Tuesday, October 21, 2008


His rival, Barack Obama, is determined to engage in the sort of redistribution of wealth that has long been the hallmark of the radical Left. As the senator from Illinois famously told an Everyman questioner named Sam Wurzelbacher - who will forever be known as “Joe the Plumber”: “I think that when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

The days following the third Obama-McCain debate have been filled with invective, much of it aimed at obscuring the extent to which Mr. Obama actually embraces a redistributionist agenda. Democratic partisans have emphasized their man’s proposal to give tax cuts for 95 percent, insisting that only the rich earning more than $250,000 would be soaked. Republicans have retorted that 40 percent of Americans pay no taxes, so they would actually be getting tax credits - significantly increasing the wealth dispersed at the government’s discretion. Along the way, Joe the Plumber became political road-kill, his professional, political and tax status the object of withering scrutiny and criticism.

As it happens, Mr. Obama has exhibited a commitment to “spreading the wealth around” that extends far beyond his ominously socialistic Robin Hood agenda for this country. Late last year, he introduced the Global Poverty Act (S.2433).

The stated purposes of this legislation purport to be as modest as they are seemingly laudable. Who can object to the goal of dramatically reducing hunger and privation that afflicts hundreds of millions around the world? And who could find fault with congressional direction that the president come up with a strategy to advance this goal?

Unfortunately, the apparently innocuous language of S.2433 belies a larger and troubling purpose, one that augurs ill for those of us who still think of ourselves as American citizens - rather than as, in Mr. Obama’s words, “citizens of the world.” It would explicitly make it the policy of the United States “to promote the reduction of global poverty, the elimination of extreme global poverty, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people, between 1990 and 2015, who live on less than $1 per day.”

The operative phrase in this problematic policy directive is “the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal.” In fact, the bill would require that the mandated presidential strategy coordinate “the goal of poverty reduction with the other internationally recognized Millennium Development Goals.” (Emphasis added.)

The Obama bill makes clear, in turn, that the latter are the objectives laid out by the United Nations General Assembly in its 2000 “Millennium Declaration” resolution. As the legislation goes on to note, these goals include (but are not limited to): “eradicating extreme hunger, promoting gender equality, empowering women,” combating communicable diseases, “ensuring environmental sustainability,” affording access to clean water and sanitation and “achieving significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.”

Accuracy in Media’s Cliff Kincaid reminds us that, to advance these ambitious goals, the Millennium Declaration would require the United States to apply “0.7 percent of gross national product (GNP) as official development assistance.”

In other words, for each year between 2002 and 2015, the United States would have to cough up roughly $65 billion over-and-above its current foreign aid distributions. This amounts to a staggering commitment of at least $845 billion - all to be given to the notoriously incompetent and corrupt United Nations to manage.

Voters need to establish whether, as it appears, Mr. Obama has, in fact, no problem with either the magnitude of this redistribution of wealth or with the idea of having international bureaucrats dole it out. We also must know whether he agrees with the United Nations functionary who is the driving force behind its Millennium Project, Harvard Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who insists that a new “global tax” on carbon emissions is required to underwrite his agenda for spreading the wealth around.

Just as wealth creation domestically has proven to be more conducive to national prosperity than wealth redistribution, it would be far better to find ways to grow the global “pie,” rather than have national or international officials apportion it to their liking. One of the most promising ways to do the latter is to adopt another piece of bipartisan legislation: the Open Fuels Standards Act.

This legislation (H.R. 6559 in the House and S.3303 in the Senate) - which neither Sens. Obama nor McCain have as yet co-sponsored - would require most new cars in the United States to be capable of running on ethanol or methanol, as well as gasoline. Inevitably, this Open Fuel Standard would become the international one. The result would be to enable some 100 countries around the globe to begin growing their own fuel, rather than continuing to impoverish their peoples by having to buy oil at exorbitant prices from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Rewarding America’s Joe the Plumbers for their enterprise, rather than penalizing them, is the right answer for this country and its economy. Similarly, we are far more likely to see the wealth earned pursuant to the Open Fuel Standard truly alleviate world poverty than by having politicians or officials impose global taxes - and spread around the resulting revenues, at huge expense to U.S. taxpayers and their sovereignty and interests.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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