Is there any better metaphor for contemporary conservatism than Mitt Romney complaining that he would have had a chance if only he had been born Mexican? Yesterday, Mother Jones swept back to relevance by releasing a series of surreptitious videos of the Republican nominee speaking at a fundraiser in Boca Raton, where he lamented that the 47% of Americans who do not pay federal income tax will vote for Barack Obama no matter what. “My job is is not to worry about those people,” Romney said. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” I mean, hell—if the wailing of their hungry children doesn’t…
During a flashback in the episode of The Simpsons where Homer and Grandpa enjoy brief success selling a homemade aphrodisiac, child Homer says he hopes to someday be President. “Son,” his father says, “this is the greatest country in the world. They’ve got a whole system to prevent people like you from becoming President.” We are now in the first presidential election year since Citizens United v. FEC, and the richest man ever to run for that office has been goaded into releasing his tax returns. In 2010, Mitt Romney received an adjusted gross income of $26 million—approximately 500 times what I made. He paid a federal income tax rate of 13.9%, around four points lower than what I paid. In Romney’s defense, almost all of his income came from investments and his inheritance, whereas my income came from wage work, which is taxed at a higher rate. In my defense, fuck Mitt Romney and the federal corporatocracy he hopes to captain.
Mitt Rombot is programmed to relate to you. So why are you a dick? Speaking at Myrtle Beach during his I, Too, Am a Normal User campaign, Rombot estimated his income tax rate at “probably closer to 15% than anything.” Examples of anything include 38%, 25%, 14% and 16%, so we’re talking 15%. As Reuters ace Sam Young notes, that ballpark figure suggests “that one of the wealthiest people to ever run for U.S. president pays a much lower rate than most Americans.” Don’t worry, though: President Rombot would never implement policies to reinforce the staggering wealth discrepancies that have defined his entire operations log. This failsafe switch prevents that.
Okay, so that headline is a little misleading: federal tax revenues are the lowest they have been, as a share of GDP, since before the Korean War. You know those checks that Don Draper gets and immediately turns into Cadillacs while poor people wait for Medicaid and the Department of Energy to be invented? He pays more taxes than you. Despite all the sorghum subsidies and porno art grants and million-dollar screwdrivers that have turned the US government into a voracious leviathan bent on devouring our children, the bites are smaller than they’ve been in two generations. Such news seems odd just now, since congresspeople have been describing their employer as a “gangster government,” and a whole national movement of incredibly angry old people has risen to protest our unjust tax burden. Oh yeah—we’re also going to shut down the government over our looming financial crisis. It’s the hottest legislative issue since we had to compromise and give everyone a tax cut last year.
Yesterday, rioters in London attempted to overrun the building that houses Britain’s Conservative Party, as 52,000 demonstrators gathered near Parliament to protest a proposed increase in university tuition. In an effort to cut spending by $130 billion, the national government has proposed raising the maximum schools can charge from $9,600 to $14,400 a year.* That idea proved unpopular. As the Times puts it, “Tuition is a politically sensitive subject in Britain, where universities are heavily subsidized by the government. Until the late 1990s, when the Labour government introduced tuition, students paid nothing to attend college.” Under the new plan, students would borrow the money from the government—as they do now—and begin paying back the loans at 9% of their wages once they began making more than $38,000 a year. After 30 years, the loan would be wiped out, regardless of whether it had been paid or not. In England, this plan prompted rioting in the streets. Meanwhile, out-of-state tuition at the University of Michigan costs $20,000 a year ($35,000 for Harvard,) and students start paying back their loans immediately whether they can find a job or not. I am beginning to suspect that we’re getting a raw deal.