I listened to some excerpts of a radio interview that Senator Barack Obama did back in 2001 regarding wealth redistribution at Matt Reisetter’s blog.  It’s a little over four minutes long.  Take a listen below.

We can draw a couple of things from this:

1.  Senator Obama, at least at in 2001, believed that wealth redistribution was feasible and acceptable.  The conversation wasn’t about whether they should redistribute wealth, but how to do it.

2.  No longer can his supporters say that those on the right are fabricating this.  These are his own words.  You know the same person who said that words do matter.  This is not just a short soundbite were he was “victimized” and “baited” by the wily Joe the Plumer, this is a segment of a radio interview.

Well, he wants to redistribute wealth.  Here’s further proof.

34 comments
  1. oh give me a break. this republican government is already distributing the wealth to the richest of american corporations. this republican government is using tax money from lower class and middle class to bail out the rich.

    where’s the republican and conservative outrage over their own party’s screw ups?

  2. oh give me a break. this republican government is already distributing the wealth to the richest of american corporations. this republican government is using tax money from lower class and middle class to bail out the rich.

    where’s the republican and conservative outrage over their own party’s screw ups?

  3. I think the issue pointed out here isn’t who is or should be responsible for the mess that required the bailout (both political parties would have to shoulder a large share of the blame, along with Wall Street); whether wealth distribution is biblical or not but the credibility and integrity of taking a position ion the past and then denying it was ever a position. One can change one’s mind, but do not deny saying what you said in the past.

  4. I think the issue pointed out here isn’t who is or should be responsible for the mess that required the bailout (both political parties would have to shoulder a large share of the blame, along with Wall Street); whether wealth distribution is biblical or not but the credibility and integrity of taking a position ion the past and then denying it was ever a position. One can change one’s mind, but do not deny saying what you said in the past.

  5. Matt, no what the Bible describes is charity which is voluntary as opposed to wealth redistribution which is forced.

    Hermano – we have the highest corporate taxes of any nation. The rich still pay more taxes both in percentage of their income and in total dollars.

    Also, this Republican government? May I remind you that there is a Democratic majority in Congress. I’ve blogged about my anger about the bailout plan. I don’t like it either, but for different reasons I’m sure. I’ve not been happy with several things that Bush has done. I think Obama will just make things worse.

    Andy – right on. This is proof that he holds this position, or at the very least once did.

  6. Matt, no what the Bible describes is charity which is voluntary as opposed to wealth redistribution which is forced.

    Hermano – we have the highest corporate taxes of any nation. The rich still pay more taxes both in percentage of their income and in total dollars.

    Also, this Republican government? May I remind you that there is a Democratic majority in Congress. I’ve blogged about my anger about the bailout plan. I don’t like it either, but for different reasons I’m sure. I’ve not been happy with several things that Bush has done. I think Obama will just make things worse.

    Andy – right on. This is proof that he holds this position, or at the very least once did.

  7. That audio clip is incoherent. I wonder why so much of it is missing? Why would you want to pervert the conversation?

    I am surprised you think you are qualified to speak on economic issues.

  8. That audio clip is incoherent. I wonder why so much of it is missing? Why would you want to pervert the conversation?

    I am surprised you think you are qualified to speak on economic issues.

  9. hermano @ 2.
    this republican government is using tax money from lower class and middle class to bail out the rich.

    Except that the lower classes don’t pay taxes, or get rebates. You don’t get into a serious tax-burden until you reach the upper-middle class.

    And that business taxes are higher here then nearly anywhere else.

    But except that you’re totally wrong, yes, right on.

  10. hermano @ 2.
    this republican government is using tax money from lower class and middle class to bail out the rich.

    Except that the lower classes don’t pay taxes, or get rebates. You don’t get into a serious tax-burden until you reach the upper-middle class.

    And that business taxes are higher here then nearly anywhere else.

    But except that you’re totally wrong, yes, right on.

  11. Good points, Shane

    The basic premise of Socialism is artificial equalization. It’s like a college figuring out the mean GPA of its student body and then taking from the kids with higher grades to equal out for those with lower grades.

    That’s miles from what one sees in the Bible, where believers gave of their substance to care for those who lacked.

    While I agree with you about the Democratic congress (which seems to get a pass), Republicans for the last decade or so seem to have forgotten who they are. I’m extremely disappointed. With both parties.

