John McCain

Since When Is McCain Against the Redistribution of Wealth?

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The McCain campaign claims that in a 2001 interview with a Chicago public radio station, Barack Obama "expressed his regret that the Supreme Court hadn't been more 'radical' and described as a 'tragedy' the Court's refusal to take up 'the issues of redistribution of wealth.'" Not quite. Here is what Obama, at the time a state legislator and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, actually said (emphasis added):

If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the Court, I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples, so that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order…But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.

And to that extent, as radical as people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and the Warren court interpreted it in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can't do to you, it says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf.

And that hasn't shifted, and one of the tragedies of the civil rights movement was that, because the civil rights movement became so court-focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.

While Obama clearly favors redistribution of wealth and sees it as an issue of "economic justice," he also clearly seeks to accomplish it through the legislative process, not through the courts. Asked by a caller whether the judicial branch is "the appropriate place for reparative economic work to take place," he says "you can craft theoretical justifications for it" but emphasizes that he prefers a legislative approach:

I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. The institution just isn't structured that way….You start getting it all sorts of separation-of-powers issues…The court's just not very good at it, and politically it's just very hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard.

So there is little basis here for McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin's claim that Obama "wants to appoint judges that legislate from the bench…as insurance in case a unified Democratic government under his control fails to meet his basic goal: taking money away from people who work for it and giving it to people who Barack Obama believes deserve it."

And without the judicial philosophy angle, there's no difference in principle on this issue between Obama and McCain. Both want to take money away from people who work for it and give it to people they believe deserve it. How else would you characterize McCain's plan to rescue reckless lenders and borrowers by using taxpayer money to buy "bad home loan mortgages"? Medicare, Medicaid, progressive income taxation, and Social Security, to name just a few redistributive programs that both candidates support, also entail taking one group's earnings and giving them to another group, and in some cases the beneficiaries are more affluent than the people compelled to subsidize them. McCain's outrage over "redistribution of wealth" is awfully selective.

[via The Freedom Files]

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62 responses to “Since When Is McCain Against the Redistribution of Wealth?

  1. While Obama clearly favors redistribution of wealth and sees it as an issue of “economic justice,” he also clearly seeks to accomplish it through the legislative process, not through the courts.

    As a libertarian I have to say this comes as a complete and utter relief.

  2. Since the Democrats will control the House, the Senate, and the White House, it really doesn’t matter if this is a legislative or court process. We’re going to get it rammed down our throats either way.

  3. Asked by a caller whether the judicial branch is “the appropriate place for reparative economic work to take place,” he says “you can craft theoretical justifications for it”

    The more I listen to Obama’s absolute genius for not answering the question while leaving the audience with the impression he agree with them, the more I am convinced he is interviewing for the wrong job.

    He would probably be a good Secretary of State, if you don’t mind the current (broken) culture at State going unreformed.

  4. I agree with the argument, but not the emphasis. It’s like saying” Ckoe is accusing Pepsi of being a sugary, empty calorie beverage. It’s hypocrisy!”

    Sure it is, but you’re a dipshit if you think that’s not obvious or obviously not the biggest problem. It’s the fucking two party system and democracy in general that produces such poor choices.

  5. Since the Democrats will control the House, the Senate, and the White House, it really doesn’t matter if this is a legislative or court process. We’re going to get it rammed down our throats either way.

    I would like to add “Since the Democrats will control the House, the Senate, and the White House, it really doesn’t matter if this criticism comes from McCain or from Drudge” So why the fuck is it so important for Reasonoids to frame this around the McCain campaign?

    I don’t want the US to bomb Iran as much as anybody but Jesus fucking Christ talk about beating a dead horse.

    When, if ever, will it be OK to criticize Obama for being a socialist?

  6. The Bush administration has redistributed much wealth to such corporations as Blackwater Security and Bechtel, not to mention all the domestic entitlement programs. At least Obama isn’t shy about saying he plans to continue this practice.

  7. I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples, so that I would now have the right to vote

    Yes, the son of a white woman and a temporary visitor from Kenya would never have the right to vote but for the Supreme Court.

  8. Joshua Corning-

    According to some posters here(my distinguished friend, Elemenope, for one), one cannot accurately call Obama a socialist. I disagree.

  9. You can call Obama a socialist only if you’re gonna call McCain one, too.

  10. Joshua C-

    Of course, John McCain is also a socialist.

  11. say what you will about the tenets of Obamaism, dude. at least it’s an ethos.

