Democrats face a dilemma in picking the perfect face for the rich undeserving of their Bush tax cuts: An ugly old man few people have heard of? Or an attractive young woman everyone's heard of? The party has gone back and forth between the two. Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said "So-called small business owners like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton could qualify for these wasteful giveaways" -- meaning under Republicans' tax reform plan. You've got to hand it to Reid -- at least he's updated half of his celebutante references. But it's not clear whether this one will be any more effective than the last three.
In 2005, Democrats couldn't stop talking about the "Paris Hilton tax cut." House Republicans wanted to eliminate the estate tax, and Hilton, though her star was already fading, seemed to be about as good a symbol as any for heirs who didn't deserve their fortune. The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne wrote in April 2005 that "The Friends of Paris Hilton," meaning Republicans, were trying to pay for a full repeal of the estate tax with cuts that would hurt the little guy. We got another example of Hilton-vs-you in an October 16, 2006 debate between Pennsylvania Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick and his challenger Patrick Murphy.
FITZPATRICK: We're taxed in the United States of America from the time we're born, through our youth, our jobs, into our retirement. I call it no taxation without respiration. If you're not breathing…
MURPHY: That's fine. That's only for $5 million. That's the Paris Hilton tax cut. So if Mike Fitzpatrick wants to stand with Paris Hilton, let him stand with Paris Hilton. I'm going to stand with the family farmers…
How'd it work? Meh. In 2010, Congress made the first $5 million inherited tax-free. Anything over that is taxed at a 35 percent rate.
In 2010, Democrats picked a new tax demon: Warren Buffet, their billionaire ally. It made it seem like they didn't want to put rich people's heads on pikes -- how could they, with a crinkly-eyed friend like Buffet? -- but instead just wanted them to pay a little extra. Obama coined the "Buffet rule," saying super-rich people shouldn't pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries. As the Senate was debating the extension of the Bush tax cuts later that year, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin said, "But let's say to Paris Hilton and Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, `No, you're not going to get $100,000 tax cut."
The next April, Obama gave a speech arguing for a change in tax rates. “I don’t need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn’t need another tax cut." Obama was still pushing for the Buffet rule in March, saying, "Some people call this class warfare. But I think asking a billionaire to pay at least the same tax rate as his secretary is just common sense." But the combination of the friendly billionaire and the hard-working secretary lady did not scare Republicans into passing the rule.
Today we're back to the glamourous reality stars. "Congressional Republicans want to lavish huge across-the-board tax breaks on billionaire hedge fund managers and celebrities like Donald Trump," Reid said on the Senate floor Tuesday, according to The Hill. "More than 99 percent of business would qualify for this extravagant tax break even if they don't create a single new job or raise wages for one single new employee. In fact, fabulously rich so-called 'small-business owners' like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton could qualify for these wasteful giveaways even though three-quarters of Americans oppose tax breaks for the wealthiest few."
Clever, Senator, very clever: While we all know who Kardashian is, and though she earned a ton of money for being married just 72 days, it's hard to hate a lady with such a warm smile and popular butt. But Donald Trump? Everyone knows who he is, and most people think he's a jerk.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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