I’ve seen a lot of articles that describe President Obama’s call for “a $175 billion tax cut for the middle class, faster and cheaper broadband internet, a week of paid sick leave, discounted mortgages paid for by raising taxes on the rich and inheritances” as Robin Hood economic policy. Politico gets it wrong with this article headline: “5 things about Barack Obama’s Robin Hood tax plan.” There’s nothing Robin Hoody about it.
This isn’t the first time the Robin Hood analogy has been used in the wrong way.
Speaking at a rally in Stamford, Connecticut, President Obama attacked Mitt Romney’s economic plan during the 2012 election cycle by referencing Robin Hood. The president blamed “the uncompromising view that says we should be going back to the old top-down economics that got us into this mess in the first place.”
He contrasted his own tax and spend plan with Romney’s $5 trillion tax cut. “It’s like Robin Hood in reverse — it’s Romney-hood.” Of course the partisan and ignorant crowd laughed and roared and whistled its approval of the equally ignorant words of the president.
This line from The Hill caught my attention:
“If Obama is casting himself as the hero [in tonight’s State of the Union address], he also hopes to cast newly empowered congressional Republicans as the villains — multiple Sheriffs of Nottingham defending the rich and influential.”
The Sheriffs of Nottingham were protecting the government against the people. “As Robin explains to one villager,” in The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series (1955-1960), “‘These are strange times, Hawkins, when the sheriff protects those who steal and brands as thieves those who return the stolen goods.’”
Even Shrek’s Monsieur Hood gets it wrong:
I steal from the rich and give to the needy
He takes a wee percentage, but I’m not greedy
I rescue pretty damsels, man, I’m good
What a guy, ha-ha, Monsieur Hood
A good place to start to know the real Robin Hood is the TV-show ballad that still plays in my head:
Robin Hood! Robin Hood! Riding through the glen!
Robin Hood! Robin Hood! With his band of men!
Feared by the bad! Loved by the good!
Robin Hood! Robin Hood! Robin Hood!
Who were the “bad” that feared Robin and his “band of men”? It wasn’t the capitalists, shop owners, and business owners; it was the government officials and their cronies who were taxing the people and abusing their political offices.
Robin dedicated himself to helping “the people of the king,” not by calling on the king to increase taxes on the rich but to stop governmental tyranny.
Notice where most of the scenes in this trailer for The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) film take place – the halls of government (with a few love scenes thrown in for box office reasons):
Robin Hood was for the little guy against an all-power government that used chicanery, deceit, and plain old corruption to rob the people of the product of their labor.
Robin was against the political tyrants, most notably Prince John, Sir Guy of Gisbourne, and the sheriffs who extracted taxes from the common people to pay the king so he and his cronies could retain their political positions.
The common people were starving because of the king’s taxes and growing land acquisition. The people had no place to hunt because the government had cut off access to productive lands. Similar things are happening today as governments come in and regulate water sources, deny building permits, curtail the coal industry, and put up obstacles that would give the United States energy independence.
This is not to say that some business owners and large corporations are guiltless. They have often joined with the government in order to carve out special economic favors and bailouts for business failures while the average business owner is left holding the bag.
If a Robin Hood movie were being cast today, Barack Obama would be corrupt Prince John. The producers would have their pick of securing a supporting cast for Prince John’s court of governmental thieves by any number of cabinet members, advisers, congressmen, and senators from both major political parties.