Obama on redistributing the wealth

This is the sixth in a series of posts which discuss the relationship between Barack Obama, Bill Ayers, and our national economy.To read the first entry, click here.

This entry has only one piece of evidence: The transcript of Obama’s comments on a public radio station, made on January 18, 2001.

The subject of the program was “The Court and Civil Rights”. Audio of the entire program can be found here. Audio of the section of interest can be found here.

Here is a transcript of Obama’s comments regarding distribution of wealth. I have used bold font for emphasis.



Good morning and welcome to Odyssey on WBEZ Chicago, 91.5 FM, and we are joined by ….. and Barack Obama, who is Illinois State Senator from the 13th District and a senior lecturer at the law school at the University of Chicago……..



“…you know, if you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the courts. I think where it succeeded was to vest formal rights in previously dispossessed people. So that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at a lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be okay.

But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth. And served more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And, to that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it has been interpreted.

And the Warren Court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties—it says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think there was the tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. And in some ways we still suffer from that.



Let’s talk with Karen. Good morning, Karen you are on Chicago Public Radio.


Hi. The gentlemen made the point that the Warren Court wasn’t terribly radical. My question is with economic changes. My question is it too late for that kind of reparative work economically and is that the appropriate place for reparative economic work to take place?


You mean the court?


Courts, or would it be legislation at this point?


You know maybe I’m showing my bias here as a legislator as well as a law professor, but, I am not optimistic about, major redistributive change through the courts. The institution just isn’t structured that way.

You can just look at some very rare examples of desegregation era where the court willing, for example, order changes that would cost money to local school district. And the court was very uncomfortable with it, it was hard to manage, it was hard to figure out. You start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues in terms of the court monitoring or engaging in a process that essentially is administrative and takes a lot of time. The court is just not very good at it and politically it is just very hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regards. So I think that although you can craft theoretical justifications for it legally and I think you can, any three of us sitting here could come up with a rationale for bringing about economic change through the courts.


Note: I have not been able to connect to the WBEZ website to hear the entire program. The clip which has been posted to the Internet has gaps in it, as noted above. My impression of Obama’s statements may be modified somewhat after listening to them in context. Nevertheless, there is enough context and continuity to be certain of Obama’s meaning with regard to distribution of wealth and the Constitution.


For Obama, the redistribution of wealth is a necessary consequence of “more basic issues of political and economic justice”. In other words, there can be no economic justice without redistribution of wealth. It is a tragedy that the civil rights movement, which sought justice, was not able to bring about redistributive change.

Actually, the civil rights movement did trigger a significant redistribution of wealth, in the Great Society programs of LBJ. Yet, it was not enough; the poor still suffer.

Note, too, that Obama believes that the Constitution should have specified what the government must do for us. He asserted in the second debate that health care is a right–something that the government must provide. There is no reason to believe that he does not also consider that the government is required to provide each of us with food, shelter and clothing. Indeed, one of the demands of socialism is full employment. That is, the government must provide each us with a job so that we may acquire the necessities of life.

Knowing Obama’s long history of socialist politics, it is difficult to interpret these statements as anything other than what they appear to be: a call for massive redistribution of wealth through socialization of the American economy.

Obama’s comments on the Consitution and the Supreme Court are, if possible, even more disturbing. Obama believes that the Consitution can legally be made to say anything, so long as a rationale can be crafted to justify the desired change. This view of the Consitution leaves open the possibility that any and all of our freedoms may be revoked by President Obama, should the need arise.

Is it conceivable that Obama would discover a need to curtail, for example, our freedom of speech? He has said that he does not support the Fairness Doctrine. Can we trust him to keep his word?

Before we answer that question, we need to consider the company that he has kept for the last 20 years. His friends and co-workers are committed communists. At least one of them, Bill Ayers, has gone so far as murder to bring about the “deeply humane” society.

Then again, why would we put ourselves in a position where our basic freedoms depend on any man’s word?