Monday, November 03, 2008

Article(s) Of The Week

Amid all the accusations about patriotism and associations, ultimately the primary theme (as far as there is one) of the McCain-Palin campaign has been the charge of "socialism," though it appears from their comments that neither Repub candidate knows what is. I wanted to note, therefore, two pieces, the first by Hendrik Hertzberger of The New Yorker, the second on 11/1 by Jacob Weisberg of Slate.

Hertzberger reminds us that Sarah Palin, governor of the Socialist Republic of Alaska, has told The New Yorker "we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” Conveniently, we can view the "Image: United States Income Distribution 1967-2003.svg" form, which enables residents of Alaska- even those who have paid no taxes- to get a nice fat check from their government, an approach toward income redistribution and fairness excoriated by that same Sarah Palin on the campaign trail.

Wisberg links to Wikipedia's "Image: United States Income Distribution 1967-2003.svg.," including both a graph and a chart. We learn for instance, that from 1967 to 2003 the median household income of the 95th percentile of the American population jumped from $88,678 to $154,120 while in the same period the median income of the 50th percentile increased only from $33328 to $43318.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.

Both writers note, of course, that government policies are invariably redistributive. Renowned law professor Cass Sunstein points out

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.
(And the EITC has been a favorite of several Republicans, including Ronald W. Reagan, about whom conservatives have asked "What Would Reagan Do?")

I don't know if the widening gulf between the wealthy and other Americans would narrow in the administration of a Barack Obama, who has run a risk-averse campaign geared to assuring Americans that he is not what they fear in a black man. However, given the extreme rhetoric and proposals of the McCain-Palin team, in which the presidential nominee has taken to referring (ludicrously, if not pithily) to "Barack the Redistributionist," we must conclude that a McCain administration would take us in the wrong direction.

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