  12. One is more socialist than the other.You can call Bob Barr a socialist as well.

  13. BDB-

    You do have to admit that I, unlike many here, do not have even the slightest of preferences for one party of state over the other and ditto for their standard bearers.

  14. I’d never think otherwise, libertymike. It wasn’t directed at you, I pretty much expected that you think McCain is a socialist, too.

  15. SIV-

    Barry and Johnny are both socialists. Bob Barr obviously has played the socialist in the past, no doubt about it.

  16. Wait… people are just now realizing Reason isn’t a libertarian site?

    And, what BHO said to JTP reveals something far more than what McCain wants. He wants to tax in order to pay for things. Some of those things might be good or bad, but he doesn’t want to tax just to be nice.

    Meanwhile, BHO does want to tax just to be nice and fair and spread things around. It’s so incredibly obvious, but I guess some people have trouble understanding that.

    From an earlier comment:

    And, some of what he’ll do will be straight outta East Germany. His winning will give power to people with fascistic tendencies. Things like this will happen to his opponents. And, he’ll push this plan which appears to have been lifted straight from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_movement

    P.S. Make sure and join Reason’s Libertarians for Erich Honecker Facebook group.

  17. OLS why are you so fucking melodramatic?

  18. BDB-

    Thank you. I would not want anybody to think of me as being anything other than the hard core anarcho free enterprise individualist state hating homeboy that I am.

  19. “When, if ever, will it be OK to criticize Obama for being a socialist?”

    The author clearly states that Obama believes in some elements of socialism. But the point of the article, I believe, is to make it clear it that the choice being presented by Obama’s opponent as one of “Obama for socialism, McCain against socialism” is a false narrative.

  20. “According to some posters here(my distinguished friend, Elemenope, for one), one cannot accurately call Obama a socialist. I disagree.”

    A full blown socialist, really?
    So Obama advocates complete and total control and ownership by the government of all things produced and made in the US?

  21. gmatts–

    To an anarcho-capitalist (like Libertymike, I think he’s an anarcho-capitalist) 95% of the spectrum is socialist.

  22. “say what you will about the tenets of Obamaism, dude. at least it’s an ethos”

    Fuckin’ nihilists!

  23. I’m not trying to compare McCain or Obama to either one of these guys, but I think framing this in binary terms is kindergarten simplistic. Konrad Adenauer and Joseph Stalin were both socialists, but I think we can agree the extent to which each would enact their socialism differ greatly.

    Saying “they’re both socialists” and then ignoring that issue is a pretty facile way of discussing it.

  24. I’d like to know exactly what an “anarcho-capitalist” in this country does for a living and how one might still maintain the purity of that philosophy if we are to believe that we’re governed by a bunch of socialists.

  25. I don’t think calling both McCain and Obama socialists quite captures the dynamic. While McCain has certainly backed wealth transfers, he’s generally only backed specific instances selectively. Obama supports wealth transfers as a matter of principal. I don’t really care for it in either case, but if I have to chose, I’d prefer a president who supports it as an exception to the rule rather than as the rule.

  26. Has ANYONE EVER clicked on one of Wacko’s links? Seeing as how he’s sometimes claimed many hits, I’m picturing him repeatedly clicking his own links all day long. Seems like he could be another verse in the song “All The Lonely People.”

  27. So Obama advocates complete and total control and ownership by the government of all things produced and made in the US?

    So if someone allows a small portion of the economy to not be owned by the government, you would call them NOT socialist?

    There are degrees of socialism, but the two major party candidates both believe in huge heaping doses of it. One could quibble and argue that Obama wants a bit more than McCain, or at least different special interests being the benefactors (or least put-upon) of all this.

  28. the anarcho-capitalists were right all along. Limited government is not stable or at this point even achievable.

    Ron Paul was the last, best hope of the classical liberals.

  29. As a libertarian I have to say this comes as a complete and utter relief.

    I don’t understand why. As I understand it, Libertarianism is against forced re-distribution of wealth, and couldn’t care less whether the order for force to be used comes from a legislature, an executive, or a guy in a funny robe that the executive picked and the legislature approved.

    He would probably be a good Secretary of State, if you don’t mind the current (broken) culture at State going unreformed.

    Huh? You’re gonna have to give more than “It’s broke and he won’t fix it”. How is it broke, and why wouldn’t he fix it?

    According to some posters here(my distinguished friend, Elemenope, for one), one cannot accurately call Obama a socialist. I disagree.

