Spreading the Wealth

Matt Yglesias links to this Gallup poll on “Spreading the Wealth.” As you can imagine, the concept has been, and remains today, a fairly popular notion:

Matt attributes the recent shift to McCain’s “‘educating’ Republican partisans that the pro-inequality view is the right one,” and surmises that McCain’s anti-socialist demagoguery is a net win for Obama because it raises an issue in which Democrats steal the show 58 – 37%. I’m not so sure — and the reflexive sphincter tightening any time I hear this phrase on the news suggests to me it’s not quite so cut and dry. From the same survey.

Now, the survey only lists party ID, not candidate preference (which would be far more illuminating), but this corroborates an implied assumption of the historical chart: for a majority of Americans to believe income distribution is unfair, at least some of these folks need to Republicans. Of those 30 percent of Republicans who would support more progressive income distribution, certainly some will vote for Obama (as it’s likely a number of racist Democrats will vote for McCain), but I really doubt that awareness of this issue will prompt a massive exodus from the Republican party.  Rather, as Dean Baker would argue, the socialism harangue is simply culture war rhetoric. My sense is that Obama’s tax plans were well clear enough, and the “spreading the wealth around” quote — however popular a sentiment it might represent — provides another way for McCain to rope in Racist Dems and Independents who might interpret McCain’s charges of “taxing some to give money to those who don’t pay tax at all” as some incarnation of reparations. All in all, I don’t think it will do much damage, but I think it’s tough to make the case it’s a net-win for Obama.


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