Political journalist, best-selling author and syndicated newspaper columnist
Posted: July 24, 2009 01:04 PM
Attack of the One-Percenters: Land Rover Liberals, Corrupt Cowboys & the Millionaire Media
The health care debate has reminded us that there really are three separate but coordinated armies that defend the status quo in Washington -- and will defend that status quo, whether on health care or any other economic issue. In my newspaper column today, I look at who these factions are, and what their motives are. You can read the column here.
In a nutshell, you have the Land Rover Liberals, many coming from the 14 out of 25 wealthiest congressional districts that Democrats now represent. Right now, their opposition to health care and tax reform is being led by Boulder, Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D).
You also have the Corrupt Cowboys -- those lawmakers from very poor, mostly Southern and Western parts of the country. These people give themselves Americana sounding nicknames like "Blue Dog Democrats" or "Main Street Republicans" so as to pretend their opposition to health care comes from their being down home guys "representin' the folks back home." Of course, these same lawmakers are among the most rapacious corporate fundraisers and lobbyist-connected insiders in Congress. And as I pointed out yesterday, there's no evidence that the districts and states the Corrupt Cowboys represent despise health reform by virtue of the fact that they are culturally conservative bastions. In fact, Nate Silver says there's exactly the opposite evidence:
There's not really any evidence that health care reform is unpopular in the Blue Dog districts. Although there are exceptions, most of the Blue Dog districts are fairly poor. A Quinnipiac poll released earlier this month suggested that while 53 percent of voters overall think "think it's the government's responsibility to make sure that everyone in the United States has adequate health care," 61 percent of voters making under $50,000 do. Also, while Quinnipaic did not break out the results for moderate and conservative Democrats, which are plentiful in these Districts, one can reasonably infer them. In this poll, 79 percent of liberals agreed with the statement as did 77 percent of Democrats -- not a very big difference. Since almost all liberals are Democrats and about half of all Democrats are liberals, that suggests that support for health care reform among non-liberal Democrats is something like 75 percent.
Thus, the story about the honest, god-fearing, good ol' boy cowboys opposing health care reform out of representational obligation has only been able to become conventional wisdom through the Millionaire Media -- the elite national press corps, chock full of very wealthy people, that disseminates the most pernicious kind of anti-reform propaganda. These are the same people who insisted we should immediately rush $12 trillion in bailout cash out to Wall Street speculators, and who now insist that 64 years of debates over a $1 trillion health care proposal is inappropriately "rushing" health care reform. They are also the voices who are actually deriding health care reform as an inhumane proposal to legislatively waterboard the poor, persecuted richest one percent.
In the column, I look at the motives of all these groups, and give President Obama huge props for taking them on. As a sometime critic of Obama, I really think he's doing a fantastic job right now, and the news this morning from the New York Times that "the president planning trips across the country" to campaign for health care reform is just fantastic. He's going to have to take on the three groups I discuss in my column -- and if he can beat them, we're going to get universal health care.
Read the whole column here.
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July 24, 2009
David Sirota: 1-percenters launch attack on health care
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 has 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 ultra-wealthy 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 dot-com tycoon Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, Colo., and other Land Rover Liberals calling for the death of the surtax.
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 1-percenters' bounty.
That fantastical fairly tale, of course, couldn't exist without the Millionaire Media — the elite journalists and opinionmongers 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 that America's fat cats are unfairly persecuted.
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 counter-strike. "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 community."
If any volley can thwart this latest attack of the 1-percenters, it is that simple idea.
# David Sirota is the bestselling author of "Hostile Takeover" (2006) and "The Uprising" (2008). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.