WASHINGTON — Rebecca M. Blank was a top candidate in 2011 to lead President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, but then the White House turned up something politically dangerous.
“A commitment to economic justice necessarily implies a commitment to the redistribution of economic resources, so that the poor and the dispossessed are more fully included in the economic system,” Ms. Blank, a noted poverty researcher, wrote in 1992. With advisers wary of airing those views in a nomination fight, Mr. Obama passed over Ms. Blank, then a top Commerce Department official and now the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin. Instead he chose Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist.
“Redistribution is a loaded word that conjures up all sorts of unfairness in people’s minds,” said William M. Daley, who was Mr. Obama’s chief of staff at the time. Republicans wield it “as a hammer” against Democrats, he said, adding, “It’s a word that, in the political world, you just don’t use.”
These days the word is particularly toxic at the White House, where it has been hidden away to make the Affordable Care Act more palatable to the public and less a target for Republicans, who have long accused Democrats of seeking “socialized medicine.” But the redistribution of wealth has always been a central feature of the law and lies at the heart of the insurance market disruptions driving political attacks this fall.
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