    Mr. Reisenberg – I’m rather surprised that you seem to feel that nobody except experts should be able to talk about economic issues. The experts have not done us too good lately, yes?

    Anyway, Obama endorses an idea that has proven itself not to be viable. It is very unfortunate.

  12. Good points, Shane

    The basic premise of Socialism is artificial equalization. It’s like a college figuring out the mean GPA of its student body and then taking from the kids with higher grades to equal out for those with lower grades.

    That’s miles from what one sees in the Bible, where believers gave of their substance to care for those who lacked.

    While I agree with you about the Democratic congress (which seems to get a pass), Republicans for the last decade or so seem to have forgotten who they are. I’m extremely disappointed. With both parties.

    Mr. Reisenberg – I’m rather surprised that you seem to feel that nobody except experts should be able to talk about economic issues. The experts have not done us too good lately, yes?

    Anyway, Obama endorses an idea that has proven itself not to be viable. It is very unfortunate.

  13. What’s up with the ominous music in this clip, and why don’t we just get the interview so we can decide?

    Not being happy with “several things Bush has done” woefully understates the problem, I’m afraid.

  14. What’s up with the ominous music in this clip, and why don’t we just get the interview so we can decide?

    Not being happy with “several things Bush has done” woefully understates the problem, I’m afraid.

  15. @Erich – get a hearing aid. I also did quite well in economics in college. An expert no, but not ignorant of economic principles either.

    @Ben – I have no idea, I didn’t do the video.

    With Bush – I have a problem with him not vetoing any spending bills. I have a problem with the increase in federal government. I think they should have made adjustments in Iraq (surge) far earlier than what they did. Those are the big things – none of which would improve in an Obama government. There would be more spending, and bigger government. And his foreign policy really, really scares me when it comes to the War on Terror and rogue nations.

    I’m sure that he would get along with France just splendidly though.

  16. @Erich – get a hearing aid. I also did quite well in economics in college. An expert no, but not ignorant of economic principles either.

    @Ben – I have no idea, I didn’t do the video.

    With Bush – I have a problem with him not vetoing any spending bills. I have a problem with the increase in federal government. I think they should have made adjustments in Iraq (surge) far earlier than what they did. Those are the big things – none of which would improve in an Obama government. There would be more spending, and bigger government. And his foreign policy really, really scares me when it comes to the War on Terror and rogue nations.

    I’m sure that he would get along with France just splendidly though.

  17. but you posted the video . . . isn’t the interview somewhere on NPR’s website? I think the text is up there.

  18. but you posted the video . . . isn’t the interview somewhere on NPR’s website? I think the text is up there.

  19. The audio clip is, of course, chopped up to match the argument desired. And I don’t think Sen. Obama has changed his position on the issue of “wealth redistribution” (you know, when you get taxed so police departments can hire officers to protect both the rich and the poor). I think he made it pretty clear, if you listen to the whole interview, that Sen. Obama believes that the courts were the wrong place to attempt affirmative economic redistribution, as they only have limited abilities to interpret legislation and have their rulings implemented. And honestly, to complain about the fact that government requires the raising of revenue to pay for basic social needs like fire departments, police forces and, shockhorror, schools tends to cause a redistribution of wealth away from the rich. It’s silly to think that we should have a 1:1 ratio of dollar taxed to dollar spent on individuals because at that point the poor would receive little police or fire protection and the rich would receive the most (not that such things don’t happen now, but it’s not a blatant). Even the most strict of readings of the Constitution require some form of wealth redistribution. Sorry, that whole not making a defendant pay for a lawyer thing is kinda written in, as is speedy trials by your peers. That costs money, as if it needed saying, and the money has to come from somewhere. As much as we’d like to believe that we can just print up more bills, there are limits to these things. All Obama was saying is that the courts are the wrong end to trying and fix the fundamental problems of economic inequality. Sure, you can make the argument that the courts can, but you can also make the argument that Canada’s been lording over us for far too long and we need to send in the tanks. Just because the argument is possible doesn’t make it a good argument.

