Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Republican Party is trying to pass a wildly unpopular bill that strips health care from the poor and gives the rich a massive tax cut. This time, they’re packaging it as “tax reform.” The House Republicans got the first crack at it, and they literally took money from orphans and gave it to billionaires. They passed their version, and the Senate GOP passed it out of committee—which does not have that same feature, but does repeal the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, and makes cuts to Medicare and Medicaid while the top 1% and .01% get truly massive tax cuts, but this doesn’t become law until the full vote in the Senate, and these seven Republican Senators can kill the bill—call them.
To top it off, the Republicans inserted one more grotesque provision in to this bill late last night.
This is madness. This bill adds $1.4 trillion to the debt over the next ten years, strips health care away from poor people, taxes graduate students on money they don't have, and for what? President Trump and the Republicans tout this as a middle-class tax cut, but when asked whether it will actually reduce taxes for all of the middle class, the GOP remains noncommittal.
This whole thing is a farce, and Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown* simply asked that the Republicans drop the pretense that this tax plan has anything to do with making lives better for the middle class. Most people—including a significant chunk of their own voters—believe that the Republican Party is simply a vehicle for the super rich to take more away from the rest of us. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch clearly took offense to this accurate characterization of the legislation he's trying to pass, and instead of defending his plan on its merits (because he can't), he reverted to good old-fashioned identity politics. This is a remarkable exchange.
*Because this is a story about Congress and therefore, there are no heroes here, we must bring up an unfortunate contradiction within Senator Brown’s position. One of the most cartoonishly evil portions of the bill, the tax break for private jets, was introduced by…Sherrod Brown on February 2nd of this year.
The problem is that Hatch isn’t even good at playing the “I was just a poor boy” schtick. The man who claims that he “comes from the…poor people” asserts that “I come from the lower-middle class originally. We didn’t have anything!” By definition, being any kind of middle class is “something,” otherwise we wouldn’t hold it up as the platonic ideal of wholesome America.
Regardless of their economic background, all politicians like to pretend that they “came from nothing,” because this allows them to perpetuate the lie that is the American dream. In 2011, Pew conducted a study which revealed that of the ten western countries they analyzed, the United States had the strongest link between a parent’s education and a child’s economic, educational and socio-emotional outcomes. We live in one of the most rigid societal structures in the western world. Senators like Orrin Hatch help maintain and exacerbate our increasingly unequal society, and as you can see in the video above, they have absolutely no defense for their actions when challenged on the merits of their beliefs.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.