It began with the Goldwater campaign, reached its full height about the time Spiro Agnew took on the East Coast’s “effete corps of impudent snobs,” and works today not only because the stereotype has been so well-tended, but because there’s a soupçon of truth to it. “We forgot how to talk to folks, and when we did, we often talked down,” Tom Vilsack, the former agriculture secretary under President Barack Obama and former Iowa governor said on a recent day of Democratic soul-searching in the heartland.
And yet, the hauteur of the left can’t hold a $495 Cedar Wood-scented Burberry candle to some of the recent comments from the same Senate Republicans whose tax plan so transparently robs from college students to give to the top 0.02 percent.
While debating the tax plan last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah let drop this doozy on the Children’s Health Insurance Program for poor children: “The reason CHIP’s having trouble,’’ he said of the program, which expired in September and has yet to be renewed, “is because we don’t have money anymore.”
You refer, perhaps, to the money we’d be laying out to further advantage the wealthiest families in the country? Of course not, because it’s only right that we should run up the deficit on their behalf.
Whereas, back to those children from low-income families, Hatch said, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves — won’t lift a finger — and expect the federal government to do everything.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa made the same basic point about the moral superiority of the ultra-rich and the less admirable priorities among those not even well enough off to have a portfolio: “I think not having the estate tax,” which already exempts a couple’s first $11 million from any taxation, “recognizes the people that are investing” and rewards that. “As opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
That is a lot of movies. We did not know that cinema had joined booze and women as indulgences that the upright seek to avoid. And isn’t it spending that stimulates the economy, while investing does not?
The takeaway from both of these lawmakers’ remarks, however, is that lower-income Americans, even children, aren’t rich because they aren’t good.
Only if you saw it that way would you draw up a tax plan that so overwhelmingly rewards those who need the least help.
Their comments are also a preview of coming attractions — yes, we do visit the multiplex now and again — because right after driving up the deficit with tax cuts is always the best time to claim that we have no choice but to shred the safety net for those who need the most help.
They also reflect the priorities that New York Rep. Chris Collins candidly acknowledged when he said of the tax plan, “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”