    Well, not to split a hair, but I think you can call him anything you please. Call him a cabbage, if it makes you feel better. I just don’t think you can *accurately* describe him as a socialist (or, for that matter, a cabbage.)

    Words only retain their distinct meanings and thus their usefulness if they are used with enough care so as to reflect a *coherent, consistent, and identifiable* concept, phenomenon, or activity.

    Has ANYONE EVER clicked on one of Wacko’s links?

    Sadly, I did, once or twice, before I came to know better.

  30. The more I listen to Obama’s absolute genius for not answering the question while leaving the audience with the impression he agree with them, the more I am convinced he is interviewing for the wrong job.

    I hear what you’re saying, RC. I know just what you mean.

    Thank you for contributing that.

    😉

  31. No, really, I understand just what you mean.

    RC, you’ve given me a lot to think about.

    Heh. Been there. Done that.

  32. “One is more socialist than the other.You can call Bob Barr a socialist as well.”

    This goes to show one how empty the term socialist is becoming.

    “There are degrees of socialism”

    Yeah! You know, I hate those socialists who demand that the government steal my property to pay police to enforce property rights and to enforce contract provisions and assault laws. Damn you socialist libertarians! I mean, what’s mine is mine, why do you insist on taking it at the barrel of a gun to enforce your values of private property, responsiblity and bodily autonomy?

    What? You think that’s necessary to protect certain important values? Just like liberals only different values? Oh, Ok…

  33. what BHO said to JTP reveals something far more than what McCain wants. He wants to tax in order to pay for things. Some of those things might be good or bad, but he doesn’t want to tax just to be nice.

    Meanwhile, BHO does want to tax just to be nice and fair and spread things around. It’s so incredibly obvious, but I guess some people have trouble understanding that.

    Yes, and Jacob appears to be smoothing that over with

    without the judicial philosophy angle, there’s no difference in principle on this issue between Obama and McCain.

    There’s a difference in philosophy, just not in judicial philosophy. Obama is saying redistribution is an end to be striven for. McCain may be hypocritical about it in this case, but give me the hypocrite over the open advocate. “Medicare, Medicaid, progressive income taxation, and Social Security, to name just a few redistributive programs that both candidates support,” are the background, the starting point from which all politicians and observers operate, the world in which all must operate to be serious contenders. So look at the margin. McCain is opportunistic in seeking to buy off some interest groups which he might need to get elected, but Obama is far worse because he proffers redistribution per se as a goal for society, whether or not votes are at stake. In other words, Obama wants to push past what is necessary to govern a democracy, giving then what they will not let him govern without; he wants that of course, but also more general redistribution that the people aren’t even demanding.

  34. Yeah! You know, I hate those socialists who demand that the government steal my property to pay police to enforce property rights and to enforce contract provisions and assault laws. Damn you socialist libertarians! I mean, what’s mine is mine, why do you insist on taking it at the barrel of a gun to enforce your values of private property, responsiblity and bodily autonomy?

    I’d be happy to make taxation for the police power voluntary. You can volunteer to not pay, and that makes you ineligible for police or military protection and means you have no access to the civil or criminal courts.

  35. “Medicare, Medicaid, progressive income taxation, and Social Security, to name just a few redistributive programs that both candidates support,” are the background, the starting point from which all politicians and observers operate, the world in which all must operate to be serious contenders.

    Tell me, what “background”, what “starting point” gives the GOP the right to lie about being the party of small government? What “background” required W to grow government faster than any President since FDR, and what “starting point” required almost the entire rest of the GOP to go along with him?

    This entire, “Aw, shucks, what do you expect us to do? We HAVE to advocate redistribution or we’ll lose elections!” pity party you’re holding for the GOP is really breaking my heart. If the GOP is powerless to legislate small government, they should stop lying about it. If the GOP is powerless to stop the growth of government, they should stop lying and saying they will stop it.

    Basically you’re saying that it’s OK for the GOP to lie, claim to be for small government, and then vote for big government – because you think they don’t really want to do it. “Vote for the liars and the cowards!” How inspiring.

  36. Robert
    As fluffy points out, if history serves as your guide then the GOP candidate will, all rhetoric aside, grow the government as much as the Dems (monetarily, government can also grow in the areas of life it legislates despite any additional revenue imho).

    You really have no leg to stand on empirically.

  37. When, if ever, will it be OK to criticize Obama for being a socialist?

    As soon as he is elected.

    (Now please go vote Obama. I will be your friend.)

  38. “I’m not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts.”

