It’s been unpleasant watching Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) descent into buffoonery, but even for him, this quote is a doozy.

“The fact of the matter is that you raise those taxes, and see what you’re going to get. You let them go up, like the Democrats [want to] let them go up, and we’ll more quickly become a second-rate nation.”

The context of the comment came in reference to letting Bush-era tax rates for the wealthy expire on schedule next year.

What I can’t quite wrap my head around is who’s supposed to be persuaded by a message like this one. Sure, when it comes to the economic policy, Hatch is just talking gibberish — Dems are talking about having the richest Americans pay the same top rates they paid in the 1990s, when the economy was booming. Indeed, these rates would still be lower than the top rate for most of the 20th century. These rates never seemed to force the United States into “second-rate” status.

But putting all of that aside, exactly how many Americans in general — or even Utahans in specific — are going to listen to Hatch and think, “You know, that’s a good point”?

The wealthy are doing fine, and have been doing fine for quite a while. The gap between rich and poor keeps growing, and the only folks thriving in this struggling recovery are those at the very top. Orrin Hatch wants to be their champion? While Americans’ incomes have flat-lined for a decade?

As Orrin Hatch sees it, the only thing maintaining the United States’ role as a global leader is a 35% marginal top rate on the wealthy?

I don’t know what would possess Hatch to say such a thing, but more importantly, I have no idea who’s even supposed to be persuaded by such nonsense.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.