Friday, October 17, 2008

Spreading the Wealth?

Joe the Plumber's fifteen minutes has taken on the frenzy of a reality show crammed into two or three news cycles. But what are we to make of the underlying assertion that Barack Obama wants to take money from Joe and spread it around to the less deserving? As Joe Klein points out, it's an argument the Republicans have been using since time immemorial:
Again, these arguments have "worked" for a long time. The Democrats who got themselves elected President during most of my career were those most successful at playing defense: No, no, I'm not going to do any of those things! And so the first reaction of more than a few talking heads last night was that McCain had done better, maybe even won, because he had made those arguments more successfully than he had in the first two debates.
It's almost refreshing to hear this old stuff after weeks of crap about William Ayres and increasingly ugly shouts from GOP crowds. But will it work? Klein doesn't think McCain will get much traction from this line of attack:
He thought that merely invoking the magic words "spread the wealth" and "class warfare" he could neutralize Obama.
But those words and phrases seem anachronistic, almost vestigial now. Indeed, they have become every bit as toxic as Democratic social activist proposals--government-regulated and subsidized health care, for example--used to be. We have had 30 years of class warfare, in which the wealthy strip-mined the middle class. The wealth has been "spread" upward.
It's been a while since this argument has worked. Ronald Reagan was elected 28 years ago. Income tax rates were cut significantly in the 1980s and have never threatened to rise again to the levels seen in the bad old days.
Middle class incomes, which rose in the Clinton years, have declined since 2000. Instead of spreading wealth, we have seen it increasingly concentrated. With home values and retirement accounts dropping as well, it's hard to see voters switching back to McCain at this late stage in the campaign.
I do expect the polls to tighten a bit in the next two weeks for two reasons: First, there's the phenomenon of reversion to the mean, which put another way states that Obama's numbers can't go up indefinitely. Second, the McCain campaign can't get much worse, which means any plausible argument is likely to be an improvement over the chaos of recent weeks.
If McCain's number do improve, I expect that Republicans grasping at straws to exclaim that they have finally found a winning argument and bombard us with endless allusions to Joe between now and November 4.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Number One Reason America Wants Obama To Spread The Wealth.

So the wealthy cannot blow our nation's income by gambling on assets that derive their values from other assets....

2:14 PM, October 18, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Ayres thing has been overplayed. Bill Ayres is not himself a significant national figure.

The accusations against Obama do not address the issues of the moment, but they do speak to the more lasting issue of Presidential character.

3:11 PM, October 18, 2008  

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