The Corner

Obama’s Fuller 1998 Remarks at Loyola

Dems and the press are focusing attention on a fuller version of Obama’s remarks at Loyola University in 1998. After his now-widely-quoted endorsement of redistribution, Obama continues: “How do we pool resources at the same time as we decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities.”

Democrats are crowing that this somehow proves that Obama is not a redistributionist. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you want to know what Obama was referring to, the example that Obama himself cites here is instructive. He refers to the use of tax credits in public-housing policy in Chicago as an example of successful redistribution via markets. This is exactly the policy Obama was pushing through the Illinois legislature at the time, and the results are not pretty.

A widely ignored but devastating 2008 investigative report by the Boston Globe on Obama’s housing work in Illinois tells the story of his disastrous policies. His housing program was built on his close ties to Antoin “Tony” Rezko, and other favored figures, including Valerie Jarrett. Obama liked to portray his redistributive housing policies as all about “competition, the marketplace, innovation, and policies tailored to particular communities.” In fact, these policies were all about social welfare, funded and managed by political cronies.

The Globe story is frightening enough, but today’s investigative piece at the Washington Examiner breaks new ground on what we learned from the Globe in 2008. What we’re really looking at here is a clever way of funding social-welfare programs via breaks for favored business partners, who in turn become permanent campaign contributors to the politicians who vote for the programs. This is less about free-market competition — although that’s the happy face Obama sought to put on it — than about Obama-style crony capitalism.#more#

As I explained earlier, the leftist New Party, which Obama joined not long before his Loyola remarks, favored a kind of institutionalized crony capitalism as a strategy for socializing the economy by degrees. Obama’s support for this faux public–private partnership in housing policy was also part of his broader support for the regionalist movement. Regionalists seek to break up “concentrated poverty,” and this is why Obama brought in Rezko to manage mixed-income housing projects, in preference to large public-housing units.

Although the thrust of the regionalist philosophy Obama embraced is overwhelmingly redistributionist, regionalists typically do try to force their housing strategies onto private developers, as in “inclusionary zoning,” a favorite regionalist gambit.

So when you go back and look at the regionalist policies in housing, education, and other areas that Obama was supporting and enacting at the time of his 1998 Loyola remarks, it’s entirely fair to conclude that he was redistributionist in a profound sense. The newly revealed continuation of Obama’s Loyola remarks does nothing to contradict that. If anything, the new passages only make the real meaning of Obama’s redistributive regionalism more clear.

The other line of attack against the Romney campaign’s use of Obama’s 1998 remarks on redistribution is that everybody favors redistribution to some degree, and that in any case we already know that Obama favors redistribution. What very few understand, however, is that Obama was and remains a member-in-good-standing of the regional-equity movement. This means that Obama favors a form of redistribution that is far more extreme than most Americans would approve of. If the redistributionist policies favored by Obama and his regionalist allies were fully enacted, it truly would transform America beyond all recognition. So the fuller transcript and deeper meaning of Obama’s Loyola remarks only reinforces the Romney campaign’s point. But to see this, you need to understand the regionalist policies that were guiding Obama in 1998, and that continue to guide him today.

I understand that people want a clear and simple “money quote” from Obama on tape that either proves or disproves what they’re looking for, and not a complicated explanation. Well, when you look at the fuller context and meaning of Obama’s remarks at Loyola, it does in fact confirm that he is a redistributionist in a way that puts him far to the left of the American public. In the end, then, the quick and simple take on Obama’s Loyola remarks is exactly right, and the Romney campaign’s use of them is fair.

Stanley Kurtz — Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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