Exam claims 'income redistribution' among 'main functions of government'

The role of government is to redistribute wealth, according to a course at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

A test, administered on April 29 in Professor John Traxler’s Healthcare Economics class, told students that “[o]ne of the main functions of government is income redistribution,” then asked them to explain what the statement meant. The correct answer was C: “Taxing the wealthy and giving it to those in poverty.”

Josh Fisher, a student in the class, told Campus Reform he was flabbergasted when he saw the question, given that it is premised on an unabashedly liberal view of a politically contentious issue.

“When I saw it I wanted to get up and leave,” he said. “I thought ‘there’s no way this is a real question at all.’”

“Fundamental concepts include: demand and supply, elasticity and marginalism, inflation, unemployment, business cycles, role of government,” states the course description on the school's website, adding, “These concepts are then used to explain and analyze market structures, including perfect competition and monopoly.”

The website also defines the course learning outcomes, which include “[analyzing] the role of government and the effect of regulation on the healthcare section as described by economics.”

“I listen to talk radio a lot now: [Ben] Shapiro, [Steven] Crowder, [Andrew] Klavan, [Mark] Levin, and Milo [Yiannopoulos],” Fisher said. “So I knew that this type of liberal perspective being pushed on students was happening but I had no idea it was so blatant. Maybe the worst part is that so many of my classmates now believe this to be true.”

Several professors who spoke with Campus Reform about the matter said that while the question defines income redistribution accurately, it was unnecessary to include an endorsement of that controversial concept.

“This question assumes a false premise,” said Antony Davies, a professor at Duquesne University. “I do not accept the premise that redistribution is a main function of government (in general),” he added, though he did concede that “it is a main function of our government today.”

When asked if this is common to be taught in economics classes he claimed: “No. That’s not common [to be taught]. It is common to teach that that is something governments can do.”

“One way to read the question is that it is simply a definition: C is the definition of income redistribution. The real slant is in the start, saying that income redistribution is one of the main functions of government,” noted Mount Holyoke College economics professor Jim Hartley.

“Some people think that is true, but others disagree. So, if the question was written as ‘Income redistribution means,’ the question is fine. If it started, ‘Some people believe one of the main functions…’ it would be fine,” he explained. “The assertion in the first sentence is the evidence of bias, but the question is unaffected by the bias.”

He also added that “The first sentence is not necessary for the test question and thus is really just serving as propaganda.”

Fisher told Campus Reform that he was reluctant to challenge his professor on the matter, saying, “I didn't want to risk to affecting my grade. He pushes his agenda pretty hard."

The student who provided the tip wishes to remain anonymous, but added that Traxler is “pretty set with his opinion anyways,” so “I don’t think [fighting him] would have made a difference.”

Traxler told Campus Reform that he would need additional context in order to say definitively, but “I think I was just trying to test whether students understood what ‘income redistribution’ meant without any judgement one way or the other.”

Campus Reform provided the requested contextual information, but Traxler declined to elaborate on his initial response.

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