When asked why he robbed banks, the legendary outlaw Willie Sutton reputedly quipped, “that’s where the money is.” In those days, people had what we call “horse sense,” which is why no one asked him a follow-up question such as “why don’t you rob orphanages instead?” Nowadays, the equine-mentality-challenged abound, and conspicuously so at the offices of Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.
A recent congressional Joint Committee on Taxation study concludes that “the percentage of U.S. households owing no federal income tax climbed to 51% for 2009.” Apparently transfixed by this admittedly sobering statistic, Hatch has missed no opportunity to repeat it. In a May 3 Wall Street Journal article High-Earning Households Pay Growing Share of Taxes, Journal correspondent John D. McKinnon cites the study and quotes Hatch as decrying the fact that “an increasingly smaller group of Americans is shouldering the burdens for an increasing larger group of Americans.” On MSNBC’s Daily Rundown, Hatch clumsily paraphrased long-dead economist Frédéric Bastiat, saying, “the place where you’ve got to get revenues has to come from the middle class.”
Hatch isn’t merely stupefied by the elementary mathematics of rich people having more income on which to be taxed. He doesn’t stop at ignoring the logical extension of this arithmetic–that a battered plurality of Americans is in such dire straits that even the IRS leaves them alone. No, he shifts gears altogether from revenue sources and chides 51% of the American public, tweeting that “It’s easy to want more gov’t benefits when you aren’t paying.”
Now, unlike the average American household, Exxon/Mobil, Chevron, Valero Energy, and ConocoPhillips are raking in record profits, but they do have something in common with 51% of American households. They also are managing to avoid paying income taxes. So, when the big oil companies importune Orrin Hatch to help keep their multibillion dollar tax subsidies, you’d be forgiven for thinking the insufferable waxwork would rebuff them with one of his trademark crusty retorts such as “it’s easy to want more government benefits when you aren’t paying.”
You’d be wrong. In fact, Orrin Hatch has a long history of defending those very benefits, while advocating cuts for those middle class Americans. Willie Sutton would be sorely disappointed.
As ThinkProgress observed during budget debates last year, Hatch “ruled out… allowing the Bush tax cuts for the richest two percent to expire on schedule (as Republicans designed them) and cutting taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies.” ThinkProgress also posed a rhetorical question that has turned out to be downright prophetic: “If Hatch won’t raise taxes on the rich or Big Oil, but concedes that taxes may need to go up to reduce the deficit, who is he willing to tax? The middle class?”
Looks like we have our answer.
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