Just when we thought the socialism accusations against the Obama administration were subsiding, the president himself reignited the debate. Speaking in Illinois about his vision to reform Wall Street excess, Obama put forth: “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money. But part of the American way is you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or … service.”
The tone of the “enough money” comment is interesting because it reflects a core liberal belief: Affluence should be controlled by the federal government primarily through high taxation of the wealthy. Certainly, Barack Obama has embraced that philosophy. He freely admits he supports the redistribution of income in America — that is, taking assets from the rich and recycling them to the not-so-rich through entitlements, such as subsidized health care.
Conservative capitalists, of course, fume at intrusions upon income and profits. They want the free marketplace to roar, believing wealth and prosperity will “trickle down” to regular folks. Former President Ronald Reagan was the poster guy for that theory.
President Obama is a moderately wealthy man, thanks to his penning two best-selling books. Last year, the Obamas reported $5.5 million in income on their tax returns. The president and first lady donated $329,100 to charity, not including the $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize award that Mr. Obama says will be split among a variety of charities.
The Obamas also have a nice house in Chicago, and the president has a bunch of nifty suits and ties he did not get in a shopping mall. There is no question that Mr. Obama has profited handsomely from the free marketplace, and one wonders whether he himself has reached that certain point where he’s made enough money. Somehow I doubt it. After the president leaves the White House, it would not be at all surprising to see him make millions on the lecture circuit, just as Bill Clinton has done.
But the question of making “enough money” is an interesting one, especially if, like me, you are a follower of Jesus. According to Scripture, he had little use for unrestrained capitalism, as demonstrated by his thrashing of the merchants inside the Temple. Somehow I can’t envision Jesus strolling around with a wad of cash in his robe. It is true, however, that when you can multiply loaves and fishes on demand, you don’t really need big money, but you get my point.
Greed is one of the seven deadly sins. And Obama is correct when he tries to constrain financial institutions from hurting the country in pursuit of dubious profits.
But the president is wrong to make judgments about how much is too much if legal tender is obtained legally. In America, all wage earners must render to Caesar. After that, our money is a personal, not a governmental, matter.