The rich are being blamed for the irresponsible actions on Wall Street, and they are no longer looked at with being worthy. The GOP set this stage with myths that everyone could be rich if we just let the rich escape taxes. Then the GOP pushed deregulation. And the Tea Bagging GOP line now is harming the rich far more than the Dems.
Commentary By: Steven Reynolds
There’s a nexus coming together in this country, and while some are using the metaphor of pitchforks and the proles storming the castle (the rich, at AIG, at least, seem very afraid of this scorn, as evidenced here and here), it is beginning to seem to me as if the rich, those metaphorically living in the castle, are guilty of tea bagging, if not pitchforking, themselves.
I suppose I come to this conclusion first from Michael Hiltzik’s column in the Los Angeles Times. His title somewhat says it all: “The belief that the wealthy are worthy is waning.” The thesis here is that many in our country rallied against progressive income taxes that hit the rich because they themselves pictures themselves as being rich someday, sort of like Joe the Plumber, you know. They had a myopia concerning the true American condition. We all know that Joe the Plumber will get nowhere unless he milks the right wing media with his image, and Joe will therefore continue in self-delusion. But the average American, Hiltzik says, is beginning to see through this Republican myth.
Let’s face facts. The Republicans are the ones, perhaps further back than Gingrich or even Reagan, who perpetuated the myth that cutting taxes on the wealthy would result in good jobs for everyone, including the possibility that everyman may one day become rich himself. Not so much nowadays. The false veneer on this theory is peeling off, like a Laffer Curve going south. They set the stage with their constant attempts to reverse the progressive system of taxes in this country, led now by Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform, a group Republicans listen to almost as well as they bow to their leader, Rush Limbaugh, as mindnumbingly stupid as that act of bowing is.
What really blew the top off, though, is their penchant for deregulation. We’re seeing an economic meltdown because of unregulated securities now, and AIG’s insuring those risky schemes, but what we’re also seeing on the side is the steadily declining respect for the rich. Sure, many rich people are philanthropists, and there are fine people among the rich. When the taxes go up on them, as the current national feeling will assuredly lead to, they will go up on me and my family as well. But let’s make sure to note that the deregulation was spurred by a system of rewards cloaked as bonuses. Sure, the former Chair of AIG claims he wouldn’t have given out the bonuses that are so controversial now, but he gave out similar retention rewards. It was the name of the game for far too many years. Risky products are dreamed up by money managers whose bonus was directly tied to short-term success. They became the rich. By exploiting the system they have tea bagged themselves.
AIG’s defense? They are now going after taxes they say they don’t owe because they derived from offshore tax shelters. Yes, banking regulations evidently enabled them to legally shelter a whole batch of their tax obligations, and AIG wants that 306 Million Dollars back, even though the funds helping them fight the IRS were provided by the federal government. These folks just don’t know how to leave well enough alone. The gall, we say, at every turn where they spend our money on bonuses or suing us! Should we be so surprised?
Now the Republicans have started this stupid Tea Bag campaign. It mimics the Boston Harbor protest from our American Revolution, but there ain’t no redcoats here. As Bob Cesca notes, the Republican Tea Bag campaign is about reducing taxes on the wealthy at a time when the entire American electorate is glued to the TV waiting for the next shoe to drop in the Wall Street mess, caused by the Republican deregulation and greed that the Tea Bagging goal would ostensibly reward. Sure, Republicans are railing against AIG bonuses, but as usual they have no plan. They’d rather protest using Tea Bags, and referring to an insulting sex act. Yeah, Republicans claim to stand for high moral values, but even their protests are coarse and ugly. What they’ve done with such absurities is tea bag themselves.
It would be enough if the Republicans had only Tea Bagged themselves, but they have done the bidding of the markets and those who pretend to stand for the rich for so long that the rich are the ones feeling the Tea Bag, full in the face. Conspicuous Consumption is coming to an end, I’m guessing, at least for a long time, and I’m betting Thorstein Veblen would be proud. But this isn’t about a 120 year old theory. This is about today, about the dangers of runaway and unregulated capitalism and how it can destroy our economy. The Republicans called for that deregulation, trusting int he blind hand of supply and demand to care for everyone. That ship has sailed, and judging by their stupid Tea Bag campaign, the GOP is far, far from recognizing that fact.