The Hightower Report

Republican Presidential Hopes; and Schumer's Wall Street Poverty Program

SCHUMER'S WALL STREET POVERTY PROGRAM

Sen. Chuck Schumer is a Democrat, and, by gollies, he's taking a bold stand for poor people in America. Is he proposing a national push for affordable housing? Uh, no. A jobs program? Uh-uh. What then?

Schumer is fighting tooth and nail to preserve a very, very special tax break for billionaire executives at private equity firms and hedge funds. These are the most privileged of the privileged on Wall Street – speculators who are reaping fantasy levels of income and living lives of royalty. What galls these royals, however, is the thought of having to pay taxes like us commoners. Their lobbyists, therefore, have rigged the tax laws so that their incomes are assessed at only about half the rate paid by typical Americans.

This favoritism takes more than $6 billion a year from our public treasury, with nearly a third of that going to only 25 individuals! That's $2 billion a year going to 25 people – money that could provide health care for a million uncovered children. Thus, some populist-minded Democrats in Congress are finally pushing to end this unconscionable giveaway by raising the tax rates on these elites to the level of ordinary Americans.

This is where Schumer's "poverty program" comes in. Since he receives oodles of campaign cash from these billionaires, he has rushed to their aid, opposing any effort to make them pay their fair share of taxes. What does this have to do with poverty? Schumer and the billionaires' lobby assert that raising their taxes means they would be less inclined to finance developers doing projects in poor, urban areas. So, Schumer's shameful battle cry is, "To help the poor, save the billionaires' exorbitant tax break!"

How pathetic. There was a time when being a Democratic senator meant fighting the outrages of Wall Street elites – not kissing their butts.

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL HOPES

You know the Republican presidential field is a little weak when the contenders are afraid of a snowman.

What spooked them is the idea of participating in an unscripted CNN debate in which ordinary Americans get to ask the questions through homemade videos on YouTube. Democrats, on the other hand, did the YouTube routine and seemed to handle it just fine. But one of the creative questions in that round came from an animated snowman concerned about global warming. This prompted Republican Mitt "the Hunter" Romney to reveal his distaste for the hoi polloi in general and video populism in particular, declaring, "I think the presidency ought to be held to a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman."

But snowman snobbery is the least of the GOP's problems. The field of hopefuls is so weak that there is actually a move afoot to draft – you're not going to believe this – Dick Cheney! Yes, "Buckshot" – the snarling old autocrat whose 18% favorable rating ranks him as the least popular vice president of modern times. Even Dan Quayle beat 18%.

Yet, The New York Sun has editorialized that Cheney is just what the country needs. "For those of us who are concerned with extending Mr. Bush's campaign for freedom around the world and cutting taxes at home," states a Sun editorial, "a Cheney campaign is attractive." Yeah, and maybe the GOP could run Nixon as vice president to help boost the ticket's popularity.

Meanwhile, Republicans recently got more startling news when Newt Gingrich let it be known that he is willing to be the party's presidential nominee. Suggesting that no one with political heft is running, a Gingrich aide announced, "If nobody else wants to step up to do it, then Newt would make himself available."

With Mitt, Buckshot, and Newt out front, it's going to be an entertaining presidential run.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Republican Presidential field, YouTube, Mitt Romney, Dick Cheney, The New York Sun, George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, Chuck Schumer, tax breaks, Wall Street

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