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Explaining Redistributive Economics

I have heard several people say they wonder if many of the young voters even understand what redistributive economics means considering the era they grew up in, and public education being what it is. For the past week I have heard dozens of ways to illustrate it to kids. There are probably quite a few adults that could benefit from thinking about Obama's economic philosophy in easy to understand terms. Here are a few of the ones I like best:

Beldar (posted at Townhall) explains redistribution using his daughter's grades.

Jim Treacher uses a "Li'l Obama" cartoon.

This one was posted at Sean Hannity's forum (Hat tip: Bill Faith ):

Barack Obama discovers a leak under his sink, so he calls Joe the Plumber to come and fix it. Joe drives to Obama's house, which is located in a very nice neighborhood and where it's clear that all the residents make more than $250,000 per year. Joe arrives and takes his tools into the house. Joe is led to the room that contains the leaky pipe under a sink. Joe assesses the problem and tells Obama, who is standing near the door, that it's an easy repair that will take less than 10 minutes. Obama asks Joe how much it will cost.

Joe immediately says, "$9,500."

"$9,500?" Obama asks, stunned. "But you said it's an easy repair!"

"Yes, but what I do is charge a lot more to my clients who make more than $250,000 per year so I can fix the plumbing of everybody who makes less than that for free," explains Joe. "It's always been my philosophy. As a matter of fact, I lobbied government to pass this philosophy as law, and it did pass earlier this year, so now all plumbers have to do business this way. It's known as 'Joe's Fair Plumbing Act of 2008.' Surprised you haven't heard of it, Senator."

In spite of that, Obama tells Joe there's no way he's paying that much for a small plumbing repair, so Joe leaves.

Obama spends the next hour flipping through the phone book looking for another plumber, but he finds that all other plumbing businesses listed have gone out of business. Not wanting to pay Joe's price, Obama does nothing. The leak under Obama's sink goes unrepaired for the next several days.

A week later the leak is so bad that Obama has had to put a bucket under the sink. The bucket fills up quickly and has to be emptied every hour, and there's a risk that the room will flood, so Obama calls Joe and pleads with him to return.

Joe goes back to Obama's house, looks at the leaky pipe, and says "Let's see ? this will cost you about $21,000."

"A few days ago you told me it would cost $9,500!" Obama quickly fires back.

Joe explains the reason for the dramatic increase. "Well, because of the 'Joe's Fair Plumbing Act,' a lot of rich people are learning how to fix their own plumbing, so there are fewer of you paying for all the free plumbing I'm doing for the people who make less than $250,000. As a result, the rate I have to charge my wealthy paying customers rises every day.

"Not only that, but for some reason the demand for plumbing work from the group of people who get it for free has skyrocketed, and there's a long waiting list of those who need repairs. This has put a lot of my fellow plumbers out of business, and they're not being replaced. Nobody is going into the plumbing business because they know they won't make any money. I'm hurting now too, all thanks to greedy rich people like you who won't pay their fair share."

Obama tries to straighten out the plumber: "Of course you're hurting, Joe! Don't you get it? If all the rich people learn how to fix their own plumbing and you refuse to charge the poorer people for your services, you'll be broke, and then what will you do?"

Joe immediately replies, "Run for president, apparently."

Bruce Kesler sent me one of the best illustrations -- a great cartoon that shows some of Obama's vast campaign haul being redistributed to John McCain. (Thanks for the link, Mr. Right!)

I've also heard a lot of Halloween candy redistribution stories this week. What is you favorite way to explain redistributive economics to your kids?


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Comments (14)

I heard someone mention a n... (Below threshold)

I heard someone mention a new business card that they were going to have printed for when they visited a restaurant. The card said something along the following..

Thank you! Your service was superb and the food was excellent. In the spirit of Sen. Obama's desire to "spread the wealth", I'll be giving your tip to a homeless person so that we're all better off.

Good stuff.... (Below threshold)

Good stuff.

Speaking of tips, lemme tell you a story.

I used to eat at a place called the Black Eyed Pea in Duncanville, Texas. This was one of the better family places to eat near several Black megachurches in Oak Cliff, a middle class bastion of the black population that had turned that way during the block busting efforts of the white real estate agents in the 60's and 70's.

Nobody was running me out of my house, so me and my family stayed along with a number of similar minded whites. But we were clearly the minority.

The Black Eyed Pea had a rule for the wait staff. Nobody wanted to work on Sunday. But you had to work on Sunday when it was your turn, or you would be fired.

The reason was simple. After Church, hordes of patrons would gather at the restaurant to eat. They would try to put as many people together as possible, up to fifteen at a set of tables.

And they were lousy tippers. For any number of meals, they would either tip nothing, or maybe three or four dollars. The theory was that the Churches had extracted all the available cash.

I had another theory.

After a time, and after an impossible to manage turnover of wait staff, the restaurant finally put in the rule that groups of 8 or more had a mandatory gratuity. That helped some and cut down on turnover.

Here is what I noticed; in every group of 6 or more and sometimes just with two or three people, at least one of the Blacks would send a meal back as not satisfactory. After talking to the wait staff in a friendly way, most of them allowed that it was just "Attitude."

