The Spectacle Blog

Obama’s Redistributive History

By on 10.27.08 | 7:00PM

Chicago Public Radio seeking to clarify the comments Obama's made in the Youtube clip linked by Paul Chesser has posted the audio so they can be heard in context. You can click to their site here, or just click here for the relevant interview.

Having noticed that the sound seemed spliced in the Youtube clip, I listened to the whole interview. I wasn't surprised to see that Chicago Public Radio's Ben Calhoun had done a report on the clip:

The 4 minute spliced collection of clips portrays Obama as advocate a redistribution of wealth through the power of the Supreme Court. That folds in with some allegations by the McCain Palin campaign.

The twist here is that, when heard in the context of the whole show, Obama’s position is distinctly misrepresented by the You Tube posting. Taken in context, Obama is evaluating the historical successes and failures of the Civil Rights movement—and, ironically, he says the Supreme Court was a failure in cases that it took on a role of redistributing resources.

This is itself a misrepresentation, and a severe one. Obama does indeed thoughtfully describe the historical success and failures of the Civil Rights movement, but he most certainly does NOT repudiate redistribution. He only notes that redistribution was unwieldy to achieve in the courts and is a bad idea there because of structural problems (47:00). Aside from that he feels redistribution is fine.

He refers to the failure to achieve redistribution as a tragedy starting at 39:48 in this audio clip, and the relevant quote is at exactly 41:00:

... One of the tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court-focused i think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and the community-organizing the activities on the ground that were able to put together the coalitions of power through which you could actually achieve redistributive change, and I think in some ways we still suffer from that.

You can make the argument that the redistributive change he was addressing was for redistribution in the sense of redistributing money in schools for the purpose of equal education. But there's no doubt that Obama's not being entirely objective about this as Calhoun's report would suggest.

He even (around 49:00) makes an argument that what the court does deal with in terms of redistribution is actually important for the court to be involved in (such as medicare and abortion dollars). In other words, Obama thinks its important for the Supreme Court to take a strong role in determining the redistribution of these dollars.

I'm no legal expert, but this is all pretty clear.

Also, to relieve a pet peeve, Calhoun's report misuses the term "ironically." There's nothing ironic there.

Send to Kindle

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article