By JEFFREY BRUNER (Gannett)
Question: Mitt Romney says that redistribution has "never been a characteristic of America." Is that true?
Answer: It's actually been part of America for more than 200 years, if not since the beginning.
The best-known example of redistribution is the federal income tax system, which since it was instituted in 1913 has taxed the wealthy at higher rates than for the poor.
Currently, the top tax rate is 35 percent for household income more than $379,150. In 1984, you would have paid a lot more -- 50 percent on all household income more than $162,400. (The 1984 figures are adjusted for inflation, so that a dollar in 1984 buys the same as a dollar in 2011.)
There are many other forms that redistribution takes. Congress collects tax revenue and then decides how to spend it -- roads and bridges, medical research, health care for seniors, weapons for the Pentagon. Spending can benefit a few people (those with a very rare disease) or everyone (the Internet). Finally, a state like New Jersey receives less in federal spending than it pays in taxes while another (Mississippi) can get back more than it sent to Washington.
(Jeffrey Bruner is the wire chief for the Gannett National Wire Desk in Des Moines.)