  20. The audio clip is, of course, chopped up to match the argument desired. And I don’t think Sen. Obama has changed his position on the issue of “wealth redistribution” (you know, when you get taxed so police departments can hire officers to protect both the rich and the poor). I think he made it pretty clear, if you listen to the whole interview, that Sen. Obama believes that the courts were the wrong place to attempt affirmative economic redistribution, as they only have limited abilities to interpret legislation and have their rulings implemented. And honestly, to complain about the fact that government requires the raising of revenue to pay for basic social needs like fire departments, police forces and, shockhorror, schools tends to cause a redistribution of wealth away from the rich. It’s silly to think that we should have a 1:1 ratio of dollar taxed to dollar spent on individuals because at that point the poor would receive little police or fire protection and the rich would receive the most (not that such things don’t happen now, but it’s not a blatant). Even the most strict of readings of the Constitution require some form of wealth redistribution. Sorry, that whole not making a defendant pay for a lawyer thing is kinda written in, as is speedy trials by your peers. That costs money, as if it needed saying, and the money has to come from somewhere. As much as we’d like to believe that we can just print up more bills, there are limits to these things. All Obama was saying is that the courts are the wrong end to trying and fix the fundamental problems of economic inequality. Sure, you can make the argument that the courts can, but you can also make the argument that Canada’s been lording over us for far too long and we need to send in the tanks. Just because the argument is possible doesn’t make it a good argument.

  21. I don’t know if this is the whole transcript, because it is hard to find. If somebody has a link to it great. The problem and why this is newsworthy is that the interview had been buried. This should have come out a long time ago.

    Here’s what I found:

    “TRANSCRIPT:
    MODERATOR: Good morning and welcome to Odyssey on WBEZ Chicago 91.5 FM and we’re joined by Barack Obama who is Illinois State Senator from the 13th district and senior lecturer in the law school at the University of Chicago.
    OBAMA: 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 the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be okay.
    But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of 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. One of the I think tragedies of the civil rights movement was 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 redistributed change and in some ways we still suffer from that.
    MODERATOR: Let’s talk with Karen. Good morning, Karen, you’re on Chicago Public Radio.
    KAREN: Hi. The gentleman made the point that the Warren court wasn’t terribly radical with economic changes. My question is, is it too late for that kind of reparative work economically and is that that the appropriate place for reparative economic work to take place – the court – or would it be legislation at this point?
    OBAMA: Maybe I’m showing my bias here as a legislator as well as a law professor, but I’m not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. The institution just isn’t structured that way.
    You just look at very rare examples during the desegregation era the court was willing to for example order changes that cost money to a local school district. The court was very uncomfortable with it. It was very hard to manage, it was hard to figure out. You start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues in terms of the court monitoring or engaging in a process that essentially is administrative and takes a lot of time.
    The court’s just not very good at it and politically it’s very hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard. So I think that although you can craft theoretical justifications for it legally. Any three of us sitting here could come up with a rational for bringing about economic change through the courts.”

  22. I don’t know if this is the whole transcript, because it is hard to find. If somebody has a link to it great. The problem and why this is newsworthy is that the interview had been buried. This should have come out a long time ago.

    Here’s what I found:

    “TRANSCRIPT:
    MODERATOR: Good morning and welcome to Odyssey on WBEZ Chicago 91.5 FM and we’re joined by Barack Obama who is Illinois State Senator from the 13th district and senior lecturer in the law school at the University of Chicago.
    OBAMA: 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 the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be okay.
    But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of 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. One of the I think tragedies of the civil rights movement was 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 redistributed change and in some ways we still suffer from that.
    MODERATOR: Let’s talk with Karen. Good morning, Karen, you’re on Chicago Public Radio.
    KAREN: Hi. The gentleman made the point that the Warren court wasn’t terribly radical with economic changes. My question is, is it too late for that kind of reparative work economically and is that that the appropriate place for reparative economic work to take place – the court – or would it be legislation at this point?
    OBAMA: Maybe I’m showing my bias here as a legislator as well as a law professor, but I’m not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. The institution just isn’t structured that way.
    You just look at very rare examples during the desegregation era the court was willing to for example order changes that cost money to a local school district. The court was very uncomfortable with it. It was very hard to manage, it was hard to figure out. You start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues in terms of the court monitoring or engaging in a process that essentially is administrative and takes a lot of time.
    The court’s just not very good at it and politically it’s very hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard. So I think that although you can craft theoretical justifications for it legally. Any three of us sitting here could come up with a rational for bringing about economic change through the courts.”

  23. Agree with you Jordan, some good points. I don’t understand all of the sudden hand-wringing about this. Seems like a last-ditch attempt to me.

