Mitt Romney, facing fallout from leaked videos showing him at a May fundraiser saying that 47 percent of Americans are "dependent on government" and view themselves as "victims," attacked President Barack Obama over a 1998 video pushed by the Drudge Report and purportedly showing him favoring "redistribution."
"He [Obama] really believes in what I’ll call a government-centered society. I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America," Romney said Wednesday at an Atlanta fundraiser. "There’s a tape that came out just a couple of days ago where the president said yes he believes in redistribution. I don’t. I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others but to create wealth for all."
Obama, in the 1998 clip, said "I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution -- because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody's got a shot." In the clip, he also concedes that neither the Chicago Housing Authority or the Chicago public schools had been good models of policymaking, agreeing in part with a conservative critique of the efficacy of government action which he opposed.
Romney linked the video to an earlier Obama quote on the importance of infrastructure investment, taken out of context by Republicans to paint the president as unfriendly to small business. “This idea of redistribution follows from the idea that if you have a business, you didn’t build it, someone else did that. It’s the same concept. That, see, government is responsible for everything that’s gone on here. And therefore government can take and give as it chooses. It’s an entirely foreign concept that will not work, that has not worked. That has never worked anywhere in the world. And what we have to do in America is not to make us more like Europe, but to make America more like America," he said to applause.
Obama, in fact, has praised the idea of redistribution in public, most infamously during the 2008 campaign when he told Samuel Wurzelbacher, otherwise known as "Joe The Plumber," that to "spread the wealth around" is good for everybody, arguing that an economy benefitting all is important to growth.
Most of American government, in fact, depends on "redistribution." Wealthy people are taxed generally at a higher rate than the poor, and programs like Medicare, Social Security and unemployment insurance redistribute earnings from those with jobs to guarantee a basic level of income and medical care for the aged.
Romney then proceeded to defend the essence of the remark in the leaked video that, for some, has called into question the viability of his candidacy. "This is how America works. It does not work by a government saying, become dependent on government. Become dependent upon redistribution. That will kill the American entrepreneurship that’s lifted our economy over the years," he said. "The question of this campaign is not who cares about the poor and the middle class? I do. He does. The question is who can help the poor and the middle class? I can! He can’t!"