New York Times reporter turned editorial writer David Firestone showed extreme sensitivity to the tender feelings of Democrats in his Wednesday afternoon post, "The ‘Redistribution’ of Wealth." In an editorial Sunday he dubiously claimed "Don't Tell Anyone, But the Stimulus Worked."
Guided by pollsters like Frank Luntz, the Republican party upgraded all rich people into “job creators,” and tarnished the estate tax by calling it the “death tax.” Its candidates prefer “energy exploration” to oil drilling, and insist on the “religious freedom” of church groups to deny freedom of reproductive choice to their employees. Carefully choosing words to disguise or express contempt is so vital to the party’s strategy that Republicans won’t even properly use the name of the Democratic Party, cutting off the final “ic.”
So it was probably inevitable that in a moment of political panic, Mitt Romney’s campaign would seize upon the loaded word “redistribution” to paint President Obama’s advocacy of long-accepted government policy as Marxist. Brandishing a 1998 tape of Mr. Obama saying he believed in “redistribution, at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody has a shot” the campaign gleefully tried to suggest the president favored a radical seizure of wealth.
Firestone defended high taxes in the name of redistribution:
Unmentioned is the entirely obvious fact that the government has long redistributed wealth, and that the country expects it to do so. That’s the point of a progressive income tax, which has been in effect for nearly a century. Government takes money from those who have it and uses it for the common good, whether that involves building roads or submarines, or handing some of it over to those who are desperate. In that sense, even a flat tax would redistribute wealth somewhat, although far less efficiently. Social Security and Medicare, though considered “insurance” programs, actually take money from one generation and hand it to another.
Similarly, Firestone undertook a brave defense of Obama's stimulus package in a Sunday editorial, "Don't Tell Anyone, But the Stimulus Worked" (never mind that high unemployment rate):
The reputation of the stimulus is meticulously restored from shabby to skillful in Michael Grunwald’s important new book, “The New New Deal.” His findings will come as a jolt to those who think the law “failed,” the typical Republican assessment, or was too small and sloppy to have any effect.
On the most basic level, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is responsible for saving and creating 2.5 million jobs. The majority of economists agree that it helped the economy grow by as much as 3.8 percent, and kept the unemployment rate from reaching 12 percent.
The stimulus is the reason, in fact, that most Americans are better off than they were four years ago, when the economy was in serious danger of shutting down.
But the stimulus did far more than stimulate: it protected the most vulnerable from the recession’s heavy winds. Of the act’s $840 billion final cost, $1.5 billion went to rent subsidies and emergency housing that kept 1.2 million people under roofs. (That’s why the recession didn’t produce rampant homelessness.) It increased spending on food stamps, unemployment benefits and Medicaid, keeping at least seven million Americans from falling below the poverty line.
Americans don’t know most of this, and not just because Mitt Romney and his party denigrate the law as a boondoggle every five minutes. Democrats, so battered by the transformation of “stimulus” into a synonym for waste and fraud (of which there was little), have stopped using the word. Only four speakers at the Democratic convention even mentioned the recovery act, none using the word stimulus.
And you would know about it too, if not for those dastardly Republicans:
Republicans learned a lesson from the stimulus that Democrats didn’t expect: unwavering opposition, distortion, deceit and ridicule actually work, especially when the opposition doesn’t put up a fight. The lesson for Democrats seems equally clear: when government actually works, let the world know about it.