Contextual Content

Why not spread the wealth?

Since Barack Obama told "Joe the plumber" that "when you spread the wealth around it’s good for everybody" the McCain Campaign is using it as another "Red" scare, But in these tough economic times the US public seem to prefer it to John McCain’s call for more capital gains tax cuts. The Real News Network spoke to Professor Michael Perelman and Journalist Randy Shaw.


Story Transcript

Why not spread the wealth?

Producer: Carlo Basilone

CARLO BASILONE, TRNN: By now, we all know that when Barack Obama was campaigning in Ohio last week, he met Joe Wurzelbacher, or Joe the Plumber.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don’t mind paying just a little bit more than the waitress who I just met over there, whose things were slow, and she can barely make her rent.

BASILONE: But the touchy part of the encounter seemed to come at the end.

OBAMA: I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know what Senator Obama ended up in his conversation with Joe the Plumber? We need to spread the wealth around. In other words, we’re going to take Joe’s money, give it to Senator Obama, and let him spread the wealth around. I want Joe the Plumber to spread that wealth around. You told him you wanted to spread the wealth around. The whole premise behind Senator Obama’s plans are class warfare—let’s spread the wealth around.

BASILONE: It seems that in the United States even considering spreading or redistributing wealth is controversial.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Obama said that he wants to spread the wealth and he wants government to take your money and decide how to best redistribute it according to his priorities, and Joe suggested that that sounded a little bit like socialism.

PROF. MICHAEL PERELMAN, ECONOMICS, CSU-CHICO: McCain calls Obama’s plan class warfare, and I was hoping that Obama would have agreed, but instead he just let that pass. And I can’t imagine that class warfare would involve taking any money away from a plumber, unless in class warfare you’re talking about we need to take it away from a plumber and give it to Exxon.

MCCAIN: The last eight years haven’t worked very well, have they?

BASILONE: The McCain campaign’s newest TV ad, which came out the day after the debates, seized on this moment to try to discredit Obama.

MCCAIN: Telling us paying higher taxes is patriotic and saying we need to spread the wealth around.

BASILONE: But do people in the United States still look at this as a negative?

RANDY SHAW, EDITOR, BEYOND CHRON.ORG: Actually, right now, I think that overwhelmingly, I think, Americans do want to redistribute the wealth. But that’s what I say. But the irony of what’s occurred is we have, you know, Henry Paulson openly announcing that he’s, you know, partially nationalizing banks. We have US foreign policy in a position that Noam Chomsky would appreciate in terms of the decline of US hegemony around the globe. It’s quite an accomplishment that George W. Bush has pulled in terms of implementing some of the things that would never be politically possible. If Barack Obama talked about nationalizing banks, he would have been seen as not a viable candidate a year ago, right?

BASILONE: This week, the world’s stock markets did not improve, and the Dow Jones’ erratic ups and downs still saw it remain below its five-year low of 9,000 points. The McCain campaign, though, still advocates that the neoliberal free-market idea of tax cuts and reduced spending are the answers to economic woes.

MCCAIN: We need to cut the business tax rate in America. We need to cut people’s taxes.


MCCAIN: I will cut in half the capital gains tax on stocks purchased.

BASILONE: But many are saying that the time for tax cuts is over.

PERELMAN: McCain’s economics were pretty silly; that is, he was going to fix the economy by lowering capital gains, because he says the US has the highest tax rates in the world. Of course, any corporation with a good accountant can get out of most of their taxes. Apparently McCain doesn’t know where the Grand Cayman Islands are located.

BASILONE: Economist and author Jeffrey Sachs explained the position on CNN last week.

JEFFREY SACHS, EARTH INSTITUTE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: I do think the era of big tax cuts, whether for stimulus or other things, are over. We’re going to have to grow up and understand that we need taxes to pay for basic government services. We’ve been neglecting that for a long time. We’re going to have to come back to reality. We’ve been in fiscal unreality even before the crisis. Now the crisis is going to make all of this more dramatic. The scope for big tax-cutting, the McCain ideas, are absolutely surrealistic; they are completely outside of anything sensible. And rich people are going to have to pay taxes again. That’s just going to be part of America once again.

SHAW: During the very first debate, which occurred right after the first sense that we were in a deep financial crisis, John McCain’s main economic program was cutting spending. And I remember thinking at the time, if you’re sitting at home and watching this debate, why would you vote for someone who says, "I’m not going to spend on your health care, education, jobs, or anything. I’m going to cut spending"? What are you offering people? It used to be the two chickens in every pot. This is a guy who’s saying, "I’m not going to give you any chickens. I’m actually going to cut the chickens that are currently being given you." And tonight the same thing. Cutting spending is not what people want. The only constituency for that are Republican millionaires.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.