GOP American Dream: Entitlements

The big political story of the day comes from the New York Times and concerns Marco Rubio’s finances. There is nothing in the story catastrophic to the Rubio campaign. In general, it shows that Rubio has taken on a lot of debt, has managed to get lucrative deals in book contracts and by billionaire sponsor Norman Braman, and appears not to be very proficient in his bookkeeping. It seems Rubio charged personal items on a Republican Party credit card, but has since reimbursed the party for these charges.

Still, this story illustrates the disconnect between what a politician says and what he or she actually does. Rubio revels in telling the story of his American Dream. In his America anyone can reap rich rewards through hard work. The authenticity of his message is that he began with little and is now a powerful senator with a legitimate shot at the White House. But what is inauthentic is that his story could possibly fill a more universal narrative for this country.

Rubio is a one-in-a-million (if not 10-million or 100-million). He really hasn’t produced anything of note except his political brand. But what a political brand it is. His ascension into power has produced people and companies willing to pay him big dollars to be in his orbit. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. But it is in total contrast from what the average individual experiences in trying to earn a living.

The average guy doesn’t get to buy houses with no down payment. The average guy doesn’t have a billionaire paying his wife’s salary and underwriting his position at a university. The average guy doesn’t get book deals. Rubio may preach about the American Dream…no handouts, just hard work can take you anywhere. In reality what Rubio has achieved is creating such a powerful and charismatic brand that he receives numerous handouts. But when you receive them from billionaires and companies seeking influence, well, that’s the way business is done.

And this is why politicians are continually held in such low esteem. It simply seems that so many of them aren’t great legislators nor do they produce much of value. But they are very good at looking out for their financial well being in a system they created to benefit themselves. I mean, does anyone feel comfortable with the Clintons and their money machine? Does anyone feel good about senators leaving office to make millions going to work in industries they once regulated?

The reason why all of this matters so much is the specious argument by many Republicans for cutting entitlements. It is specious because it is highly selective and prejudicial. To this group in the GOP entitlements are things such as food stamps or unemployment insurance. But these Republicans never seem to address the massive entitlements provided wealthy people via the tax code, be it low taxes on capital gains or a never-ending list of what qualifies as deductible.

The little guy has to scrape together money to get an overpriced seat and pay for parking (or a $15 beer) at a sporting event. Meanwhile, in the sky box, are the titans of industry running up substantial food and drink tabs. But that’s ok. They’re all business expenses.

Most of us wouldn’t mind living large. Think about room service on a business trip, having your name on a pass list, treated to a round of golf by a salesman wanting your business, having someone fix a ticket. There are few saints among us who would refuse these perks because they’re inequitable. Nope, we grab ’em. It’s about time Republicans accept this about human nature. About themselves and their donors. Now that’s an entitlement society.


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