Defending Obama, NYTimes' Richard Oppel Turns Tables on Romney, Laments 'Redistribution' to 'Very Rich'

The New York Times wasn't impressed with the Romney campaign's counterattack on Obama after the media-inflated "47% controversy," judging by the headline over Thursday's brief story by reporter Richard Oppel: "Seeking to Turn Topic To Evils of Redistribution." The online version of the story (excerpted below) includes four biased additional paragraphs at the end, but the headline at least left off the implied mockery of the Romney camp for guiding reporters to an old audio clip of Obama saying "I actually believe in redistribution."

After front-page coverage of the surreptitiously recorded (and possibly edited) clip of Romney talking about the 47% of Americans who don't pay income taxes, the Times was in no mood to provide Romney any counterplay. Oppel took pains to point out that the old Obama segment was "carefully clipped," implying it was misleading, before vigorously defending Obama and making liberal bleats about how America "has seen a significant redistribution of incomes over the past generation – from the poor and middle class to the rich, and especially to the very rich...."

Amid the fallout over Mitt Romney’s comments that 47 percent of Americans believed they were “victims” and are dependent upon government, the Republican Party is stepping up attacks that President Obama favors redistributing wealth, citing a 1998 audio clip of him saying, “I actually believe in redistribution.”

The Republican National Committee released a video Wednesday that plays a carefully clipped audio segment containing the remark. The Romney campaign also seized on the quote, with its campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, saying Mr. Romney “has a different idea” -- “to foster growth and create wealth, not redistribute wealth, if our economy is to grow the way it has in the past.”

Oppel defended Obama:

Part of the recording, though, might surprise critics who believe Mr. Obama has an unalloyed love of government largess: He also suggested in his comments that he agreed, at least to some degree, with attacks on “the possibility of government action and its efficacy.”

“I think some of it has been deserved,” Mr. Obama said, citing poor policymaking at the Chicago Housing Authority and Chicago public schools.

Instead Oppel interrogated the Romney camp.

But what still is unclear is precisely how the two candidates’ views on redistribution differ. Does Mr. Romney, for example, believe the current federal tax system is too redistributive? If yes, does that conflict with his assertion that his own tax proposal will retain the progressivity of the tax code?


What is paradoxical about the sudden focus on redistribution worries is it seems to ignore data that demonstrates that the nation has seen a significant redistribution of incomes over the past generation – from the poor and middle class to the rich, and especially to the very rich – all while government policies have also become less redistributive over the same period.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in 1979, for example, 7.4 percent of after-tax income flowed to the wealthiest one percent of the population, but by 2009 that figure had grown to 11.5 percent. (This rise came despite a stock market crash that decimated portfolios of the wealthy at the tail end of the period surveyed: In 2007, the richest one percent had received 16.7 percent of income.)

Oppel is a reliable defender of Obama from Republican attacks, suggesting it was a "falsehood" for former Republican candidate Rick Perry to call Obama an elitist.