One of the stories du jour is the political headline of "Dueling videos", where both candidates, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, are making remarks that most commentators and observers are highlighting as "embarrassing", or "controversial".
Mr. Romney's video emerged first, from a campaign dinner four months ago, in which he's heard giving damaging comments about Palestine and their role in the peace-making process with Israel. Further, he goes on to talk about the "47% of Americans" who will automatically support Mr. Obama because their reliant on the welfare, social security, and disability paychecks that they receive each month and won't vote in any way that may jeopardize those checks. Mr. Romney continues, saying that this is negative redistribution of wealth and that it's a case of those not paying income taxes receiving the tax income from those who do pay income taxes.
Later, a video surfaced from Mr. Obama's state senator days where he's clearly heard supporting a "redistributing of wealth" in the state, and one would assume, the country. I haven't heard the whole video, so I can't give the context or further information, but I'm assuming it's a Robin-Hood style of redistribution of taxing those earning more to provide for those earning less.
I have a few thoughts about these two videos. For a more thorough analysis of Mr. Romney's video, @agnophilo has a pretty decent post. First, I don't think the impact on the Federal campaign will be that much. Those who agree or disagree with the sentiments expressed in the videos are likely to have already chose their candidates a while ago and are unlikely to change. However, I think that there are certain trends that are slightly worrisome, more-so in Mr. Romney's video than Mr. Obama's video. Mr. Romney's video does not help his campaign in trying to show that he understands and is sympathetic with the plight of the majority of Americans struggling in the current climate. It damages his credibility when it comes to wanting to help all Americans get back to work, get back to earning more, getting back to success. It disparages a great swathe of the population who are on government benefits through no fault of their own, or even because of their service to the country: disabled veterans, veterans who have left service, single mothers who need assistance to feed their children, and those who are fighting chronic medical conditions just to stay alive, let along trying to work to be productive members of society.
This leads to another aspect of the Mr. Romney's video - his point about income taxes. At first glance, it makes it seem that the 47% he's referring to don't pay taxes at all, which is patently false. Everyone who works pays payroll taxes - Medicare, Social Security, and such. These are automatically taken out of most paychecks, and there are few, if any, exceptions. Income taxes - taxes on the rest - are what is left, and what Mr. Romney is referring to when he speaks about "taxes". While it is true that most in the 47% pay little-to-no tax on their income, it is typically because they don't earn enough to be taxed, and a big reason why they're on government benefits to begin with! It's not that they won't pay taxes, it's because they can't pay taxes. To rub salt into these wounds, there are citizens - like Mr. Romney - who also pay little-to-no tax on their income since it's either considered "capital gains" or the money is in off-shore, tax-haven accounts found in places like the Cayman Islands or Switzerland. It is highly offensive to castigate this group for something they can't do just to try and survive when people like Mr. Romney avoid taxes because they can, even though they have more money than they know what to do with. Or more money than they need to run a Presidential campaign. Finally, in Mr. Romney's economic policies, he doesn't call for an end to the redistribution of wealth - just a different focus, where the money is accelerated up to the top, and away from those who actually need the assistance to get by in life.
I'm not saying that the welfare and social security system is perfect; it's blatantly obvious it's in need for reform, but not the type of reform that Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are advocating, which will only make the current situation far worse. It's clear that the bureaucracy must be reigned in, and that all efforts to combat fraud and abuse must be taken to ensure that the best use of the funds is applied as possible. Gutting the system for the benefit of those who don't need the help is not the way to improve the system or the lives of those on that assistance.
Moving on to Mr. Obama's video. While it is a direct and unflattering statement, the simple fact of the matter is that redistribution of wealth is occurring all the time at all levels across the world. From dictators in Asian countries to Parliamentary democracies in Europe to capitalistic republics in the Americas, wealth is transferred across boundaries all the time. I once heard it said that in all forms of human leadership and governments they have at their foundation a humanitarian goal of helping as many people as possible. It's only the methods and strategies that change. This naturally involves the use of money, which needs to be gathered from somewhere and applied somewhere else. Politics is the difference in opinion in which strategies should be applied for that, and who should get the most benefit. While some would use this to paint Mr. Obama as a communist socialist anti-Christ who is out to gut America and weaken it from the inside-out, I have a much more benign and measured opinion: Mr. Obama is trying his best, through his worldview, to help the majority of Americans who most need help: the same group that through no fault of their own require assistance; the same group that Mr. Romney castigates as free-loaders and lazy bums.
Now which video will be the most damaging? My opinion is that it will be Mr. Romney's, but that on the macro level it will have little-to-no effect as this election cycle seems to be one of the first where strongly-held opinions have already formed and are unlikely to change no matter what may surface or be released in the next six weeks.