In an interview with Ezra Klein of Vox, President Obama said traditional market forces that used to redistribute income are failing and the time for government to do it instead has arrived.
The interview, which ran today, was conducted January 23.
Touting what he referred to as inclusive capitalism, Obama made the case for what actually sounds a lot like socialism.
So part of our job is, what can government do directly through tax policy? What we’ve proposed, for example, in terms of capital gains — that would make a big difference in our capacity to give a tax break to a working mom for child care. And that’s smart policy . . .
We also still have to focus on the front end. Which is even before taxes are paid, are there ways that we can increase the bargaining power: making sure that an employee has some measurable increases in their incomes and their wealth and their security as a consequence of an economy that’s improving. And that’s where issues like labor laws make a difference. That’s where say in shareholder meetings and trying to change the culture in terms of compensation at the corporate level could make a difference. And there’s been some interesting conversations globally around issues like inclusive capitalism and how we can make it work for everybody.
Capitalism, Obama indicated, is no longer working to get enough money out of the hands of the rich and into the hands of workers:
I think that part of what’s changed is that a lot of that burden for making sure that the pie was broadly shared took place before government even got involved. If you had stronger unions, you had higher wages. If you had a corporate culture that felt a sense of place and commitment so that the CEO was in Pittsburgh or was in Detroit and felt obliged, partly because of social pressure but partly because they felt a real affinity toward the community, to re-invest in that community and to be seen as a good corporate citizen.
Today what you have is quarterly earning reports, compensation levels for CEOs that are tied directly to those quarterly earnings. You’ve got international capital that is demanding maximizing short-term profits. And so what happens is that a lot of the distributional questions that used to be handled in the marketplace through decent wages or health care or defined benefit pension plans — those things all are eliminated. And the average employee, the average worker, doesn’t feel any benefit.
Obama, singing from the traditional Leftist hymnal, said we must “make sure” that “folks at the very top are doing enough of their fair share.” He complained about the “winner-take-all aspect of this modern economy” and the need to be “investing enough in the common good.”
Because, you see, you didn’t build that. And you don’t own it either.