Today at Swampland Michael Scherer, in his capacity as an Obama spin doctor, pushes back against the McCain campaign’s charge that Obama’s supports wealth redistribution.

Well, not so much pushes back as accuses McCain of wanting the same thing.

Either way, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.Scherer’s evidence for his accusation is McCain’s opposition to the implementation of the Bush tax cuts and McCain’s position that a “disproportional amount went to the wealthiest Americans.”

“Ah ha!” screams Scherer. “McCain does not oppose a progressive tax after all. What a hypocrite!”

The problem with this attempt at a ‘gotcha!’ is that McCain never opposes a progressive tax. (A progressive tax system, for those who do not know, is a tax system that taxes higher brackets at a higher rate than lower brackets.)

The disagreement between McCain and Obama is not whether or not the tax code should be progressive. The disagreement is over whether taxes should be raised on one group of people in order to send welfare checks to another.

What Scherer misses here is that one can favor a progressive tax system for motives other than the redistribution of wealth. (It may surprise Scherer to learn that wealth redistribution is not the only conceivable goal of the government.) One can oppose wealth redistribution but still think that the wealthy should pay a greater per capita share of the cost of government services.

This is particularly true for small government conservatives. To this group government services are minimal and impossible confused with wealth redistribution.

For instance, does anyone believe that the fire department is a mode of wealth redistribution? Of course not. But that is the sort of thing that everyone agrees should be funded by the government. (I imagine even Penn and Teller would agree.)

Liberals like Scherer often make this mistake. They project their world view onto conservatives and then call them hypocrites for failing to live up to it. In this case Scherer assumes that conservatives buy the premise that the government’s purpose in taking wealth is to redistribute it.

We do not, so his entire argument is moot.


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