As Republicans head toward next week's convention, something
extraordinary has come into view now that their ticket is complete.
Mitt Romney came from wealth and went on to build his own quarter-
of-a-billion-dollar fortune. Paul Ryan, who has never worked a day
in the private sector (outside a few months in the family firm)
reports a net worth of as much as $7 million, thanks to trusts and
inheritances from his and his wife's family.
Wealthy political candidates are nothing new, of course. But
we've never had two wealthy candidates on a national ticket whose
top priority is to reduce already low taxes on the well-to-do while
raising taxes on everyone else - even as they propose to slash
programs that serve the poor, or that (like college aid) create
chances for the lowly born to rise.
Call them the Drawbridge Republicans. As the moniker implies,
these are wealthy Republicans who have no qualms about pulling up
the drawbridge behind them. Such sentiments used to be reserved for
the political fringe. The most prominent example was Steve Forbes,
whose twin obsessions during his vanity presidential runs in 1996
and 2000 - marginal tax rates and inflation - were precisely what
you'd expect from an heir in a cocoon.
(In case you were wondering, Ronald Reagan wasn't a Drawbridge
because he entered office when marginal rates, at 70 percent, were
truly damaging to the economy. But as GOP business leaders now tell
me privately, the Clinton-era top rate of 39.6 percent, let alone
today's 35 percent, are hardly a barrier to work or investment).
Most rich Republicans who champion regressive tax plans find it
necessary to at least pretend they're doing something to help
average folks. John McCain, who's lived large for decades thanks to
his wife's inheritance, famously had trouble keeping track of how
many homes he owned - but McCain also tried bravely to create a path
to citizenship for illegal immigrants. George W. Bush campaigned as
a "compassionate conservative," and touted education initiatives
that made this claim plausible.
Today's Drawbridge Republicans can't be bothered. Yes, when their
political back is to the wall - as Romney's increasingly is -
they'll slap together a page of bullet points and dub it "a plan for
the middle class." But this is only under duress. The rest of the
time they seem blissfully unaware of how off-key they sound. As the
humorist Andy Borowitz tweeted the other day, "As a general matter,
it's a bad idea to talk about austerity if you just had a horse lose
in the Olympics. …