    It seems obvious to me that he wants to use the courts to redistribute wealth, but he realizes it would be difficult. It’s pretty much the same thing as his stance on gun control: “While a complete ban on handguns is not politically practicable, I believe reasonable restrictions on the sale and possession of handguns are necessary to protect the public safety.” He prefers a complete ban on handguns, but realizes it isn’t practicable. He’d like the courts to redistribute wealth, but realizes it isn’t practicable.

    I’m not convinced it matters whether he’d prefer to steal via legislation or the judiciary anyway.

  39. it doesn’t matter. Stealing is stealing.

  40. You know, forcing people to give up a share of their income to pay for government contracts to defense agencies which pays many people fat salaries to make things many taxpayers did not think was necessary to make in the first place, that’s not socialism…No, not at all…That’s in the Constitution, that’s all cool…

    That’s what the GOP does. You can pay for college loans (Dems) or for defense contracts (GOP), but the budget will be the same. Judging from the eight Bush years the GOP budget will actually be HIGHER (just more in borrowing than taxes, meaning, your kids pay hte taxes, YAY!).

  41. forcing people to give up a share of their income for ANYTHING is theft. period.

  42. I, for one, applaud Reason’s continued role as attack dog for the more socialist, Obama campaign.

    The Schadenfreud is going to be delicious with these ones.

  43. Tthe token leftists aren’t going to seem so cute anymore. Hehe.

  44. Wait… people are just now realizing Reason isn’t a libertarian site?

    I love it when Orange Whine Special here has the temerity to question the libertarianism of others. It’s quite galling and ironic when it comes from a putz who agrees with Michelle Malkin that World War II internment camps were justified (which I’ve seem him state on another site). Unsurprisingly, he keeps avoiding giving a response about it when you bring it up.
    And like I said, he could almost be some sort of La Raza parody of immigration reform activists since he’s unwittingly their best advocate.

    McCain’s outrage over “redistribution of wealth” is awfully selective.

    Indeed. I guess Sarah Palin also thinks it wasn’t socialism when she celebrated Alaska’s spreading of oil wealth around a couple of months back.

  45. I’m beginning to think Asharak is a parody of the sockpuppets who post false ad homs against me here and elsewhere. Is that it’s game? Is it secretly trying to help me, as I’ve suspected some of those other sockpuppets are?

    I hate to repeat myself, but if BHO wins it will give power to people with fascistic tendencies. Things like this will happen to his opponents. And, he’ll push this plan which appears to have been lifted straight from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_movement

    P.S. Make sure and join Reason’s Libertarians for Erich Honecker Facebook group.

  46. “While Obama clearly favors redistribution of wealth and sees it as an issue of “economic justice,” he also clearly seeks to accomplish it through the legislative process, not through the courts.”

    And that’s better…how?

  47. “I’d be happy to make taxation for the police power voluntary. You can volunteer to not pay, and that makes you ineligible for police or military protection and means you have no access to the civil or criminal courts.”

    At least you’re proposing a system that’s workable in the real world.

  48. Is it me, or does it not really matter that he wants to abuse the General Welfare Clause rather than legislate from the bench? He is not respecting the Constitution in the least by favoring wealth redistribution, and at best it is a mild comfort that he doesn’t want to abuse the Constitution further by using the courts to do it.

    I absolutely hate having a laundry list of things that I dislike about the guy I’m “rooting” for. I still feel like he’s better than McCain but who knows, we will see.

  49. He is not respecting the Constitution in the least by favoring wealth redistribution, and at best it is a mild comfort that he doesn’t want to abuse the Constitution further by using the courts to do it.

    You’re not getting it. He’s never expressed any inclination to respect the Constitution. Indeed, he’s as much as said straight out that the constitution is flawed and in need of “correction”. Listen to the parts of the interview Sullum left out of his post.

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  51. “McCain’s outrage … is awfully selective.”

    Not selective at all. McCain has been insisting for decades that every citizen has an obligation to “sacrifice their own self-interest for the greater good.” That is the essence of totalitarianism, whether communist or fascist.

    Inherently, totalitarians get to decide what is the “greater good”, so there’s no dispute between Obama and McCain over the method, only about their desired outcome.

    They’re both running for Emperor.

  52. Redistribution of wealth? Why, the Republicans have always believed in the redistribution of wealth. They just think it should be redistributed into fewer and fewer hands. And you have to admit they’ve been very successful at it, especially over the last eight years.

