On Thursday presidential candidate Mitt Romney
is hosting a $50,000 a couple fundraiser in Oyster Bay out on Long Island. Fifty thousand dollars is a rather expensive meal, of course. But surprisingly there are still many, many people on Long Island who can afford to fork over what most New Yorkers would call a good year’s wages just to spend 30 minutes eating canapés in the company of Willard Mitt Romney.
I guess that makes them his job creators. I guess that they'll want something in return for their 50 grand lunches, and I doubt it will be to call for necessary improvements to inner city high schools.
Call me a cynic. Their contributions will more likely be returned in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, and exclusive franchises. Call it change you can believe in.
For months now Romney has been attending more high society fundraisers that a dowager duchess.
But he doesn’t appear for just chump change. In June he appeared at a fundraiser at a country club in Mississippi that raised a record-breaking $1.7 million, for example.
As if anticipating the headlines that would follow that bonanza, he immediately defended the Republican Party against its reputation of being the party of the rich. Really, he said, the GOP's whole focus is on helping the poor (I hope that no one was sipping on their fine champagne just as he said that).
“We’re accused, by the way -- in our party -- of being the party of the rich,” Romney reportedly said.
“And it's an awful moniker, because that’s just not true. We're the party of people who want to get rich. And we're also the party of people who want to care to help people from getting poor. We want to help the poor.”
Perhaps he was referring to the waitstaff? According to ABC, it was Romney's second fundraiser of the day, with his first in Louisiana raising at least $2 million, bringing the day's total haul to $3.7 million.
Some people in America are still doing very well, clearly. But nowadays they tend to live in gated communities that they fly in and out of in their own jets, so I can forgive you if you haven't noticed.
Over the last decade America's rich grew more and more reclusive, after all. According to Mike Lofgren, who served 16 years on the Republican staff of the House and Senate budget committees, America's superrich now live like the British in colonial India -- in the country and ruling it, but no longer a part of it.
“If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension -- and viable public transportation doesn’t even show up on the radar screen. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare?” Lofgren writes.
The burdens of citizenship, like paying taxes or helping to support the welfare state, don't interest America's superrich because they do not benefit from it. That's why the want to stick the middle class with the bill, because they do.
Like everyone else the rich enjoy hearing nice things said about themselves, so they're not fans of Lofgren. They greatly enjoy being praised for their vast wealth, so his economic theories insult them. Since they already have a political party that praises them to the point of idolatry, they're not used to his candor.
We're becoming a nation of tramps and millionaires, Lofgren suggests. The primary purpose of the GOP now is to provide tax breaks and other financial advantages to the billionaires who bankroll them, like the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson.
They know that you, Joe Voter, will never willingly pull the lever to comfort the already immensely comfortable, as they simultaneously hit your retirement benefits and axe your health care.
So instead they'll play a little shell game to convince you that they're more American than apple pie or that Muslim Kenyan Socialist imposter in the White House. They'll tell you he raised you're taxes when in fact he lowered them. They'll tell you whatever they believe America's low information voters want to hear.
They'll put a smiling face on it too with a man like Paul Ryan. He'll tell you he wants to “empower” you, and he wants to “empower” seniors.
But what that really means is that he wants to end your entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. Perhaps you'll feel empowered as you mop the floor at Burger King in your late sixties.
What Ryan's especially good at is taking your eyes off the tax subsidies he delivers to the rich as he distracts you with glassy eyed platitudes about self-sufficiency and the American Dream.
But here's the thing -- plutocracy, which is clearly what's on offer from the GOP now, isn't a stable basis for a functioning democracy or longterm economic revival.
We used to know that successful nation states promote the well being of each section of its citizenry, not just the lucky few on the top. When a party is being bankrolled by billionaires, that – along with the wider good of the nation - tends to be forgotten.