2008 October 27 Monday
Barack Obama Wanted Wealth Redistribution In 2001

Barack Obama wants major wealth redistribution in American society. He doesn't see the Warren Court as radical because it didn't redistribute wealth. Here he is in a radio interview in 2001.

He takes the need for wealth redistribution as a given. The question in his mind is how to do it.

Barack Obama will get sworn into office in late January 2009.

Update: Steve Sailer analyzes Obama's 2001 interview and gets to the heart of the matter: Obama knows he needs to redistribute to more than just blacks in order to create coalitions big enough to do the redistribution. But that means the amount of money that gets redistributed gets way way larger. Hide your wallet.

In summary, a close reading of “Dreams from My Father” shows that achieving political power to bring about redistribution of wealth from whites to blacks was the main goal of Obama’s life up at least through the book’s writing in 1995.

This interview extends that up through 2001, the year after his soul-crushing defeat in the 2000 Democrat primary for House, where he was rejected by black voters for not being black enough.

Keep in mind that Obama has never been all that big on just cutting checks for poor people. He much prefers to spend money through his political base, social service workers, letting them keep much of the increased spending.

This explains, by the way, why Obama never bothered to publish any legal scholarship, even though he had the same post at the U. of Chicago Law School, “Senior Lecturer,” as Richard Posner. He didn’t see the point: litigation just wasn’t going to be as effective at getting “redistributive change” as would be “coalitions of power.”

As a practical matter, however, he understands that to take money from whites and give it to blacks, which is what he cares about, his dreams from his father, he’ll need to assemble broad “coalitions of power.” He can’t just hand out money on a blacks-only basis. He’s got to cut all sorts of people in on the deal.

We are going to see some serious class warfare. What form might that class warfare take? How about an attack on 401k retirement plans? James Pethokoukis, money and politics blogger for U.S. News & World Report, reports on Congressional Democrats who would like to end 401k plans and replace them with government savings accounts.

I hate to use the "S" word, but the American government would never do something as, well, socialist as seize private pension funds, right? This is exactly what cash-strapped Argentina just did in the name of protecting workers' retirement accounts (Efharisto, Fausta's Blog). Now, even Uncle Sam isn't that stupid, but some Democrats might try something almost as loopy: kill 401(k) plans.

House Democrats recently invited Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor at the New School of Social Research, to testify before a subcommittee on her idea to eliminate the preferential tax treatment of the popular retirement plans. In place of 401(k) plans, she would have workers transfer their dough into government-created "guaranteed retirement accounts" for every worker. The government would deposit $600 (inflation indexed) every year into the GRAs. Each worker would also have to save 5 percent of pay into the accounts, to which the government would pay a measly 3 percent return. Rep. Jim McDermott, a Democrat from Washington and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, said that since "the savings rate isn't going up for the investment of $80 billion [in 401(k) tax breaks], we have to start to think about whether or not we want to continue to invest that $80 billion for a policy that's not generating what we now say it should."

Pethokoukis points out that forcing people out of their 401(k) plans at the bottom of the market would be pretty stupid. The bottom is when to buy, not when to sell. But that's not the worst of it. Forcing people to deposit their money with the government will just make it easier for the government to run big deficits.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 October 27 07:36 PM  Politics Redistribution

Thai said at October 27, 2008 10:05 PM:

I offer you an interesting read. I am not sure if you are familiar with the computer model Sugarscape, first developed by Joshua Epstein and Robert Axtrell at the Brookings institutions in 1995? If you are not, the model is incredibly interesting for the following reason- it was the first model to spontaneously produce a wealth distribution that exactly corresponded to the Pareto distributions we know today. And what was most interesting about it was that no matter how hard Epstein and Axtrell tried, they could not change the underlying Pareto distribution. Try as they wanted, tax any 'agent' in the model they wanted to tax, still the underlying Pareto distribution ALWAYS remained constant.

