Rush Limbaugh used comments President Obama made about the government's role in creating a society where everyone has equal opportunity to succeed as vindication for expressing his hope that Obama would fail.
On Tuesday, a YouTube video surfaced of Obama asserting in 1998 that "I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot." Obama was talking about the role of government in providing services, but he was also criticizing ineffective forms of government. Later in the clip Obama says, "[W]e do have to be innovative in thinking, what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live?"
Limbaugh today seized on the president's comments to defend his own comments from January 2009 in which he expressed his hope that Obama would fail. In those remarks, Limbaugh said, "Look, what he's talking about is the absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, to the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don't want this to work."
On today's program, Limbaugh said that Republicans "didn't need" the tape of Obama's comments, because conservatives already "know liberals," including their belief in redistributing wealth to those who "got screwed by the people who do have everything." But, he added, "I like having it, who knows, it might persuade people who are just now starting to wake up and understand this stuff." Limbaugh then pointed to Obama's remarks as an example of "why on January 16th, 2009," he said that he "hope[s] Obama fails":
There is nothing controversial about Obama's comments, despite what Limbaugh and other conservative media claim. Even Romney said yesterday that he believes in "government caring for those in need." As The Washington Post's Greg Sargent explained:
Maybe someone can explain how we can pay for "government caring for those in need" without "taking from some to give to others." How do you pay for a safety net without redistribution? (Behind closed doors, of course, Romney is far harsher about "those in need.")
Here is the full 1998 Obama quote that Romney and Republicans are casting as pro "redistribution":
"The trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution. Because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody's got a shot."
In other words, this is not meaningfully different from what Obama has said thousands of times: He favors taxpayer funded government spending to create opportunity, via investment in education and so forth. And just because he used the word "redistribution" in the process, Romney and Republicans are painting it as radical and a "foreign concept."
Moreover, in an interview with NBC's David Gregory last week, Romney said that he wants to eliminate tax deductions and loopholes currently enjoyed by "high income taxpayers," so that their tax burden remains the same while the tax burden on "middle income people" is reduced. As we put it earlier today, "[t]hat is wealth redistribution, plain and simple." Romney said as much in that same interview when he claimed that his plan maintains the "progressivity" of the tax code.