Questions Over Obama's Off-the-Cuff Remark

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," October 14, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: Well, Barack Obama says he wants to, quote, "spread the wealth" and he explained his tax plan to a plumber in Ohio after the man said he's a bit worried that he was going to be taxed more for, quote, "fulfilling the American Dream," in his words.

Take a listen to part of this exchange.


JOE WURZELBACHER, PLUMBER: Your new tax plan is going tax me more, isn't it?

OBAMA: It's not that I want to punish your success; I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you that they've got a chance to success, too. I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody.


MACCALLUM: All right. He said, "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody." So, what would the implications be of this proposed plan?

Here now is Brian Wesbury, chief economist for First Trust Advisors.

Brian, welcome. Always good to see you.


Video: Watch Martha's interview with Brian Wesbury

MACCALLUM: So, you know, I have heard a number of people, some small business owners out there saying that that phrase, you know, "to spread the wealth around".


MACCALLUM: . makes them a little bit nervous when it comes to higher taxes for them.

WESBURY: Yes, well, one of the interesting things as I think about that interchange is that this is a plumber. This isn't a Wall Street executive or some high-flying millionaire. This is a plumber. And Barack Obama kind of said to him, "I want to spread your wealth around."

You know, this redistribution as kind of policy is the sort of the history of the world, if you will. We have, on the one side, the wealth creation idea, and on the other side, the redistribution of that wealth. And we've always butted heads over the years. And sometimes, one wins; sometimes, the other wins.

But when we redistribute, typically, the economy grows more slowly. So, there's a really cost to that kind of ideology.

MACCALLUM: All right. Brian, just moments ago, Neil Cavuto talked to Joe, his first name and I didn't catch his last name, I apologize for that.


MACCALLUM: But he spoke with him just a few moments ago. Let's listen to what Joe had to say when he was asked: Did he win you over -- did Barack Obama win you over when you met him?


WURZELBACHER (through phone): No, not at all. His answer actually scared me even more. He said he wants to distribute wealth.

And I mean, I'm not trying to make statements here, but, I mean, that's kind of a socialist viewpoint. You know, I work for that. You know, it's my discretion who I want to give my money to, it's not the government decide that I make a little too much and so I need to share it with other people. I just -- that's not the American Dream.


MACCALLUM: All right. It's Joe Wurzelbacher. I just want to get in there.

You know.


MACCALLUM: . that's not the American Dream, he said. And, you know, this really gets.


MACCALLUM: . to the heart of the debate that we're having right now in this country.


MACCALLUM: You know, the economy is in very tough shape, and some people believe, as Barack Obama does that that, you know, sort of giving a little bit from the rich to the poor will help to even things out and will make everybody better off, but Joe disagrees with that.

You know, what do you think people need to understand about that debate right now, given what we're facing, Brian?

WESBURY: Right. Well, this idea of redistribution, if you really look back, the last two times we have tried that in any significant way, one was in the 1970s, and the other was in the 1930s, the Great Depression and the stagflationary years of the 1970s. In between those two times was more when we were cutting tax rates and trying to build the wealth and the entrepreneurship in this country.

So, I think we have great examples of what that does. Also, if you look around the world, you can just look at Europe. Right now, the unemployment rate in Europe, on average is, about 7.5 percent. Even in the bad times we're having in the United States, it's 6 percent. And I think one of the reasons that he we have this disparity, why we've grown faster than Europe, is that they have higher taxes and they have more redistribution and that just hurts economies. That's the general drift of the redistributionist model.

MACCALLUM: And yet, Brian, this idea of, you know, sort of imposing more pain on people who have been the beneficiaries, as this the way it's put.


MACCALLUM: . of, you know, the boom that we've experienced. You know, the idea that those people do sort of need to be punished, need to be sort of put back, need to.


MACCALLUM: . you know, into a more realistic place, perhaps that, somehow, that that is going to help people on the lower end of the spectrum have a bitter life for themselves.


MACCALLUM: Comment on that for me.

WESBURY: Right. Yes. Well, I have never understood how taxing one set of people is going to make anyone else better off. The idea is that you give them more money.

But here's one of the interesting things is that Joe -- in this example, Joe is going to take more of the burden, because if we raise taxes on Wall Street, on private equity, on hedge funds, they're actually going to leave and go overseas. So, it's not even going to work. We will chase resources out of America.

MACCALLUM: Right. They have the option to do that, but, Joe, and that's the amazing thing about it.

WESBURY: . and that will hurt the economy even more. And Joe will even have to carry more of the burden than people imagine right now.

MACCALLUM: Yes. Joe said I think he said he's trying to buy the plumbing business that he works in and he said, you know.

WESBURY: And I've now.

MACCALLUM: . his home is worth $90,000 to $140,000.

WESBURY: I can't hear you, Martha.

MACCALLUM: Oh, I'm sorry. We're having a little audio problem with Brian. But, Brian, if can you hear me, we're going to leave it there. Thank you so much. It's always good to talk to you.

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