Here's a truism: The wealthiest 1 percent have never had it so good.
According to government figures,
1-percenters' share of America's total income is the highest it's been
since 1929, and their tax rates are the lowest they've faced in two
decades. Through bonuses, many 1-percenters will profit from the $23
trillion in bailout largesse the Treasury Department now says could be
headed to financial firms. And, most of them benefit from IRS decisions
to reduce millionaire audits and collect zero taxes from the majority
of major corporations.
But what really makes the ultrawealthy so
fortunate, what truly separates this moment from a run-of-the-mill
Gilded Age, is the unprecedented protection the 1-percenters have
bought for themselves on the most pressing issues.
To review: With 22,000 Americans dying
each year because they lack health insurance, Congress is considering
universal health care legislation financed by a surcharge on income
above $280,000--that is, a levy almost exclusively on 1-percenters. This
surtax would graze just 5 percent of small businesses and would recoup
only part of the $700 billion the 1-percenters received from the Bush
tax cuts. In fact, it is so minuscule, those making $1 million annually
would pay just $9,000 more in taxes every year--or nine-tenths of 1
percent of their 12-month haul.
Nonetheless, the 1-percenters have deployed an army to destroy the initiative before it makes progress.
The foot soldiers are the Land Rover
Liberals. These Democratic lawmakers secure their lefty labels by
wearing pink-ribbon lapel pins and supporting good causes like abortion
rights. However, being affluent and/or from affluent districts, they
routinely drive their luxury cars over middle-class economic interests.
Hence, this week's letter from Boulder, Colo., dot-com tycoon Rep.
Jared Polis, D, and other Land Rover Liberals calling for the surtax's
Echoing that demand are the Corrupt
Cowboys--those like Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who come from the
heartland's culturally conservative and economically impoverished
locales. These cavalrymen in both parties quietly build insurmountable
campaign war chests as the biggest corporate fundraisers in Congress.
At the same time, they publicly preen as jes' folks, make twangy
references to "voters back home," and now promise to kill the health
care surtax because they say that's what their communities want. Cash
payoffs made, re-elections purchased, the absurd story somehow goes
that because blue-collar constituents in Flyover America like guns and
love Jesus, they must also reflexively adore politicians who defend
That fantastical fairly tale, of course,
couldn't exist without the Millionaire Media--the elite journalists and
opinion-mongers who represent corporate media conglomerates and/or are
themselves extremely wealthy. Ignoring all the data about inequality,
they legitimize the assertions of the 1-percenters' first two
battalions, while actually claiming America's fat cats are unfairly
For example, Washington Post editors
deride surtax proponents for allegedly believing "the rich alone can
fund government." Likewise, Wall Street Journal correspondent Jonathan
Weisman wonders why the surtax "soak(s) the rich" by unduly "lumping
all of the problems of the finances of the United States on 1 percent
of (its) households?" And most brazenly, NBC's Meredith Vieira asks
President Obama why the surtax is intent on "punishing the rich."
For his part, Obama has responded with
characteristic coolness--and a powerful counterstrike. "No, it's not
punishing the rich," he said. "If I can afford to do a little bit more
so that a whole bunch of families out there have a little more
security, when I already have security, that's part of being a
If any volley can thwart this latest attack of the 1-percenters, it is that simple idea.