Monday, October 20, 2008

Obama, Harry Reid, and Joe the Plumber

What exactly does Barack really believe? Why won't he practice what he preaches?

All of us have seen the video clips of Obama's interaction with Joe the Plumber. It was an edited clip. When Obama responded to his question about raising his taxes, this is the part that circulates in the film clips:

It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance at success, too. . . . And I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody.

If you want the greater context, rather than just the edited soundbite, you can find the transcript of the entire exchange here.

Yesterday, in The Caucus which is a blog connected to the New York Times, Kate Phillips related that the Obama campaign had raised a record $150 million dollars in September, shattering their record fund-raising in August. Much of that has been raised on the internet among young people, a demographic the Obama campaign has sought out frequently (based on the number of visits to our home and phone calls asking for our daughter who is teaching school in Mexico).

What does this have to do with Harry Reid or Joe the Plumber? Well, you see, in September, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asked for Obama to "spread the wealth around", in order to help maintain and hopefully grow the majority in the senate, by giving aid to Democrats running in tight races. Even though Obama had $77 million sitting in the bank, he turned Harry Reid down. Mr. Obama, do you really believe that it is good for everybody when you spread the wealth around?

People on the right have made a big deal out of Obama's slip-up, about spreading the wealth around. It sounds like a socialist idea to me: "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." [Karl Marx, Critique of the Gatha Programme, (though not original with him)].

I am not really afraid of a socialist president. During the last years of the Pinochet regime in Chile, I grew increasingly tired of the right-wing dictator. Ask my kids if that is true. We lived on a steady diet of "Cooperativa" on the car radio. (Radio Cooperativa was perhaps the most anti-Pinochet radio station available, and my constant source of information for what was truly happening.) Pinochet's official party line in the free elections held in 1989 promised chaos if his official candidate were not elected. The opposition party won that election, and 3 more since then, and the Chilean economy has pretty much stayed the same course. The first two presidents in the post-Pinochet era were centrists, who were elected with the aid of the left. The last two presidents (including current President, Michelle Bachelet) are openly socialist in their outlook. They have not been able to implement their socialist agenda, because of the balance of power that exists. If Obama is elected, should he really want to implement a socialist agenda, he will likely fail.

My spiritual brothers who locate themselves further to my left are drawn to passages like Acts 2:44-45, and Acts 4:32-35. Yes, we read of such a utopian scheme on the pages of the New Testament! Such a utopian society, however, can only exist on this side of our ultimate redemption, within the context of a community of faith. It is a pipedream to think about implementing something like that within a political nation, particularly one as large and as diverse as ours, without coercion. Am I in favor of social justice? Yes, I am. Am I against the abusive oppression of the poor by the rich? Yes, I am. Historically, it is the church that has taken the lead in such works of social justice. We (the church) abdicated our responsibility in that social arena, preferring that the government take over. I am pleased to be a part of a congregation of faith that gets involved with people on the underside of society. The neighborhood around 14th Street and Pearl is called God's Resort, and the love of Jesus Christ has made a difference there.

I just am not convinced that those on the left really have an option that works. And I don't think that Obama can walk the walk as well as he talks the talk. If he could, he would have shared part of his wealth for some of his needy Democrats running for the U.S. Senate.

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