Obama can try to redistribute all he wants, I tend to agree with Sugar scape- the underlying structure of society is immutable. On this issue I think you are looking at it all wrong. I am surprised you do not see this. Tax the rich on 99% of their income and the underlying structure still remains constant.

Dragon Horse said at October 28, 2008 5:29 AM:

That's not the entire tape and he did not say the word wealth.

The real deal is this:

"In that interview, Obama was discussing efforts, in the 1960s and 1970s, to redistribute resources through the federal courts. Obama said that the Warren Court was not so terribly radical, because it "never entered into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society." He complained, not that the Court refused to enter into those issues, but that "the civil-rights movement became so court-focussed,"

In answering a caller's question, he said that the court "is just not very good at" redistribution. Obama added, with approval, that the Constitution "is generally a charter of negative liberties."

Obama's principal claim--about the institutional limits of the courts--was made by many conservatives (including Robert Bork) in the 1960s and 1970s: Courts should not attempt to guarantee "positive" rights, or interpret the Constitution to redistribute wealth. Obama is squarely rejecting the claim that was made by many liberal lawyers, professors, and judges at the time--and that is being made by some today.

Apparently, though, some people are thinking that Obama is displaying his commitment to redistribution, at least in principle. We have to make some distinctions here. The word "redistribution" is easily politicized, but, in terms of actual policy, it seems to include the Social Security Act (which redistributes wealth), the Americans with Disabilities Act (which also redistributes), educational reform that would improve schools in poor areas, Head Start programs, statutes allowing parental leave, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the progressive income tax, and much more. Almost all candidates for public office (including Senator McCain) favor significant forms of redistribution. With his court-skeptical statements in 2001, Obama was referring to the sorts of claims being made in courts in the relevant period, for which the word "redistribution" has often been used. (Those claims involved denials of education and medical care, and discrimination in welfare programs.)"


Try reading both sides of a story before you start the fearmongering and McCain talking point promotions.

In any case...what do you call it when my income (which is probably 3X as much as a low class white man in Alabama) is taxed at a higher rate and goes to some Pork project to build a bridge in some rural Alabama county? People who fearmonger about socialism, especially these lower class "low information" voters live a life that is subsidized by the "elites" who cause them to have an inferiority complex. If we made states "pay as you go" or communities, you would quickly see a large swath of America would be a third world nation. I live in Northern VA...I will be fine in my wealthy multicultural elitiest enclave. How about where you live?

Bled Whyte said at October 28, 2008 6:46 AM:

At least somebody gets a bridge. With money being uh, redistributed to blacks we get...

HellKaiserRyo said at October 28, 2008 7:41 AM:

Randall, I presume you support Republicans in the House and Senate to still make filibusters possible.

Why not support McCain too (assuming that is feeble)?

I still support Obama, but as a liberal myself I do have some qualms about a filibuster-proof House and Senate.

JOE THE PLUMBER said at October 28, 2008 9:39 AM:

Beijing, China
Unassociated Fictional Press

The Government of The Peoples Republic of China has unanimously
endorsed McCain/Palin for President of the United States.

"They are our kind of leaders!" says a Government spokesperson.
"They understand that business and the government should be in control,
not the silly workers, or 'people' as they sometimes call themselves.
Also, we understand the Republic concept. It is Democracy we find

A leading General, who wished to remain anonymous, had this to say
about President McCain: "We planted many post-hypnotic suggestions
in our former P.O.W.'s mind and we are beside ourselves with
anticipation at having the opportunity to trigger them and have control
of the white house without even having to wage a war..."

"And if that fails," a second anonymous official pipes in "it's not like
George W. Bush did not already sell it to us anyway."

P.S. We sure hope that Sarah Palin and her corrupt comrade Ted Stevens dream of
a free Alaska comes true someday so we can do serious business.

