TAX CUTS….Henry’s chart just below is entertaining, but I’d like to make a serious point about it. (Actually, Henry’s chart is a serious point. I just want to make another one, OK?)

Conservatives are forever whining about lucky duckies and bread and circuses: in their world, the hoi polloi in America are so undertaxed that they can vote themselves just about anything, knowing that it won’t cost them a dime. The rich will pick up the tab.

This is hogwash on several levels ? the middle class pays taxes at about the same rate as millionaires ? but it’s mostly hogwash because everyone knows that what’s important in American politics isn’t votes, but money. And it’s the rich who have the money.

What do you do when one party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the rich? It’s been obvious for some time that the Republican party has completely run out of ideas on economic policy and now has only one left: lower taxes on the rich. So it’s no longer a matter of the rich voting for a party that, in general, serves their interests. Instead, it’s become a simple, mercenary transaction, and campaign contributions to Republicans have become little more than pre-paid commissions on the tax breaks they are willing to pass.

Take a look at the bullet points in the post just below: The Fortune 100 companies contributed $52 million to Republicans in the 2002 election cycle and in return their executives will get tax breaks worth $130 million per year ? and that’s just for the top three execs in each company. It’s a straightforward bargain, and a pretty good one.

After two decades of increasingly strident Wall Street Journal editorials, the rich seem to have largely lost any sense of civic responsibility. There’s no economic argument for lower tax rates at the moment, simply a feeling on the part of the rich that it’s their money, dammit, and they don’t feel like supporting the government with it any longer. Deficits forever? Fine. Just give my my tax break.

Bill Bennett was right: they should be ashamed of themselves. Unfortunately, civic virtue is one virtue he seems to have missed.

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