Just being unfair
By Joseph Randolph
Candidate Joe Biden in the campaign of 2008 was asked in an interview if his political leanings differed substantially from the socialist maxim of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." I remember Biden's uncomfortable body language and then his words: he first managed a look of shock and dismay before moving on to ask if the question was intended as a "joke." Despite the negative reply and the annoyance with which he greeted this inquiry, he nevertheless made no answer to the question, instead groping by silence for hopeful distance from anything smacking of socialism. There followed a bit of campaign unease for a few days after the exchange, because the implication had hardly been destroyed with his mere but essential silence.
Now, however, the issue has been resurrected, and Biden seems just short of shouting from the rooftops what he once kept quiet in his basic political philosophy. I remember surmising that if candidates Obama and Biden were elected, not only would an answer to the question issue in time, but one could predict it as an inevitable move from defense and silence to offense and a speech. It came this past week. Asked about the healthcare bill as a form of income redistribution, Biden said, without a gaffe: "It's a simple proposition to us: everyone is entitled to adequate medical health care. If you call that a 'redistribution of income' — well, so be it. I don't call it that. I call it just being fair — giving the middle class taxpayers an even break that the wealthy have been getting."
So Biden's retort in 2008—or lack thereof—was fashioned to throw off the hunting dogs; but when he and the President are put in charge of the dogs they give an entirely different kind of answer—and one that can be defended by them as a required point of being "fair." Now Biden can go on some real offense and perhaps make his own inquiry among opponents about what is wrong with the maxim. Instead of nervously dancing around the charge of association, as did candidate Biden, he now defends the need for more government meeting more needs. This transition occurred because he moved from campaign to office, or as the President so adroitly but not infrequently says, "We won."
This administration, however, is still content to have socialism only in the flesh; fights about the correctness of the word for their politics or even the wording of "fair" scarcely matter to them. For such ideologues, it is sufficient to have the reality, which stands as the essential matter instead of the superfluous matter of the word. In fact, you probably prefer your opponents to spend their time arguing etymology, while you race down the track to a real victory. So, if the passed healthcare legislation be named income redistribution or tantamount to socialism, in the words of Biden: well, so be it.
Much more important is that the healthcare bill became reality. Meanwhile, for conservatives the social leveling of socialism is making America economically and in other ways flat by enforced equality from a skewed notion of fairness. As the healthcare bill makes all too plain, to rule by in effect subsidizing one group by disenfranchising another blatantly exposes the hard reality that forced equal is only achieved at the expense of freedom, and so too—with regrets to the Vice-President—fairness. So as to avoid saying as much, the campaign that brought the Obama administration to office has relied upon the tired rhetoric of liberal politicians for some years now, who announce themselves, as Al Gore did in an earlier campaign, as "for the people." The opponent is left stuck with the presumed minority: the "powerful."
The majority of American voters voted the way they did after being prepared over the past decades with the tempting vendetta of angry liberal politicians poised to make all the disparities of the country equal among citizens. The Vice-President, therefore, had little hesitation with admitting to taking from one citizen to give to another citizen, because the transaction is simply carried out to make things equal and "fair." The meaning of that word warrants at least as much attention as the word socialism, on which the latter is purported to be built.
Joseph Randolph is an academic and writer living in Wisconsin. His 2010 book Debilitating Democracy: Power From The People, is available from Wasteland Press and Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble. His email address is email@example.com.