Say it with me.
HOO BOY, am I am sick of people calling the GOP’s garbage response to Obamacare a healthcare bill. It is not, not, a health care bill. It is a bill that gives money to the wealthy (tax break) by taking money from the poor (Medicaid).
But wait, wasn’t the ACA just a perverse, un-American orgy of wealth redistribution in the first place? To many Americans, the word “redistribution” is only slightly better than “sodomy.” And it basically is sodomy, right? Just mounting the wallets of successful, wealthy people. Profoundly violating the pocketbooks of rich people because they succeeded at money. Unfair!
Except for one thing: literally all of government is redistribution. At root, every speck of every goddamned little nook and cranny of government runs on redistribution. That’s why it works. “The redistribution of power and money” as close to a working definition of “government” as you can have.
Who hates redistribution the most? Let’s call it Rand Paul, for fun. Even Rand Paul’s loveless, bloodless vision of government is this: we all agree to give up a pool of rights in exchange for overall safety — none of us can murder, and so nobody gets murdered without punishment. Good deal. Except some people benefit more from this law than others — children, the ill, the elderly. They just get more out of it than other people do. None of us gets jealous of them. That’s just how it fucking works. Some people just get to enjoy the fruits of some laws more than others. Redistribution.
Furthermore: a road is redistribution. My tax dollars pay for this road, and because of those taxes I’ve paid, I can’t afford as many cases of Châteauneuf du Pape as I could before. Instead I get this nice road. But so does that guy over there, who isn’t nearly as rich and so contributed way, way less to this road than I did. And you know who also can use this road? That homeless man slumped over on the curb. He didn’t pay any taxes at all, on account of his having no place to live, and so he contributed zero to this road, and look at him, horizontally taking up five times as much space as me as he tries to get some sleep. Fuck that guy, man. Right? No, of course not. Redistribution.
Street lights are redistribution. The post office is redistribution. Public schools are redistribution. The DMV is redistribution. National parks are redistribution. Local parks are redistribution. Firefighters are redistribution. We all get equal water no matter how much or how little we pay! It’s not good; it’s basically the best thing we’ve ever done, at least as good as all the cool technology out there.
The best thing about redistribution is that it benefits the successful people more than the unsuccessful. It’s what poor Elizabeth Warren has been getting hoarse about all these years. If you succeed in this country, you did not do it alone. The sweet new app you made, that’s all you. Good job. But your employees skateboard to work on our roads. And the people who buy your app can afford whatever device your app runs on, and care enough to buy it, because they are not laboring seven days a week in a factory, or on a farm, for less than minimum wage.
The fact that your app can be given four stars in the first place sits on top of the most precarious lattice of consumers with jobs, and time, and comfort, and physical and mental safety — all of these of these delicate fruits that we’ve forgotten do not just fall from trees. In fact, those of us lucky to have them got them from people who clawed themselves up that fucking tree for the past 100 years to get them.
And that historical unicorn that is our middle class is, unquestionably, because redistribution. Fifty percent Americans’ ingenuity and awesomeness (Chevrolet! Television!) and 50 percent redistribution (The GI Bill!). Don’t believe me? Launch your late-night food delivery app in Aleppo. See what kind of market penetration you have, without a) safe b) roads for c) people to d) drive their e) cars on.
So let’s do it, patriots: Let’s get proud about redistribution. Let’s get PROUD ABOUT REDISTRIBUTION. Let’s talk about redistribution for what it is — a commitment not to a stranger, but to that guy next to you who also is holding an oar, also rowing with you in this boat called USA. “We’re in this boat together” is an apt metaphor here, because it means we are all rowing the best we can, and if one person on a boat sinks, we are all sinking.
If you look at your boat mate and think, huh, that guy is sinking, what that means is that you are also fucking sinking. Democracy.
That’s what makes redistribution seem not awful, but human. Not socialist, but self-evident. When the people we’re talking about are seen as what they actually are: members of your national household. Their fates are your fate. Not in a metaphorical way, but a literal way. They’re not strangers, they are sitting with you at dinner, all giving the most that they can.
Let’s show those garbage people on Capitol Hill how it is we do in America. Let’s bring the dinner table to them. At our dinner table we say, hey buddy, everybody gets a drumstick if they want one. We don’t rejoice in hoarding all the drumsticks, thinking, YES, I did such a good job making these drumsticks, they are all mine, fuck you and your crutch, Tiny Tim.
Making the best meal in the world matters not at all if you don’t have anyone to share it with at the table. No one wants to eat alone. When you longboard to your great job and believe the man on the curb is none of your business, you are eating alone. When you say it makes economic sense to wrench the healthcare from our most vulnerable, you are eating alone.
That’s redistribution at its most self-evident. Even if you didn’t make dinner tonight, even if you paid less for the grocery bill, you still get a drumstick. You don’t have to eat scraps under the table like a dog. This is America. No one goes hungry here.