When Barack Obama responded to the Ohio plumber who didn’t want his taxes raised that he wanted to “spread the wealth around,” I wanted to tell him to spread his own wealth around. It was in any event a rare moment of candor on the part of candidate Obama.
Obama all but told the plumber that his wealth should be seized in the name of equity. The encounter played out one of the old themes of democratic politics: the appeal to the many to take from the few. It’s traditionally an easy sell in small-d democratic politics.
Obama’s “spread the wealth around” gospel has many intellectual and political forerunners. In American politics, Obama’s gospel harks back to Huey Long, among others. In his regular Newsweek column George Will calls Obama an Ivy League Huey Long. He doesn’t mean it as a compliment and he doesn’t much pursue the analogy with Long.
Interested readers may want to take a look back at Long’s Share Our Wealth platform and related Share Our Wealth Society clubs. “By the summer of 1935,” according to the linked page on Long’s program, “there were more than 27,000 Share Our Wealth clubs with a membership of more than 7.5 million. Loyal followers met every week to discuss Long’s ideas and spread the message.”
Now, of course, Barack Obama has Organizing for America to do the legwork and the mainstream media to spread his message.
Toward the end of his column Will makes good use of Steven Hayward and Kenneth Green’s essay on the cap-and-tax bill. AEI has posted the Hayward-Green essay online under the title Waxman-Markey: An Exercise in Unreality. Please check it out.
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