Allan Powell: Those at the top love redistribution

October 04, 2012|By ALLAN POWELL

While many citizens may have had some reservations about the wisdom of giving Mitt Romney a vote of confidence for the presidency, his performance by mid-September should have made it clear that he carries a lot of baggage. It was bad enough that he insulted nearly half of the population by accusing them of being moochers; he defended his remarks with the following argument. “I think a society based upon a government-centered nation where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that’s the wrong course for America.” These statements and others give a pretty clear picture of Romney’s character and view of society.

His concern about redistribution is obviously confined to those who live at the lower ranks of the economic pyramid. These are the 47 percent that expect government handouts and will never vote for him. How is it possible for candidate Romney to plead ignorance of the multitude of those at the highest levels of our society who devote so much time, energy and money clawing for redistribution for those already blessed with wealth? How many bankers have been saved from their own folly by grabbing out for redistributed public funds? How many fabulously rich oil executives pleaded for subsidies (handouts) from the public treasury?

Those at the top of the economic pyramid promote the fiction that redistribution is a trickle-down affair. The reality is that most redistribution is a trickle-up proposition in which the government is rigged to keep it that way. When any upstart, independent mind cries “foul” they retaliate with “socialist.” This is slobbered out like Pavlov’s dog because it is a feared word. The fact is that socialism has never been seriously considered by most Americans.

We need to set candidate Romney’s focus of interest (fear of redistribution) along side of a statement made by Obama when he was a senator: “I think the trick is figuring out, how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution, because I really believe in redistribution at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.” This mild concern to see that the whole society “gets a shot” is not wild eyed socialism. It merely asks for the benefits of government to include all citizens.

Those who are fearful of too much redistribution are prompt to remind us that those at the lower end of the economic pyramid are undeserving of any kind of assistance because they are “entitlements.” It would never occur to them that being “too big to fail” is a form of entitlement, while Social Security is a financial obligation because of participant payments. They need to be reminded that tax cuts and skewed tax rates are regular entitlements given to the wealthy and is also redistribution.

What is especially offensive on the part of Romeny is his continued hypocrisy about his financial affairs. In one of his recent political ads he exudes righteous indignation about “cheaters” who send jobs overseas. He does not consider himself as a cheater when he has secret accounts in off-shore banks to avoid paying taxes. In addition, he says that his assets are monitored by a “blind” trust. This is a joke when it is pointed out that the manager of that “blind” trust is his personal lawyer. The fox guarding that chicken coop may not see the chickens — but he can sure hear and smell them.

At the end of the day, we must face the fact that we, as Americans, accept a certain amount of redistribution as a social necessity as the price for a fair, good and rational society. There will always be those who are unable to cope with the harshness of life. They will be caught in situations — many not of their own making — which are beyond their ability to manage. They will need the care and resources of others. The good society cannot let the hurt fester unnoticed. The last thing a suffering person needs to hear is a lecture from a healthy, well-heeled libertarian about self-actualization, self-reliance and rugged individualism. We are basically good people who want to “make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”

The latest GOP initiative is its shameless fraud in voter registration. This massive redistribution of the vote count is an ugly assault on democracy. All 17 governors involved are Republicans. They are, indeed, skilled at redistribution. They need to be redistributed.

Allan Powell is professor emeritus of philosophy at Hagerstown Community College.

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