Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer launched the first volley against the Republican tax reform plan, saying that it gives tax breaks to the rich.
That Republicans are “the rich” is a caricature carefully constructed in the American psyche since Frank Capra was making movies.
In the last election, though, Republican voters were the ones stuck in Pottersville: The towns in the Rust Belt where big banks extract debilitating mortgage payments even after the factory closed, destroying property values.
These are the same bankers who, when they made some bad investments in 2008, turned to the government for a bailout because they, the Potters of this world, are always too big to fail.
Democrats were the rich ones scoffing from their blue drenched enclaves of New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco at the working class deplorables.
Trump voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia remember a time when people made enough money to have a house and a car that was traded in on a three-year cycle for a new one.
Their houses were quirky and personalized. Their neighborhoods had butchers that featured locally cured meats and bakers with old world techniques and recipes. Their coffee was strong, and nobody had to wear a tie to work.
The working-class towns in America were your typical hipster heavens without the annoying hipster pretense that they invented coffee, quirky houses, and not wearing a tie to work.
Go to any of the states in the Rust Belt and drive the back roads that connect the once vibrant small towns and you’ll notice a haunting desuetude, as if someone conducted biological warfare against the set of Happy Days.
The people who live there are Trump’s base—his voters.
They once voted Democratic but switched. The left, unable to explain this desertion, engages in the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc: We practice identity politics, they stopped voting for us, therefore they are racists.
That libel is contradicted by the large presence of minorities in these boarded up towns, on the high school football and basketball teams, in the churches, and increasingly in families, as boy still meets girl who lives next door.
Minorities who cannot be found, except in token numbers, in the private schools and neighborhoods that surround America’s hedge fund capitals.
Republicans have become the party of people who want more and better jobs, not the rich. Trump seems to be one of the few Republicans who understands this, and he works it with political skill.
Last week he sicced NFL fans—who tend to skew deplorable—on zillionaire athletes for taking a knee during the national anthem to protest inequality.
This week, Trump turns his attention to federal tax policy. His constituency will measure his tax reform plan by how it will help grow jobs and nothing more.
They know the plan includes a massive tax break for corporations, slashing the rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. But Trump’s working-class voters do not think that decreasing the corporate tax rate is bad for them. It is keeping money out of the hands of bureaucrats and in the hands of employers, where it can do most good.
They understand this because many of them own corporations. The collapse of large manufacturing in places like the counties that surround Pittsburgh has led to economies built around pick-up trucks and businesses that do just about everything.
They don’t make steel anymore, true. But they hang enough dry wall to create an economy strong enough to cause a wait at any Texas Roadhouse within 100 miles on Saturday nights.
These small business owners wonder why, if they want to keep $20,000 in the bank in December to pay expenses in January and February, they must first pay at least 35 percent of it to the federal government because it is corporate income that has not been paid that year as wages.
They understand that Apple has the same problem but can afford lawyers and accountants to keep hundreds of billions of dollars of earnings in Ireland, where the corporate tax rate is only 12.5 percent. To someone who stencils his name on the door of his pick-up truck, chasing trillions of dollars overseas with a tax policy based in fantasies about the rich seems idiotic.
How does Senator Schumer not realize that demagoguing corporate tax rates is no longer effective politics among the working class?
The answer is that he probably realizes it, but he scoffs at the rich anyway to appease his own base. It is a peculiar attribute of the blue state rich—bankers, investors, and Hollywood types—that they need to see themselves as somehow aligned with the common man.
Which explains their cognitive dissonance when the working class rises and demands different economic policies. Calling them racists who don’t know what’s good for them is a coping mechanism to deal with the psychological stress that comes with the sudden realization that everything you believe is a lie.
Trump can handle the Democrats he long ago threw into a tizzy from which they have not recovered. His problem, as always, will be with Republicans, who flinch and surrender whenever CNN says they are giving tax breaks to the rich—which happens every time they try to cut taxes.
This time, though, everyone should just call a truce and do this. Returning trillions of dollars from overseas to American balance sheets will benefit both economic growth and federal tax income.
It would be like lassoing the moon and pulling it down, to paraphrase George Bailey. Corporate tax reform provides the working class exactly what they wanted when they voted for Trump: jobs.
Thomas J. Farnan is an attorney from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He can be contacted at www.farnanlawoffice.com and at firstname.lastname@example.org