Republicans Are Only Opposed to Redistribution that Goes Downward
Matt O'Brien's Wonkblog piece might have misled readers on Republicans views on the role of government. O'Brien argued that the reason that the Republicans have such a hard time designing a workable health care plan is:
"Republicans are philosophically opposed to redistribution, but health care is all about redistribution."
This is completely untrue. Republicans push policies all the time that redistribute income upward. They are strong supporters of longer and stronger patent and copyright protection that make ordinary people pay more more for everything from prescription drugs and medical equipment to software and video games. They routinely support measures that limit competition in the financial industry (for example, trying to ban state run retirement plans) that will put more money in the pockets of the financial industry. And they support Federal Reserve Board policy that prevents people from getting jobs and pay increases, thereby redistributing income to employers and higher paid workers.
Republicans are just fine with having the government intervene in markets to redistribute income upward, they just don't like policies that are designed to help the poor and middle class at the expense of the rich. It is wrong to imply, as O'Brien does, they have any other principles in these debates than giving as much money as possible to the rich. (Yes, this is the theme of my book, Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer [it's free].)