Parties Debate Meaning, Value Of 'Redistribution' Mitt Romney's campaign is calling President Obama a redistributionist as a way to change the "47 percent" discussion. But in fact, taking from some and giving to others is a concept long enshrined in the nation's tax code.
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Parties Debate Meaning, Value Of 'Redistribution'

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Parties Debate Meaning, Value Of 'Redistribution'

Parties Debate Meaning, Value Of 'Redistribution'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Mitt Romney's campaign is also still dealing with the aftermath of a video that has dominated the political news this week. The Republican is seen at a fundraiser saying that the nearly 47 percent of households that don't pay federal income taxes are dependent on the government. Well, now the Romney campaign is highlighting a different video.

It features President Obama, years ago. And as NPR's David Welna reports, Romney says it shows the president supports the redistribution of wealth.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Cuban-Americans know a thing or two about what can happen when a government seizes wealth and redistributes it, as Fidel Castro's regime did five decades ago in Cuba. So Mitt Romney had an especially receptive audience last night at a rally of Cuban-Americans in Miami when he launched his campaign's latest line of attack on President Obama.

MITT ROMNEY: He said some years ago something which we're hearing about today on the Internet. He said that he believes in redistribution, all right.


WELNA: Romney was referring to an ad posted online this week by the Republican National Committee. It contains a 14-year-old snippet of then-State Senator Barack Obama discussing city government and public policy at a university forum.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think 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.

WELNA: In the original recording, the president-to-be went on to stress the need to foster competition and innovation in the marketplace, but that was left out of the ad. Romney gave last night's crowd in Miami his own take on his rival's erstwhile remarks.

ROMNEY: There are people who believe that you can create a stronger economy and a brighter future if you take from some people and give to other people. Now, this - other places that have tried that haven't done so well. That is not a philosophy that's ever been tried here. We're not gonna have it here.

WELNA: In fact, taking from some and giving to others is a concept long enshrined in the nation's tax code. At a town hall last year, Romney himself rejected taxing everyone at the same flat rate.

ROMNEY: There are some tax proposals that are called a flat tax that I don't agree with because they have been huge breaks for the highest income Americans, of which I happen to have been one, still am. And I'm not looking for a tax break for me.

WELNA: Taxing wealthy people at a higher rate than others is what's known as progressive taxation. South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune is one of Romney's closest allies.

SENATOR JOHN THUNE: I think we've always had a progressive taxation system, and most tax reform proposals that I've seen, including those that have been put forward by Governor Romney, are progressive.

WELNA: Earlier this year, Romney laid out a tax plan he promised would benefit all equally.

ROMNEY: I'm gonna make an across the board 20 percent reduction in marginal individual income tax rates, 20 percent down across the board.

WELNA: But what Romney proposed, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, would cut average federal tax rates for the bottom 40 percent of income earners by about three percent, while those in the top 1/10 of 1 percent would have their rates cut nearly 22 percent.

ERIC TODER: You'd have to say it's regressive. It changes the - it helps the highest income people proportionately more.

WELNA: That's Eric Toder, co-director of the Tax Policy Center. Romney, he says, has promised to eliminate enough still-unspecified tax loopholes for the wealthy to make his tax plan equitable.

TODER: And based on what he's ruled out, we don't think he can do it. But nonetheless, that is what he's claiming.

WELNA: Democrats, meanwhile, are turning Romney's latest line of attack against him. Tom Harkin is a senator from Iowa.

SENATOR TOM HARKIN: The Romney-Ryan budget is a distributionist budget. It distributes wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. That's redistribution at its worst.

WELNA: Democrats also say Republicans back another form of redistribution. Of the top 10 states receiving more in federal funding than what they paid in federal taxes, nine went for the GOP nominee in the last presidential election. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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