Republicans have long had to fight the image of being that guy on the Monopoly box; cold, uncaring moneybags, willing to drive their limousines over the bodies of the poor while on the way to the bank. Amazingly, last week, Congressional Republicans did the remarkable: they proved it.
The story is a simple one, but touches on several issues. It begins with the estate tax.
The irony surrounding the estate tax is that almost anyone upset by it is fighting something that will never affect them.
Actual numbers say so. The IRS says so.
"In its current form, the estate tax only affects the wealthiest 2% of all Americans." That's from the IRS itself. On its own website.
Now, you'd think if anyone was out to get your money, it would be the blood-sucking IRS. But by their own acknowledgement, 98% of you folks, you have nothing to worry about.
Even if you're rich.
Again, according to the IRS itself, most estates "do not require the filing of an estate tax return." And "through 2008, the amount is raised to $2,000,000." ($4 million for couples.)
In other words, if a joint-estate is left to you of $4 million...you not only don't pay a penny, you don't even have to file an estate tax return.
Nothing, zippo, nada.
What this all means, of course, is that anyone not in that upper 2% of wealthiest Americans, but arguing to eliminate the estate tax, is simply fighting for the upper crust wealthiest Americans to become even crustier. At your own expense.
Hey, if you're okay with that, fine, it's very generous of you. I'm sure the upper-crusty folks appreciate it. They might not return the favor or invite you into their homes, but still, it's the thought that counts. Just remember, this $1 trillion of lost tax revenue over a decade would otherwise go to the United States to help pay for...well, everything.
This isn't a debate about the estate tax. If you like the tax or don't, that's your choice. It's just noting who the law actually affects.
The other 98% is just standing on common ground.
Okay, next, the road of this story goes through the minimum wage issue.
For years, Democrats have been pushing to raise the hourly minimum wage from the current $5.15. Now, alone, that number doesn't have much meaning. So, let's look at the full picture: working a 40-hour week at $5.15 means a person will earn a whopping $10,700 for the year. This is below the official poverty line for families.
No, every minimum wage worker isn't raising a family. But if you're working 40 hours a week, then that clearly is your main source of income. And admit it, $10,700 is sort of pathetic.
Those are the hard-facts we're dealing with. Anyone who wants to discuss the impact of the minimum wage on society, that's another debate next door. The only thing at issue here are actual dollars.
And that, at last, brings us to the issue.
The Republican Congress Shoots Itself in Both Feet issue. The Republican Congress Proves Everyone's Worst Nightmares About Republicans issue. The Poor People Can Go to Hell and We Don't Care Because We're Insanely Rich issue.
This isn't even one of those "nuance" things that make conservatives so queasy. It's pretty blatant.
After Democrats have long-pushed to raise the minimum wage, Republicans have come up with a plan to address it.
Are you ready? Are you sitting down?
Republicans in Congress have agreed to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour ($10,700 a year) to $7.25 ($14,000) - IF - the estate tax for the upper 2% of the wealthiest Americans is eliminated.
Yes, you read that right. Republicans in Congress are actually holding the poorest people in the country hostage, telling them that the only way Republicans will increase their paltry $10,700 income is if the wealthiest 2% of Americans get a tax break.
Oh, and it will take two years to phase in that minimum wage increase.
Make no mistake, this isn't about whether raising the minimum wage is good or bad for the economy. Throw that argument out the window. The Republicans have said, "It's fine! We'll raise the minimum wage. It's not a problem." What they're haggling about is unless they get this tax break for the wealthiest 2% of the wealthy, they won't help the poorest in need.
It's that simple. It can't be read any other way. Any attempt to explain it otherwise is false.
Some quid-pro-quo deals are fair. But Americans also understand when a schoolyard bully tries to force the weak to give him whatever he wants. The poor need this increase to live. The wealthiest 2% can probably muddle through okay.
Anyone who wants proof, finally, that the Republican cliché is true, there it is. In black and blue. Anyone who thinks that the Republican Party is fighting for you - it is. If you're in their 2% majority.
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/relisberg