Trying to right his listing presidential campaign, Romney and pals now have glommed on to a 14-year-old video by then Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama, from which they could extract the words, "I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody's got a shot."
Romney insists that he opposes "redistribution," which he defines as government taking from some to give to others. At a public appearance on Wednesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett chimed in: "We have to start reducing the dependency on the government because we have become, or we're close to becoming, a totally dependent mentality."
Consider the "redistribution" scheme of the EITC, first enacted in 1975 with bipartisan support. A tax credit for people who work at low wage jobs, it is "refundable" - that is, not only do its recipients not pay federal income taxes but they get back more money than was withheld from their paychecks. The EITC currently lifts an estimated 6.3 million families above the poverty line. It and the Child Tax Credit have proven to be stepping-stones from welfare to work and from lower-wage jobs to higher. Research shows that the tax credits have resulted in higher test scores for children, more college attendance and reduced teen birth rates, among other factors that contribute to better lives.
Yet think of it: Millions of Americans get such low wages that, without this extra boost, working full time would not be enough to support their families. In the past 30 years, the bottom 90 percent of Americans have seen their wages go up 15 percent, while the top one percent has seen their incomes grow 10 to 20 times that, says Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz.
At the conventions of both political parties, a parade of speakers touted their parents' or grandparents' humble beginnings and suggested that all it takes is hard work to become a success - that, in America, anybody can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. It just isn't true. The United States has a lower rate of "social mobility" than most European nations.
Without some form of "redistribution" like these and other programs, how can people hope to climb to even the second or third rungs of the economic ladder, let alone get to the top?