  24. Agree with you Jordan, some good points. I don’t understand all of the sudden hand-wringing about this. Seems like a last-ditch attempt to me.

  25. I think the handwringing about wealth redistribution is quite humorous. All governmental taxing and expenditure is wealth redistribution. We lap it up if it comes our way in the form of tax deductions or better roads or dead enemies, and whine when it goes to someone else.

  26. I think the handwringing about wealth redistribution is quite humorous. All governmental taxing and expenditure is wealth redistribution. We lap it up if it comes our way in the form of tax deductions or better roads or dead enemies, and whine when it goes to someone else.

  27. Of course we have redistribution… we have for years. And to an extent I think it’s a fine thing as long as it’s confined within a certain framework.

    I think that the society at large taking a resaonable (and voluntary) tax from producers to help those who, for whatever reason, cannot produce is almost a responsibility. Where it becomes untenable is when the social safety net becomes an entitlement, which it has here in the US.

    No longer is the social safety net a means to help those who need it become productive, but rather a teet on a sow on which the babies continually suck and never become weened. And thus the fatal flaw of Socialism: If people find out they can get a free ride, they’ll take it.

    What I advocate (and I know this sounds a bit idealistic) is a wealth-producing capitalist system that is only as regulated as it needs to be, and a social safety net that redistributes a portion of that wealth through reasonable and voluntary taxation to those actually in need with a view toward empowering them to become productive again.

    It seems what Obama advocates is stealing from the rich to give to the poor. I may be wrong.

    The irony of such a position, if indeed it is his position, is that it eventually dries up the very stream that the poor drink from.

    It’s like the old 10 Years After song: “Tax the rich, feed the poor, till there are no rich no more.”

    But then what do you do? If you get rid of the rich bad guys who were supporting everyone, how are you going to support everyone? It’s self-defeating. Just look at the history of Socialism – especially when it was paired with Marxism. How did all those economies fare?

  28. Of course we have redistribution… we have for years. And to an extent I think it’s a fine thing as long as it’s confined within a certain framework.

    I think that the society at large taking a resaonable (and voluntary) tax from producers to help those who, for whatever reason, cannot produce is almost a responsibility. Where it becomes untenable is when the social safety net becomes an entitlement, which it has here in the US.

    No longer is the social safety net a means to help those who need it become productive, but rather a teet on a sow on which the babies continually suck and never become weened. And thus the fatal flaw of Socialism: If people find out they can get a free ride, they’ll take it.

    What I advocate (and I know this sounds a bit idealistic) is a wealth-producing capitalist system that is only as regulated as it needs to be, and a social safety net that redistributes a portion of that wealth through reasonable and voluntary taxation to those actually in need with a view toward empowering them to become productive again.

    It seems what Obama advocates is stealing from the rich to give to the poor. I may be wrong.

    The irony of such a position, if indeed it is his position, is that it eventually dries up the very stream that the poor drink from.

    It’s like the old 10 Years After song: “Tax the rich, feed the poor, till there are no rich no more.”

    But then what do you do? If you get rid of the rich bad guys who were supporting everyone, how are you going to support everyone? It’s self-defeating. Just look at the history of Socialism – especially when it was paired with Marxism. How did all those economies fare?

  29. And Mark, we only tend to whine when our money gets wasted. Roads, defense and tax breaks for those who pay through the nose in taxes hardly qualify as “lapping it up”.

    I don’t know about you, but I work very hard for the money I earn – and give to the government. I’m good when that translates into things that are good for all of us – roads, schools, etc. What I have a problem with is when the money goes to keep babies on the teet or in some politician’s pocket. Or worse, the cronies of some politician, like here in Chicago.

    And building schools and roads and funding police and the military aren’t really redistribution of wealth. I think you’re misusing the term. There is redistribution for sure, but please use your terms with integrity.

  30. And Mark, we only tend to whine when our money gets wasted. Roads, defense and tax breaks for those who pay through the nose in taxes hardly qualify as “lapping it up”.

    I don’t know about you, but I work very hard for the money I earn – and give to the government. I’m good when that translates into things that are good for all of us – roads, schools, etc. What I have a problem with is when the money goes to keep babies on the teet or in some politician’s pocket. Or worse, the cronies of some politician, like here in Chicago.

    And building schools and roads and funding police and the military aren’t really redistribution of wealth. I think you’re misusing the term. There is redistribution for sure, but please use your terms with integrity.

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