Almost all of the meals were just fine.

This is when I decided that "Entitlement" was more than about money. And thanks to the evolution of radical teaching in our schools, especially in minority areas (Think Ayers), I have concluded it just comes with the territory now. Look at all the educators who have signed off on the Ayers petition for another example. College professors teach attitude that is then multiplied many times over through their students.

Again, entitlement is more than just about money.

redistribution for kids:</p... (Below threshold)

redistribution for kids:

Lets say you go out and trick or treat and get 100 pieces of candy. Currently you give 35 of them back to me.

Under the evil one, you would have to give 39 of them back to me.

The evil one is going to make me fat. Do you see how evil he is?

I got the following from my... (Below threshold)

I got the following from my dad...

Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read "Vote Obama, I need the money." I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on a "Obama 08" tie, again I laughed as he had given away his political preference-----just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the "Obama redistribution of wealth concept". He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need--the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $5 and told him to thank the server inside as I've decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn, even though the actual recipient deserved the money more, according to the Obama Concept.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.

Dustin May
Oxygen Rich Environment

Hi, Lorie!<a href=... (Below threshold)
That was supposed to be an ... (Below threshold)

That was supposed to be an embedded link, sorry, don't know what I did wrong.

It should have read:
"Here is a link to that cartoon you spoke of"


since I can't embed it, I'll just do it the old, clumsy way!

A vague parable is hardly t... (Below threshold)

A vague parable is hardly the clearest and most concise way to teach someone."Redistributive Economics" is a term I have never seen before but I think it can be closely paralleled to zero sum economics as you describe it. I'm lumping this in with all of the rest of the calls from the right concerning socialism. Of course egalitarianism in socialism is concerned more so with nationalization of the production means than it is taxation with representation. Which of course is something both sides have agreed on for some time now. Not to mention taxing larger earners more than lower earners has also been something both sides have agreed on for some time now. We aren't talking about two vastly different political philosophies in this election, we're talking about percentage points.

Furthermore one of the most laissez-faire presidents we have had since the days of Hoover was Ronald Reagan. He was the president that signed the earned income tax credit into law. Redistribution of wealth through the means of taxation isn't uniquely liberal in its philosophy or its execution. This argument is tiring and is unfortunately hurting republicans at a time when they are the most vulnerable. I understand the importance of rallying the base but it seems every card carrying supporter of the GOP that's given a soap box complains about something that is at its core the same philosophy just done differently. A far more effective approach would be to talk about what the actual differences are in much less sensationalizing language. It may not be as flashy but it is certainly much more honest.

Republicans are using the t... (Below threshold)

Republicans are using the terms "redistributive" and "spread the wealth" right now because those were Obama's choice of words. When those terms are used many think of Marxism and socialism. It is obvious that all our screwed up tax policy has a component of redistribution of wealth as do many other US economic policies. Republicans would like to minimize that component, while Obama said to spread the wealth around is good for everybody. Sorry, but that is not what most Republicans believe.

"I went outside, gave the h... (Below threshold)

"I went outside, gave the homeless guy $5 and told him to thank the server inside as I've decided he could use the money more."

To be more correct, the homeless guy's $5 should have been accompanied by a stern request that homeless guy vote for Democrats or there will be no more fivers coming. I've never once in my life heard a Democrat tell those that don't pay taxes that they should thank the rich, greedy, oppressive "winners in life's lottery" that pay for the services they get.

MC3S, What are you smoking?... (Below threshold)

MC3S, What are you smoking?

Hoover, the man who signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, canceled private oil leases on government lands, and then hiked up taxes when the economy was falling apart by signing the Revenue Act of 1932 was laissez-faire? please.

The EIC in it's original form was enacted to ease the burden of FICA withholding on lower income families it was later expanded into what it is now back in the 90's.

It is obvious that all o... (Below threshold)

It is obvious that all our screwed up tax policy has a component of redistribution of wealth as do many other US economic policies. Republicans would like to minimize that component, while Obama said to spread the wealth around is good for everybody. Sorry, but that is not what most Republicans believe.

McCain: Here's what I really believe. That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there's nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.


O'Reilly: You want to target the middle class people, and you're willing to live with the rich people paying the taxes here.
McCain: Sure, and I don't want to take any mon... in fact, the program that I have gives them a slight tax increase.

Fact: I pay for my own heal... (Below threshold)

Fact: I pay for my own health insurance.

Fact: I am taxed and some of that money is used to pay John McCain's health insurance.

I call that "Spreading the Wealth".

McCain may not recognize it as such, since it is flowing his way, but is a redistribution of my money in his favor.

As a gov. employee, Rance, ... (Below threshold)

As a gov. employee, Rance, McCain works for me (and you). Just like when I pay my electric bill, some of that money pays for employee pay and benefits.

Now, taking my money and giving it to, say you, is different. I know as a fact that I get know tangible benefit from you, but I can make the case for the govt. employees (even the ones that only vote "present").

SCSI,Difference is, ... (Below threshold)

Difference is, your employees don't get to decide how much you will pay them or how much you will spend on their benefits.






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