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'Redistribution': Ominous or old hat?

By Bill Adair
Published on Friday, September 21st, 2012 at 9:31 a.m.

It's the Joe the Plumber moment of the 2012 campaign.

Mitt Romney has been trumpeting a 14-year-old video of President Barack Obama appearing to advocate -- egads! -- redistribution of wealth.

Just as Republicans did in 2008, Romney makes it sound like Obama is supporting a dramatic new policy with socialist undertones. But as our two fact-checks today show, redistribution of wealth has been a fundamental concept in the U.S. tax system for 100 years.

Yes, Obama supports redistribution of wealth. He has supported the progressive tax system and even said he wants to increase taxes on the wealthy.

And yes, Romney supports redistribution of wealth, too. He, has emphasized his support for Medicare, a program that redistributes wealth from workers to senior citizens through payroll taxes that pay for health care benefits, and he has said he that to repeal tax loopholes, he would target the wealthy: "I can tell you that people at the high end, high income taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions," he said on Meet the Press.

The back and forth this week is reminiscent of the 2008 exchange between Obama and Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, in which Obama said he wanted a system that would "spread the wealth around."

Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said the exchange showed that Obama would "experiment with socialism," a claim we rated Pants on Fire.

Today, we're giving Romney a Mostly True for his claim about Obama supporting redistribution and awarding Romney a Pants on Fire for his claim that redistribution "has never been a characteristic of America."

It has -- for at least a century.

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Sources:

See individual fact-checks for complete sources.

Researchers: Bill Adair, Louis Jacobson, Eric Stirgus

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