Catching up on some of my favorite writers today, I came across this blog post by Matt Taibbi from last week about what a supreme douchebag that is David Brooks.
I’m not interested in that, so much as this:
The premise of the piece was that he, Brooks, was a “sap” for believing Barack Obama when Obama pledged, after his election, to rise above partisanship and “move beyond the stale ideological debates that have paralyzed this country.” For Brooks, “rising above partisanship” always means “not criticizing the rich,” so you can kind of guess where he’s going with this article.
The implication of that criticism from Brooks is that “Republican” and “rich” are now completely interchangeable in the context of politics, such that “attacking” or criticizing the rich is now highly partisan, and ipso facto a dishonest political game safely categorized and dismissed as part of the right-vs-left paradigm where all the deeply un-serious ideological extremists live.
I find that quite bizarre. It’s simply understood that establishment Republican politicians strongly favor the rich over the middle class and poor, as faithful followers of the Ayn Rand philosophy where the rich are inherently “better” people and everyone else are actively lesser and to be looked down upon as if they are doing something wrong intentionally. And by extension the massive corporations that enable the corporate machine that exists to do nothing but transfer equally massive amounts of wealth from middle class individuals to the owners and operators of those corporations.
But Republican voters by and large are not all members of the privileged ruling class (which leads me to believe that the main reason that middle class Republicans voters support rich-subservient establishment Republican politicians has to do with social issues more than anything).
I think what’s going on here is the cementing of the rise of the wealthy as a political class whose interests are largely merging with the the actual political party that seemly exists to do nothing other than protect and benefit them.
The GOP has been a friend and cheerleader for large corporations and the rich for a long time, but with this shift amongst the rich towards the right and the insane rhetoric from the right that paints critics of the rich’s unjust rise on the backs of the middle class as partisan hacks engaged in class warfare – and the right’s shift from public servants to virtual employees of the country’s largest corporations and private servants of the country’s richest individuals – the two have never been so close as to be indistinguishable.
Which isn’t to say that the near-royal class doesn’t own both major political parties generally. Obviously they do. But one party has always been closer to the $150,000-in-silver-dinnerware set that the other, and that gradual merger has been accelerating over the last decade so much that attacking the rich has now become synonymous in the eyes of the power-worshipping establishment media with attacking Republicans as just more partisan politics.
The other thing from Matt’s post that caught my eye was this:
“[Obama] repeated the old half-truth about millionaires not paying as much in taxes as their secretaries. (In reality, the top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes, according to the IRS. People in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income, while the average worker pays 14 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office).”
Matt takes issue with the wordplay over “income” versus “earnings”, since the richest Americans don’t have “income” in the sense that most of us do. Republicans have worked very hard over the years to make sure that financial earnings (capital gains) are counted separately from income so that those rates can be very low without giving big cuts to the middle class and poor.
This one hedge fund manager whose name I desperately wish I could remember made about $4 billion dollars last year all by himself. That’s not what the fund made, mind you. That was his paycheck for managing the fund. His tax rate was 15% because his earnings are counted as capital gains, and Republicans via the Bush-era 2001 and 2003 tax cuts set capital gains at 15%.
This is important to understand what Republicans in Washington – never mind David Brooks – play word games when it comes to billionaire investor Warren Buffet paying more in taxes than his secretary. Strictly speaking that’s not true, and any Republican that says it’s not true is correct. But they are also being hugely dishonest, because that’s not the actual claim made by people like Buffet.
Buffet’s secretary pays a higher percentage of her earnings in taxes than Buffet does – which is what he says and what Democrats are saying in support of the “Buffet Rule” that will raise the rates on things like capital gains – even though she pays less in total. So Buffet being a billionaire almost certainly pays hundreds of millions in taxes every year, which is a good thing. But his secretary, who probably makes a lot of money compared to most Americans is probably paying in the 23-33% bracket, if not higher.
While Warren Buffet pays more in total, his secretary’s life is more heavily burdened because she makes so much less than he does, and because so much more of her earnings as a percentage are being taken away.
Also never forget that while “the top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes”, they also earn and possess at least 70% of all the money earned if not more. It’s why they pay so much in the first place. That hedge fund manager I was talking about probably paid $600 million in taxes in 2010, which seems pretty insane and unfair. Until you remember (or learn) that he earned $4 billion and was left with $3.4 billion in his piggy bank when all was said and done.