In a campaign speech in Vermont on Friday, President Barack Obama referenced the biblical story of Cain and Abel in condemning what he called "you're-on-your-own economics" while arguing for a number of policies that involve government transferring wealth from one group of citizens to another—including providing public schools with more money for teachers' salaries, freezing the interest rates on government-backed student loans, supporting companies developing biofuels, electric batteries and wind and solar power and funding scientists who are doing research on stem cells and climate change.
"I hear politicians talking about values in an election year," Obama said. "I hear a lot about that. Let me tell you about values. Hard work, personal responsibility--those are values. But looking out for one another. That's a value. The idea that we're all in this together. I am my brother's keeper. I am my sister's keeper. That's a value."
In Genesis, Adam and Eve's first-born son is Cain and their second-born son is Abel. Cain becomes a farmer and Abel becomes a shepherd. When Cain offers the fruit of his farming to God and Abel offers a lamb, God is pleased with Abel's offering but not Cain's. Cain then kills Abel. When God asks Cain where Abel is, Cain says: "Am I my brother's keeper?"
When Obama said on Friday, "I am my brother's keeper," he was addressing a crowd of campaign supporters at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt.
After promoting his past accomplishments including the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, removing private banks from the government-guaranteed student loan business, and his health-care law, Obama pointed to policies he wants to pursue in the future.
Obama said he wants to give public schools the "resources" they need to hire and reward good teachers.
"So I don't want folks in Washington to be bashing teachers," he said. "I don't want them to defend the status quo. I want us to give schools the resources they need to hire good teachers, reward great teachers."
He also said he wants to freeze the interest rates on government-subsidized student loans.
"Now, the first thing we've got to do--Congress has to stop interest rates that are currently scheduled to go up in July on student loans, which will be a huge problem for a lot of young people," said Obama.
Obama also said he wants additional government "investment" in scientists who are doing stem cell research and climate change research.
"An economy built to last is one that supports scientists and researchers and science," said Obama. "Whether we're talking about stem cell research or climate change, we don't need science deniers. We need people to understand that America has always succeed because of our belief in science, our investment in research."
(In 2009, Obama signed an executive order approving federal funding of stem cell research that requires killing human embryos taken from the freezers where they have kept by vitro fertilization clinics--embryos who in many cases are quite literally the brothers and sisters of embryos who were implanted and brought to term by a mother.)
Obama additionally said he wants to "double down" on the money he has already put into solar and wind power, biofuels and electric batteries.
"Let's double down on clean energy that has never been more promising -- solar and wind and biofuels, and energy efficiency, electric batteries," he said. "That's what we need to be investing in."
The president presented what he sees as the need to increase taxes on the rich as one half of a zero-sum game: If the rich are not taxed more, everyone else will have less.
"But if you're making more than $1 million a year, you can do a little more," said Obama. "This is not class envy. This is not class warfare. This is basic math -- that's what this is.
"Look, if somebody like me gets a tax break that they don't need and that the country can't afford, then one of two things are going to happen -- either it adds to our deficit, or we're taking something away from somebody else," said Obama.
"Look, there's no way of getting around that," said Obama. "Either folks like me are doing more, or somebody who can't afford it is getting less. And that's not right."
Obama argued that history has already demonstrated that what he called "you're-on-your-own economics" does not work in the United States—suggesting that both the Great Depression and the most recent recession were the products of this type of free-market economic approach.
"But we also have always understood that we wouldn't win the race for new jobs and businesses and middle-class security if we were just applying some you're-on-your-own economics," said Obama. "It's been tried in our history and it hasn't worked. It didn't work when we tried it in the decade before the Great Depression. It didn't work when we tried it in the last decade. We just tried this. What they're peddling has been tried. It did not work."