    Taking money from those who have EARNED it? PuhLEASE! If CEO jobs were paid by true supply and demand, all those MBA’s would be paying for the chance to sit on their butts, relishing the inner satisfaction of helping to increase the earned reward paid to stockholders and workers who actually do something to earn a return.

  53. Westmiller, the ARE both running for emperor.

    Don’t blame me. I voted for Kodos.

  54. rm2muv- You don’t apparently know jack about economics. CEO pay is exactly like pro ball player pay. A million dollar salary is a bargain to shareholders who gain a 2 million dollar profit. If the CEO actually causes a loss, then howz that different from hiring a high-priced ball player who goes into a slump? How “fun” the job is has fuckall to do with it. It’s ability that commands the high salaries. Feel free to divest yourself from all companies with “excessive” executive pay.

  55. “While Obama clearly favors redistribution of wealth and sees it as an issue of “economic justice,” he also clearly seeks to accomplish it through the legislative process, not through the courts.”

    That doesn’t mean he’s not in favor of trying it through the courts – it just means he thinks it’s more likely to be done successfully through the legislature.

    It sounds to me like he was complaining that the Warren court didn’t try to push it as he would have liked it to.

  56. Mr. Nice Guy,

    Can you give us a historical example where redistributing income via government fiat which (1) hasn’t led to significant levels of corruption, but did lead to a (2) a net benefit (using this term broadly) to all the parties involved?

  57. The depths Reason is going to defend Obama is disgusting. Anyone not effected by Obama-love can see that he wants the courts to help redistribute wealth. It is just that since that pesky constitution is in the way, it will have to be done by the legislation. The damage of the tape isn’t the economic justice part, it is the part where he puts down the constitution, a document he’s supposedly going to swear an oath to in a few months.

  58. Obama: moderately Socialist slickster who will sneakily try to redistribute wealth.

    McCain: mavrick conservative with authoritarian leanings who probably doesn’t realize he’s a socialist because he doesn’t know crap about economics.

  59. I gave up on ideological purity when I became an atheist. It’s a choice between bad and worse. I have voted Libertarian when my vote would be swamped by the Democrat majority, but I moved to a swing state so that my vote would have more import. I was sick of little Pyrrhic victories.

    Certainly, the Bush/GOP Congressional majority were disappointing (to say the least), but they would not do the damage the Dems promise to do.

    And if you can’t see the difference between progressive tax rates and direct income transfer to non-taxpayers, you are not paying attention.

  60. I hate to repeat myself, but if BHO wins it will give power to people with fascistic tendencies.

    Man, I hate to feed OLS, but so what? Like the past 8 years haven’t seen power being given to people with fascistic tendencies? What, Johnny Mac is going to repudiate the last 8 years and act like somebody with some ethics and principles? Not bloody fucking likely. Either one wins, we’re still screwed in terms of the expansion of the state.

  61. I’m confused by the logic here. So, Obama thinks it’s more likely to get redistributive ‘justice’ through the legislature than through the courts. Do you think this means he’ll be appointing strict constructionists to the court?

    Of course not. He’ll try to achieve his goals using every tool he’s got, just like any other President would do. He’ll try to appoint social engineers to the courts, and he’ll try to move legislation to the same effect. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, and it won’t be.

    As for the difference between McCain and Obama, another poster got it exactly right: McCain may support increased taxes on the ‘rich’, but only to the extent that there are certain things that must be paid for, and some people in dire straits that need to be helped, and thereofore the rich should help.

    Obama, on the other hand, believes that as a matter of principle, as you become wealthier some of your wealth should be taken from you and divvied up between [i]everyone[/i] behind you. He’s not just about helping the poorest and the sick and rebuilding the infrastructure with money from the rich – he’s about ‘spreading the wealth around’. Pushing money from the top down to everyone to keep the income gap between citizens as small as possible.

    This is a major philosophical difference, and it’s a much more dangerous philosophy, as the underlying belief is that differences in economic outcome are intrinsically bad, and government should step in to keep some people from getting too far out in front of others.

    In Obama’s ideal world, there would be no Jeff Bezos building spaceships, or Bill Gates donating billions to charity, because they wouldn’t have had the money to do it in the first place. The government would take it and spread it around to the people behind them. He won’t achieve that given the constraints of the office, but that’s his underlying philosophy.

  62. Ha, this fits perfectly with a GraphJam I just saw. It’s a flow chart that determines the “difference” between socialists and current Republican leadership:

    http://digg.com/political_opinion/Are_YOU_a_socialist_Use_this_flow_chart_to_find_out

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