Ned said at October 28, 2008 9:53 AM:

Here's what Obama really said (courtesy of Steve Sailer):

"I mean if you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy and the court I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples so that I would not have the right to vote would now be able to sit at lunch counter and as long as I could pay for it would be ok. But the supreme court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of basic issues of political and economic justice in this society and to that extent as radical as people try 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 has been interpreted and the warren court interpreted it generally in the same way that the constitution is a document of negative liberties-- says what the states can't do to you, says what the federal gov't can't do to you but it doesn't say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf, and that hasn't shifted; and I think one of the tragedies of the civil rights movement was that the civil rights movement became so court-focused, I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and organizing activities on the ground that are able to bring about the coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change and in some ways we still suffer from that." ...

Many government programs are redistributive. Social Security and Medicare take money from the young and give it to the old. This is regarded as OK - the young taxpayers will be old one day and then get their share. Medicaid takes from people who earn enough to pay taxes (principally income taxes - a shrinking part of the population) and pays for health care for the poor. Same for the VA. Public education is also redistributive - the affluent pay a lot more in taxes, but all have equal access to the same public education (not that this is any great bargain - in many cases, poor kids, lacking any choice, are stuck in rotten public schools while the rich kids go to private academies, but that's another story). The progressive income is a major engine of redistribution (and was advocated by Karl Marx).

But Obama seems to be the first major candidate who favors redistribution for redistrubition's sake. He doesn't want to take from the rich and give to the poor to address some specific social need - education, health care, nutrition, etc. - he seems to want to do it because he thinks it's the right thing to do. This is dangerous stuff that will lead to economic disaster. It was a major attempt at redistributive economics that got us into our current mess - Democrats (Dodd, Frank, Schumer) and Republicans (Bush and Rove) pressured lending institutions to lower credit standards so as to enable many minority buyers (black and Hispanic) to purchase houses with no down payment. Inevitably, many white buyers joined in. The result was not good, to say the least. Redistribution sedns a not-so-subtle message to poor people that they don't need to work hard or improve themselves in order to do better - the government will give it all to them anyway. And redistribution encourages the rich not to work so hard - the government will take most of it away anyway. The glowing economic victories of socialism owe much to redistributionism.

Sgt. Joe Friday said at October 28, 2008 10:27 AM:

"I still support Obama, but as a liberal myself I do have some qualms about a filibuster-proof House and Senate."

Well, HKR, we're about to find out, aren't we? Am interested why you might feel this way, though. Could it be that you don't trust those in charge of the Democratic party not to get carried away?

Prediction: Obama is going to be a one-term president. The reason so many big name Democrats lined up behind him so early isn't because they thought Sen. Clinton was unelectable, it's because they saw Obama as a cipher, an empty suit, a puppet that they could control. He will have two huge problems on his hands - first, expectations have inflated (and he has allowed this, for reasons that puzzle me) to the point that anything short of being the second coming of Christ is going to be seen as failure, which his surrogates will naturally blame on "racism." Second, with one party rule, it's going to be all gas pedal, and no brakes, and Obama will be powerless to stop bad legislation, even if he realizes that it might cost him re-election. What's he gonna do, veto legislation that gets sent up by his own party?

Gov't Mule said at October 28, 2008 11:19 AM:

Dragon Horse, as usual, your overly long post ignores the important stuff. Nobody cares where you live or what you make or if some rednecks in 'Bama get a new bridge.

"How about an attack on 401k retirement plans? James Pethokoukis, money and politics blogger for U.S. News & World Report, reports on Congressional Democrats who would like to end 401k plans and replace them with government savings accounts."

Has Obama denounced this insane plan? If so, I haven't heard.

Winston Smith said at October 28, 2008 3:05 PM:

"If we made states "pay as you go" or communities, you would quickly see a large swath of America would be a third world nation. I live in Northern VA...I will be fine in my wealthy multicultural elitiest enclave. How about where you live?"

You would not be fine at all. As Thomas Hobbes said, "And when all the world is overcharged with inhabitants, then the last remedy of all is war, which provideth for every man, by victory or death." Those low class whites will not live in 3rd world conditions while you have wealth. And your multicultural elitiest enclave will not be able to do anything to stop them.

