According to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the poor and middle class aren’t doing enough to share the economic burden in America. In a speech on the Senate floor, the 77 year old Republican, whose net worth is estimated from $2 to $5 million and takes in a $174,000 per year salary from the Senate, said that the poor “need to share some of the responsibility” of the deficit, and that he preferred the Republican approach of “shared prosperity.” Hatch went on to say that “51 percent of wage earners, of all households, do not pay income taxes.” He attempted to clarify a few sentences later, saying that payroll taxes were the same thing as social security taxes.
I’m not certain the last time Senator Hatch saw what an average wage earning Joe Twelve Pack’s paycheck looks like, because I assume all Senators get paid in wheelbarrows full of gold bars and ties made from the finest silk, but Federal Income Tax and Social Security are two separate line items. More importantly, I’m part of that bottom 51% of wage earners, so I feel not only righteous indignation for the really impoverished, but personally slighted.
At present, the median U.S. Household income hovers right around $50,000. I make significantly less than that from a day job unrelated to writing for the internet (full disclosure: I do this for free). This year, from what my returns say, 9% of my income went to taxes. Does that money not actually count, Senator Hatch? If so, I’d like it back please. I know it’s probably not even enough to pay for one of your suits, but I could buy enough Dinty Moore and ramen noodles to stave off starvation for quite awhile with it.
Personal offenses aside, Senator Hatch appears deeply out of touch with exactly what “poor” people endure and where most of the federal budget goes. The richest Americans Hatch felt the need to so quickly defend pay less taxes than the previous generation, and the only people who really pay any taxes are those who earn so little they don’t qualify to pay according to the tax code, or are unemployed. Shall we start shaking out the pockets of Americans in the unemployment line? Perhaps we should start taxing people on the way out of food pantries? At present, America has one of the largest income gaps in the industrialized world, and the gulf between rich and poor hasn’t been so wide since the 1920′s
In his diatribe, Hatch also says “They wonder why the monies don’t go far enough? When are we going to wake up and realize that the other side just spends and spends and spends, and they want to tax and tax and tax so they can spend some more.” That statement is simply a recycled version of the Reagan welfare queen myth with a slightly different Dickensian flair. Monies that go to social programs to help the impoverished make up a smaller portion of the budget than defense or Social Security, but the poor should expect to keep cutting back, down to the last available hair. Once again, the narrative from the GOP is clear – not only are the poor solely to blame for their situation, but they should thank the rich for the opportunity for it.