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GOP's "One Percenter" Attack on Hillary Clinton Comically Backfires

April 17, 2015

In 2008, the campaign of multi-millionaire John McCain tried to brand Barack Obama as "elitist" and "out of touch" and "worried about the price of arugula." Four years later, Mitt Romney--the GOP presidential nominee worth at least a quarter of a billion dollars--declared that President Obama "reminded me of Marie Antoinette." Now, Politico tells us, the GOP is planning to "turn Hillary into Mitt Romney":

Republicans are readying a familiar template: The out-of-touch plutocrat who lives in a world of private planes, chauffeured vehicles and million-dollar homes.

But the Republicans' pathetic ploy is backfiring. After all, the now-wealthy Clintons have long supported policies to help working Americans. And while Hillary Clinton has put her money where her mouth is by backing increases in the taxes her family pays, the GOP and its 2016 candidates are--as always--calling for a massive, Treasury draining, tax cut windfall for the wealthy.
Capitals Gains Taxes. At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, former President Bill Clinton explained what Republican control of the White House would mean for Americans' tax bills. "They'll hurt the middle class and the poor and put the future on hold to give tax cuts to upper-income people who've been getting it all along."
Four years later, the GOP's declared candidates are once again proving him right. Both Rand Paul and Marco Rubio would repeal the estates and gift taxes, while reducing the rate on capital gains and dividend income to zero.
Low capital gains tax rates have been one of the biggest drivers of income inequality. In 2011, the Washington Post explained why:

While it's true that many middle-class Americans own stocks or bonds, they tend to stash them in tax-sheltered retirement accounts, where the capital gains rate does not apply. By contrast, the richest Americans reap huge benefits. Over the past 20 years, more than 80 percent of the capital gains income realized in the United States has gone to 5 percent of the people; about half of all the capital gains have gone to the wealthiest 0.1 percent.

Secretary Clinton knows this all too well, and not just because her husband was one of those who delivered "a Christmas present" to the rich when he reduced the capital gains tax rate from 28 to 20 percent in 1998. As she explained yesterday in Iowa, "there's something wrong when hedge fund managers pay less in taxes than nurses or the truckers I saw on I-80."
Private Equity and Hedge Funds. As it turns out, Hillary Clinton's son-in-law is a hedge fund manager. But she's more than willing make him pay more to Uncle Sam by ending the "carried interest" tax exemption that allows Mitt Romney and his ilk to escape millions in assessments each year. As the New York Times reported in 2007:

Senator Clinton, speaking at a rally in New Hampshire, called for ending a "glaring inequity" that allows investment managers in certain partnerships to take large amounts of their compensation in the form of performance fees or "carried interest," which is taxed at the 15 percent capital gains rate rather than at income tax rates as high as 35 percent.

The carried interest tax break is one reason why private equity titans like Mitt Romney can reap huge profits from investments even when those companies fail. And private equity is one reason why Jeb Bush may run into some of the same roadblocks Mitt Romney did. Just ask Mitt Romney:

He has said, among other things, that Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, would run into problems because of his business dealings, his work with the investment banks Lehman Brothers and Barclays, and his private equity investments.
"You saw what they did to me with Bain [Capital]," he has said, referring to the devastating attacks that his Republican rivals and President Barack Obama's team launched against him for his time in private equity, according to three sources familiar with the line. "What do you think they'll do to [Bush] over Barclays?"

Estate Tax. Another problem Jeb Bush faces with some voters is the concern over dynastic wealth fueling dynastic political power. But Bush won't face those that worry from Republican voters, including in the GOP's supposed Tea Party wing. After all, Congressional Republicans, the 2016 GOP presidential field and most of the rank and file support ending the estate tax.
This week, Capitol Hill Republicans voted once again to end what they call the "death tax." But despite the mythology of GOP leaders like Speaker John Boehner ("People who aren't wealthy, who may have built up value in land over generations and many family farms find themselves in situations where they've got to sell the farm in order the pay the taxes"), only two out of 1,000 estates will even have to pay the tax in 2015. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) documented, the supposed deficit-hawks of the GOP would add about $270 billion in new red ink over the next decade in order to keep the bank accounts of the richest heirs in the nation off-limits to Uncle Sam:

The federal estate tax is a tax on property (cash, real estate, stock, or other assets) transferred from deceased persons to their heirs. Only the wealthiest estates pay the tax because it is levied only on the portion of an estate's value that exceeds a specified exemption level -- $5.43 million per person (effectively $10.86 million per married couple) in 2015.[2] The estate tax thus limits, to a modest degree, the large tax breaks that extremely wealthy households get on their wealth as it grows, which can otherwise go untaxed.

Like many wealthy Americans, Hillary and Bill Clinton utilize a range of strategies for limiting their estate tax exposure. But while 99.8 of families don't have to pay the estate tax at all, the Clintons are among the 0.02 percent who will.
Unless, that is, a Republican becomes President of the United States.
Tax Returns. "Hillary Clinton," Mitt Romney charged this week, "is just not trustworthy." That's an amazing smear coming from the Man of the Mystery Tax Returns. After all, in 2012 the Romneys released only two years of returns to the "small-minded" American public, making unverifiable Mitts claim that over the previous decade:

"Every year, I've paid at least 13 percent, and if you add, in addition, the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20 percent."

In stark contrast, by the time of her last presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton had made 30 years of her returns public. To be sure, Hillary and Bill Clinton are "obviously blessed." As the New York Times reported during the 2008 presidential primaries, between 2001 and 2008 the Clintons earned a whopping $109 million, almost all of it from speaking fees and book royalties. But because almost all of their earnings were taxed as regular income, the Clintons disproved Leona Helmsley's motto that "only the little people pay taxes."

During that time, the Clintons paid $33.8 million in federal taxes and claimed deductions for $10.2 million in charitable contributions...
In releasing seven years of tax returns, plus a summary of income for last year, the Clinton campaign noted that the couple had disclosed all their income tax records since Mr. Clinton was governor of Arkansas..."The Clintons have now made public 30 years of tax returns, a record matched by few people in public service," said Jay Carson, a campaign spokesman. "None of Hillary Clinton's presidential opponents have revealed anything close to this amount of personal financial information."

That was certainly the case in 2012. As for 2016, it remains to be seen how forthcoming the long list of Republican White House wannabes will be with their personal financial information. Regardless, GOP moneymen and strategists like American Crossroads CEO Steven Law plan to give Hillary Clinton a gilded-class makeover:

"She's admitted she hasn't driven a car for decades; she probably doesn't ever go into a coffee shop and talk to regular people unless it's for a staged photo-op. She really has lived the life of a 1-percenter these last several years, and it shows."

But with their policies, her Republican opponents will draw nothing but laughter if they aspire, as she does, to be "the champion of Everyday Americans." As Harry Truman aptly put it so many years ago, "If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democratic."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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