Stephen said at October 28, 2008 7:21 PM:

I just listened to the linked audio (the first time I've heard anything more than a sound bite). He does appear to be impressively capable of holding and expressing considered and nuanced thoughts. Most ununual for a product of the US political system.

Randall Parker said at October 28, 2008 7:41 PM:


Nuanced? I hear him dancing very carefully to maintain plausible deniability.

Look, if he was opposed to redistribution he could have just said so. But he's not. He likes it. He obviously wants more of it.

Dragon Horse,

Redistribution where I live: Without it the Mexicans would be poorer (as would many apparatchiks in local, state, and federal government) and I'd be richer.

Obama doesn't talk about wider coalitions for redistribution just to talk hypotheticals out of theoretical curiosity. He likes redistribution and wants to see more of it. If he really opposed more redistribution he'd qualify that theorizing and point out why he doesn't want to see more of it.

Your fellow Obama supporters can spin this all you like. But your man is a man of the Left and he's a man who wants to get more for his race. That means taking more from me. Well, I'm opposed.

Randall Parker said at October 28, 2008 7:47 PM:


McCain: I do not want more military action abroad. He's at least as bad as Obama on immigration too.

But on the other hand Obama appointing half the Supreme Court means that the lefties can expand the power of government to tell me what to do and what not to say. I do not think an Obama court would overturn the resuscitation of the "Fairness Doctrine" which has the aim to silence some of the right-wing talk radio hosts. The illiberalism of the liberals is very troubling.

This is a pathetic election. No matter who wins we lose.

BTW, some of the Google ads I'm seeing at the moment show the line:
"Dealing with Narcissism Narcissistic Rage Barack Obama Full Name AM IA Narcissist"

Is this some sort of Freudian game?

Randall Parker said at October 28, 2008 7:53 PM:

Dragon Horse,

Read what Obama said:

"and I think one of the tragedies of the civil rights movement was that the civil rights movement became so court-focused, I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and organizing activities on the ground that are able to bring about the coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change and in some ways we still suffer from that.

He thinks it is a tragedy that the civil rights movement didn't succeed in bringing about more redistributive change. How can this be a tragedy in his mind unless he thinks more redistributive change is a good thing?

How do you propose to spin this?

Bob Badour said at October 28, 2008 7:55 PM:
No matter who wins we lose.

Hear! Hear! I have been saying that for months. The US lost the election when McCain won the nomination.

Stephen said at October 28, 2008 10:29 PM:

Randall said: Nuanced? I hear him dancing very carefully to maintain plausible deniability.

Is that plausible deniability part of his plan beginning in 2001 (or earlier?) for a black man named Obama Hussein to peacefully build a massive grass roots campaign involving tens of thousands of activists, funded by hundreds of millions of dollars in small donations from millions of citizens, to then secure the democratic nomination from Hilliary Clinton, to next run an election campaign for President, then win the election while at the same time getting a majority of fellow traveler senators and congressmen who will automatically approve of every step he takes to turn the US into a Communist dictatorship? Frankly, if he is capable of developing and successfully implementing such a long term plan then I am doubly certain that the US is going to be in good hands for the next eight years.

More seriously, having spent too many hours of my life in lectures, I recognised his tone during the radio panel discussion to be that of someone in academic-lecturing-mode rather than first-against-the-wall-when-the-revolution-comes mode.

AMac said at October 29, 2008 4:32 PM:


> Is that plausible deniability part of his plan [snip-snip-snip] to turn the US into a Communist dictatorship?

What's Communism here, except a rhetorical device that Leftists use to mock those unsophisticated and easily-frightened moderates and wingnuts? Nothing in this post about workers' control of the means of production or dictatorship of the proletariat. What Randall noted is that Obama likes the idea of a lot more redistribution of wealth, from prosperous whites to poor blacks, with room for plenty of others at the buffet.

It's not that complicated. If you understand but disagree, why not try making a logical, fact-based argument?

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