For the average person, the phrase Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is the title of hip-hop artist 50 Cent’s official debut album, which was released fifteen years ago next February. For Republicans, the phrase Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is homespun advice.
The Republican tax deform (that’s not a spelling error) bill passed by the Senate on a 51-49 vote early this morning is nothing short of a hate crime against the economically disadvantaged, a declaration of holy war against the poor. In supporting this bill, the GOP has made it clear that for all practical purposes, the party wishes to, in effect, strip anyone not in the one percent of the benefits of citizenship.
Remember when Rush Limbaugh labeled the Affordable Care Act a form of reparations? This tax bill is fairly obviously a right-wing form of reparations. In the Republican mind, millionaires and billionaires have been enslaved and oppressed by the forces of “class warfare,” “socialism” and “political correctness,” and this tax bill simply removes the shackles from their feet and compensates them for their suffering.
Republicans truly believe that one-percenters are the last group one can openly disparage in polite company. Therefore, the goal of the tax bill is not just to reward right-wing donors financially. It’s also to comfort them psychologically.
It’s impossible to be surprised that only Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) defected as the bill came up for a final vote. Virtually all Republicans—even (or especially) the supposedly moderate ones—believe in the right to be selfish. They regard the concept of the “greater good” as a fictional one.
Have we forgotten how how Lee Atwater explained the power of the Southern Strategy in 1981:
You start out in 1954 by saying [the N-word]. By 1968 you can’t say [the N-word]—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than [the N-word].
There’s a demonic art to the Republican vision on taxes, a cruel craft involved in sending wealth to the very top. In the GOP mind, it is wrong not to have an aristocracy; extreme wealth and extreme poverty are simply the way things ought to be (Limbaugh didn’t give his 1992 book that title by accident). According to Republicans, the concept of wealthy people having an obligation to give back to the society that helped those people create such wealth is intellectually bankrupt; the rich should only have to protect themselves and their families.
In his speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, then-Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick observed:
When I was growing up on the South Side of Chicago in the ’50s and ’60s, everything was broken. Playgrounds, schools, families, lives — all broken. But we had a community. Those were days when every child was under the jurisdiction of every single adult on the block. So, if you messed up in front of Ms. Jones’ stoop, she would straighten you out as if you were hers — and then call home, so you would get it twice.
What those adults were trying to get across to us was that they had a stake in us. They wanted us to understand that membership in a community is seeing the stake that each of us has in our neighbor’s dreams and struggles, as well as our own.
That is the very vision the Republican Party is sworn to destroy. To believe that “membership in a community is seeing the stake that each of us has in our neighbor’s dreams and struggles, as well as our own” is to believe that tax policy should be crafted to promote an egalitarian vision. To Republicans, egalitarianism is an evil–an evil to be obliterated with this tax bill.