Commentary: Gimme tax shelter

The (Raleigh) News & ObserverSeptember 13, 2012 

Now that the Democratic National Convention is over and everybody’s returned home, here is an indisputable truth: The Democrats are riding a losing horse by asking the rich to pay a bit more in taxes.

Why?

Because deep down, we all think we’re going to be rich eventually, and we don’t want to be guilty of voting against our own best interests.

Next to “Why does every black man with money feel the need to date a Kardashian?” the eternal mystery of life for me is “Why do so many poor people vote like they’re rich?”

The answer is that they don’t plan on being poor for long. Sure, they may be uneducated, living in the projects or a ramshackle single-wide with Sweet Thang, Big Mama, Papa Daddy and all the young ’uns, but they know that as soon as those Elvis commemorative plates they bought as investments in 1982 for the low, low price of $129.95 reach maturity, they’ll be able to afford a triple-wide.

In his short story “The Rich Boy,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “(The rich) are different from you and me,” to which Ernest Hemingway replied “Yeah. They have more money.”

And, the Democrats added last week, they pay less in taxes.

During his speech Thursday night, Vice President Joe Biden lamented that Republicans refused to support a particular bill “if it contained one dollar or one cent in new taxes for millionaires.”

To which, I’m guessing, all the millionaires and soon-to-be-millionaires – wink, wink – said “Amen,” even though a Pew Research Center Poll finds that 55 percent of voters favor repealing tax cuts for the wealthy or everyone.

That is, in theory they support the rich paying more taxes. Among all adults, though, the Pew report shows, only 30 percent want tax cuts for the wealthy to expire.

What gives? I already told you. We’re all gon’ be rich one day.

While at the gas station last week getting $2 worth of unleaded and a 50-cent honeybun, I watched as two women scratched off lottery tickets and picked numbers for the Powerball. “Girl, what’s your cousin Henrietta’s birthday?” one asked.

The USA Today newspaper headline next to the lottery counter said something about Mitt Romney’s offshore banking accounts, and one of the lottery players who saw it commented that, as soon as her number hit, she was going to be looking for a tax shelter, too.

That, I concluded, is why the Democrats’ message of shared sacrifice doesn’t seem to be resonating as much as one might think it would. Far from demonizing the wealthy, the Dems are merely asking them to pay a little more to help the poor and middle class.

That’s fair, right?

Not if you’re wealthy it isn’t. The Republicans’ doctrine – especially as articulated by flash-in-the-pan presidential candidate Herman Cain – is that if you’re not wealthy, it’s your own danged fault. Far more disturbing is hearing a variation of that argument in church, where too many preachers of a non-biblical prosperity doctrine stop just short of saying that if you don’t have a fancy car, big house and millions in the bank, you’re not loving God enough. Or giving them enough.

While the Democrats want the rich to bear more of the tax burden, some Republicans blame the poor economy on the poor. For instance, Romney continues to blame welfare recipients who, thanks to Obama’s supposed loosening of requirements, want to just sit back and wait for their checks without looking for work. When called on it by nonpartisan fact-checkers, Romney’s pollster Neil Newhouse was quoted as saying, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

Say what?

In other words, “We don’t need no stinkin’ facts. We’re rich.” Or will be.

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