Friday, November 17, 2017

Sparing you the sarcasm

Senator Hatch at the keyboard in 2006. Photo by Cameron Craig/Associated Press via New York Times.

So Orrin Hatch (R-UT) lost his temper with Sherrod Brown (D-OH), for saying, "That whole thing about higher wages, well, it’s a good selling point. Just spare us the bank shot, spare us the sarcasm, and the satire."

Mr. Hatch, who had wearily tolerated hours of debate on a bill that Republicans have always planned to push along party lines, had heard enough.
“What you’ve said is not right,” Mr. Hatch said. “I come from the lower middle class originally, we didn’t have anything, so don’t spew that stuff on me.
“I come from the poor people, and I’ve been here working my whole stinking career for people who don’t have a chance, and I really resent anybody saying I’m just doing it for the rich,” he said. “Give me a break.”
Well, OK, I'll spare you the sarcasm for a change, more or less.

It's true that he wasn't born to any kind of wealth. He was the first in his family to go to college. His parents, Utah-born Mormons, were virtually immigrants making a home in Pittsburgh when he was born in 1934. But it isn't quite true that he didn't have anything. He had things that used to be normal in those days just after World War II, in a time of powerful trade unions and a 91% marginal tax rate.

For instance, his father was "a master craftsman, skilled tradesman and he was a lifetime member of the Wood, Wire and Metal Lather's International Union of the AFL-CIO." You can call that "lower middle class" if you want, but it enabled him to maintain a big Mormon family with a stay-at-home mom, open house for missionaries passing through, plenty of time for fishing, and music lessons for the kids (some of which, young Orrin's violin, would have been a more or less obligatory feature of a good public school like the ones in Pittsburgh at the time, but he had to buy the big Hammond organ Orrin played at home—the Senator's still a musician, has written a number of songs as well, managed an ex-psychedelic Mormon band for a while in the 1970s, and is alleged by Wikipedia to have "earned over $10,000 as an LDS music recording artist").

Orrin's brother Jesse, a nose turret gunner in the Army Air Corps, was shot down and killed over Austria in 1945, so he himself was exempted from the draft as a "sole remaining [male] heir", but he did his missionary service, not in fancy overseas missions like Willard Mitt Romney but home in the Midwest, and then went to Brigham Young University and law school at Pitt. Along the way he learned his father's trade of metal lathing and joined the union, which helped him make it through school in Provo, and back in Pittsburgh as well (because although he had a full scholarship to Pitt he was already married and starting a family, so he still needed more money).

I'm not saying he wasn't exceptional, people—he clearly was! I'm saying he was raised in a society that gave you a chance to be exceptional no matter where you came from—unless it was someplace where your skin was the wrong color and your nose the wrong shape or people spoke the wrong language or some combination of those making it orders of magnitude more difficult, I'm not saying things were perfect by any means, but it was pretty close to perfect for Orrin Hatch, and not so shabby for people who were just like him only mediocre, or interested in completely different things like playing jazz music or farming or being a meat inspector, and could still craft very decent lives for themselves.

This is what we've lost since the late 1970s, just as black people were starting to catch up, and it's a loss that these tax proposals seem intended to accelerate, transferring hundreds of billions of dollars from working people like Orrin Hatch's father to parasites like Donald Trump and his vile cabinet. I don't know why Orrin Hatch doesn't see it. I'm willing to accept that he doesn't mean to be doing it just for the rich (although he's raised $2,772,040 from the pharmaceutical and health industries in the course of his senatorial career and $2,432,469 from the securities and investment industries, etc.), but how can he believe, coming from the background he comes from, that this kind of program is good for anything else?

More from an enraged Driftglass.

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