When I wrote last week that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both believe in using the government to redistribute income—just like every president going back at least as far as Franklin Roosevelt—some readers were incredulous. Romney, after all, is going around saying that Obama believes in economic redistribution while he, Romney, believes in economic growth.
But this weekend’s 60 Minutes interview with Romney (there was also one with Obama) proved Romney to be a redistributionist when he talked about Medicare. Interestingly, he did not begin with his plan to voucherize Medicare. Rather, he began by talking about means-testing the program. “What I do in my Medicare plan for younger people coming along is say this,” Romney said. “We’re going to have higher benefits for low income people and lower benefits for high income people. We’re going to make it more means tested. I think if we do that, we’ll make sure to preserve Medicare into the indefinite future.”
I don’t disagree with this approach to curbing Medicare expenditures, but then I wouldn’t. I’m a redistributionist. And what Romney describes is a redistributionist scheme. Elsewhere in the interview Romney says, “I want to keep the current progressivity in the code. There should be no tax reduction for high income people.” Now, Romney’s tax plan, if enacted, would actually reduce taxes on high incomes much more than on lower incomes. But let’s set reality aside and take him at his word that he wants the tax code to remain progressive to the same degree, which means that higher-income people continue to pay a larger percentage of their income in taxes than lower-income people. That wouldn’t necessarily make for redistributive government if taxpayers then received government benefits in proportion to their contribution. But at least when it comes to Medicare, that’s not what Romney says he wants. He wants to take a disproportionate share from “high income people” and then spend those revenues disproportionately on “low-income people.” Indeed, he wants to skew the distribution more toward low-income people than occurs today, by reducing benefits to high-income people. Ergo, he wants to increase government redistribution beyond what’s already occurring under the crypto-Bolshie administration of President Obama. (And once again, for the record: I’m all for that. I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama were, too.)
So please, Gov. Romney, let’s hear no more of this crap about how you don’t believe in redistribution. You just got done talking about how you’d increase it.