The Right-wing media and bloggers are high-fiving over Barack Obama’s “spread the wealth around” comment. “Did Barack ‘Spread the Wealth’ Obama Just Blow the Election?” says one. “Can you say Karl Marx?” says another. The GOP claims the phrase reveals Obama’s “socialist agenda.”
My favorite is “The Leftâ€™s Evolution into Totalitarians Completed.” See, the reason the Left is crucifying Joe the Plumber is to distract people from Obama’s “spread the wealth” remark.
During the debate every time McCain repeated the remark, with a “gotcha” smirk on his face, I think most viewers must have wondered what planet he was from. I realize just about any use of the word “wealth” by a liberal sets of alarm bells on the ideological Right. But most working people are getting tired of a system that keeps them shut out of “the wealth,” even though their labor is creating it.
Most of us are fine with capitalism as long as it is kept fair. And, frankly, a capitalist system in which wealth is “spread around” — where workers are paid well and can buy stuff, so that wealth is kept in broad circulation instead of being hoarded by a minority — is a healthy capitalist system that benefits everyone, including the very wealthy.
But the wages and standard of living of working people have been flat for some time. Indeed, most working class folks are worse off than they were eight years ago. And the rot has reached the middle class as well.
Yet, until very recently, we were assured America’s wealth is going up and up and up.
I don’t know if John McCain understands the unfairness that increasing numbers of Americans are feeling. If you think about it, aside from his POW experience (which I do not belittle) he has led a relatively sheltered life, and a life very far apart from most working and middle-class people. As far as I can tell he has no personal experience of how working people in America actually live. Possibly he has no clue how he is coming across when he makes fun of “spread the wealth around.”
John McCain often expresses admiration for Theodore Roosevelt. Like nearly all dead white guys, TR was a mixed bag. He had many of the standard white guy views of his time that are repugnant to us now — “white man’s burden” stuff. But he got one thing right — Americans need a square deal.
So what did TR say about spreading wealth around?
“The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows.”
“At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress.”
“The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise. We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity, when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows. … We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.”
“The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted.”
— Theordore Roosevelt, “The New Nationalism,” 1910
“Here in this city of the State of Lincoln I can set forth the principles for which we stand to-day in the words which Lincoln used fifty-four years ago, when in speaking of the then phase of the eternal struggles between privilege and justice, between the rights of the many and the special interest of the few, he said:
“That is the real issue. That is the issue which will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between two principles-right and wrong-throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time. The one is the common right of humanity, the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says: ‘You toil and work and earn bread, and I will eat it.’ No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who bestrides the people of his own nation and lives from the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.”
“Were Lincoln alive to-day he would add that it is also the same principle which is now at stake when we fight on behalf of the many against the oppressor in modern industry whether the abuse of special privilege be by a man whose wealth is great or is little, whether by the multimillionaire owner of railways and mines and factories who forgets his duties to those who earn his bread while earning their own, or by the owner of the foul little sweat-shop who coins dollars from the excessive and underpaid labor of haggard women. We who stand for the cause of progress are fighting to make this country a better place to live in for those who have been harshly treated by fate; and if we succeed it will also really be a better place for those who are already well off. None of us can really prosper permanently if masses of our fellows are debased and degraded, if they are ground down and forced to live starved and sordid lives, so that their souls are crippled like their bodies and the fine edge of their every feeling blunted. We ask that those of our people to whom fate has been kind shall remember that each is his brother’s keeper, and that all of us whose veins thrill with abounding vigor shall feel our obligation to the less fortunate who work wearily beside us in the strain and stress of our eager modern life.”
— Theodore Roosevelt, “The Case Against the Reactionaries,” 1912
Interesting guy, TR.