After Victory, Liberals Want Income Redistribution

By York, Byron | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, November 27, 2012 | Go to article overview

After Victory, Liberals Want Income Redistribution


York, Byron, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


During the campaign it was commonplace to note that President Obama didn't have much of a second-term agenda. Beyond his desire to raise taxes on higher earners, most of the president's platform amounted to a promise to "not go back" -- that is, to protect the accomplishments of his first term.

But Obama's liberal supporters do have a second-term agenda, and it is a far-reaching one. That agenda, laid out a new article in the liberal magazine the American Prospect, is enough to set off alarm bells among conservatives in Washington and around the country.

In the piece, author Mike Konczal summarizes the work of some influential thinkers on the left who are asking the question: Now that Obama has been re-elected, and Obamacare is safe from Republican repeal, "what's next for the welfare state?"

They divide the answer into three parts. The first is further expansion of the social safety net. The second is an array of programs to act as a "springboard" for the poor. And the third is an "escalator" to address income inequality by giving progressively larger government grants to lower-income Americans.

On the safety net, the liberal plan begins with the premise that Obamacare isn't enough. "The program will still leave millions without health insurance," Konczal writes, "and it may fail, due to its complicated design, to contain costs."

Many Americans might say: Now they tell us. But the fact is, the passage of Obamacare did not mean the president's liberal supporters would give up on their dream of a federal single-payer health care system. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, called Obamacare a "starter home," and for liberals it is just a first step toward their goal.

The other goal for the safety net is to radically remake the retirement system. Social Security would remain in place, but progressives are frustrated that 401(k) plans are used mostly by higher-income workers. So they want the government, in Konzcal's words, to "provide a universal IRA with an automatic enrollment to all Americans, as well as shifting 401(k)s over to a public- private, defined-benefit plan." Such a scheme would not only involve massive new federal spending, but would also create a vast new pool of previously private money under the government's control.

That's the safety net. The liberal "springboard" includes programs like universal taxpayer-paid preschool and guaranteed paid leave for all new mothers and fathers, to "make sure each person has the most opportunity possible. …

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