Nineteenth century French novelist Honoré de Balzac reportedly said, “Behind every great fortune is a great crime.” In American politics it cuts across party lines, from Joe Kennedy, Sr.’s alleged bootlegging to Prescott Bush’s helping to finance National Socialist Germany (and in 1938 received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle).

Perhaps Balzac comes to my warped mind because so many presidential candidates are filthy rich or have backers who are. The other night I was watching a GOP debate (OK, I was flipping channels) and saw a gay U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq ask the candidates if they’d circumvent the end of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Reminiscent of a WWE crowd, some in the audience booed the soldier. (I guess it’s “support the troops” unless they’re gay?) Ironically, the only GOP candidate who’s ever served in the military is Ron Paul, who’s more anti-war than Obama.

Speaking of the GOP (as opposed to WWE), one of my all time favorite Republicans was Joe the plumber. Who can forget Joe (much as I’d like to)? In 2008 Joe told Obama he could never vote for him because he wanted to roll back the Bush tax cuts on those earning over $250,000.

Self-righteously, Joe accused Obama of being less than truthful when, in fact, there were three bits of pertinent info Joe neglected to share. One, he made $40,000 a year; two, he wasn’t a licensed plumber; and three, his name wasn’t Joe. (It’s Samuel J. Wurzelbacher.)

As a sidebar, Mitt Romney, whom I see as a “Stepford husband,” is really named Willard. This begs the question why would somebody go from Willard to Mitt, which, frankly, makes me think of my sixth grade baseball glove?

But back to Joe the plumber for a moment more. Mr. “anti-government” didn’t mention that he was seriously behind in his taxes and had twice received government welfare. Mr. Hypocrisy is more like it.

I’m reminded of Wurzelbacher because Obama is currently campaigning for the rich to “pay their fair tax share.” It still mystifies me how Joe, who actually got a tax decrease under Obama, identifies with the wealthy elite and was outraged on their behalf. (As if, at their country clubs, they’d just love to hang out with Joe, praying he doesn’t bend over and reveal his butt crack.)

Forbes Magazine just came out with their list of the wealthiest 400 Americans who, in these desperate economic times for working people, have managed to increase their net worth 12 percent. (Talk about the rich getting richer.) In fact, the Koch brothers, who have declared war on Obama, increased their coffers by $15 billion or a 40 percent increase. And they want Obama out? With those numbers you’d think they’d be kissing his feet.

Obama is asking for a 3 percent tax increase on millionaires and billionaires who currently are paying the lowest tax rates in the past 60 years. The legislation is named “The Buffett Bill” because billionaire Warren Buffett, the second richest man in America, asked it to be. Buffett noted, “I pay less of a tax rate than my cleaning lady.” What a system.

The Buffett Bill would affect .03 percent of the country. That’s not 3 percent. That’s three-tenths of a percent (meaning 99.7 percent of Americans would not see a change). And yet for the Joe the plumbers out there, and the Tea Baggers, and I’m guessing for fake patriot boo-birds at the GOP debate, this is an outrage that cannot stand. I marvel (or am sickened by) how .03 percent can so easily manipulate 51 percent to vote against their own economic self interest.

These folks, many of whom were gung-ho about the budget breaking disaster known as the Iraq invasion, are against closing tax loopholes. They’re also against ending subsidies to oil companies (with their obscene record profits) and corporate farm conglomerates. So does that mean they like loopholes? Apparently.

Buffett, who gave $3 billion to charity last year, wrote an editorial in the NY Times, “Stop Coddling the Super Rich.” Clearly he didn’t have Joe the plumber edit the first draft. By the way, shortly after the ‘08 election, Joe disparaged McCain, saying “I needed a shower after appearing on stage with him.” A so-called plumber saying the other guy needs a shower?

The truth is we probably should turn the country over to the corporations and the wealthy elite and stop the pretense. There is no middle class anymore and the gap between the rich and poor is just about at the Great Depression level.

College, which used to be for anyone who had the grades and the desire, is now for anyone whose parents have the cash (or are willing to graduate with $100,000 in student loans). But, have the super rich pay 3 percent more in income tax? That’s socialism. After all, there’s always Warren Buffett’s cleaning lady.

When he isn’t too busy grousing about the death of the middle class, Jack can be reached at Jnsmdp@aol.com.

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