate who told Joe the Plumberin 2008, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” This is the same president who declared at a 2010 campaign rally “I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” This is the same president who is demanding massive tax increases on those who he thinks have “made enough money” (a.k.a. job creators) while increasing government spending to the highest levels as a percentage of the economy since the end of World War II.
Just as Obama’s declaration that he believes in redistribution was revealing, so was Mitt Romney’s comment dismissing the 47 percent of Americans “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. . . . And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” This, too, is consistent with what Romney has said in the past. Romney has a troubling tendency to write off entire segments of the population, as when he declared in February, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”
But here are two crucial differences: First, unlike the reaction on the left to Obama’s defense of redistribution, Romney came under sometimes withering
criticism on the right for his comments. That is because, while most on the left do believe in redistribution, most conservatives do not believe that nearly half of all Americans consider themselves victims, prefer to be dependent on government or don’t want to take personal responsibility for their lives.
Second, Romney has been busy backtracking ever since the video came out. We have yet to see President Obama disavow his support for the redistribution of wealth — because to do so would be to disavow the organizing principle of his entire presidency.
So Americans must decide between an inarticulate champion of smaller government and an eloquent champion of larger, more redistributive government. On this question, surveys suggest most Americans side with Mitt Romney. According to a Post poll last month, “The debate isn’t even close. Nearly six in 10 registered voters pick a ‘smaller government with fewer services’ while just over a third want a ‘larger government with more services.’” Voters also understand exactly where the two candidates stand: Nearly three-quarters say Obama wants bigger government, while almost the same number say Romney wants smaller government.
In other words, Americans already knew that Barack Obama supports the redistribution of wealth before they heard it from his own lips last week. Yet despite this fact, almost 30 percent of those who want smaller government still support Obama. Romney needs to find a way to connect with that 30 percent between now and Election Day. If he doesn’t, Obama will get a second term — and we’ll quickly discover just how deeply this president believes in the redistribution of wealth.
Marc A. Thiessen, a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, writes a weekly online column for The Post.