WASHINGTON -- Sen. Chuck Schumer declared himself the son of a middle-class exterminator Wednesday night at the Democratic Convention, then predicted Mitt Romney would be an exterminator of the middle class if elected.
"My father, Abe, was a small businessman," said Schumer (D-N.Y.), a Brooklyn native who wrote a book on how catering to the middle class would secure a new Democratic generation.
"For 32 years, he ran an exterminating company. That may explain why our family always associated the smell of roach spray with love," Schumer quipped, before praising President Barack Obama for helping the middle class, and criticizing Romney for hurting it.
"Mitt Romney's plans would make things worse. We've tried trickle-down tax cuts for the wealthy and 'anything goes' for big corporations. We tried it under a president who billed himself as a 'compassionate conservative,'" Schumer said, referring to the theory that cutting taxes for the rich spurs investment and growth.
"It didn't work. Now we have Mitt Romney, calling himself a 'severe conservative,'" Schumer said, invoking an argument Romney made in the primary campaign when he was competing against stauncher conservatives.
"The last Republican president gave huge tax cuts to millionaires that exploded our deficits," Schumer said. "Mitt Romney not only wants to make those tax cuts permanent, he wants to add more tax breaks for the wealthy that would make our deficit even bigger."
Schumer is hardly the only politician to talk up the middle class. Almost every speaker has mentioned it in some way, showing that nearly all Democrats believe their hopes hinge on regular Americans.
"Some say Romney would repeat the past. I disagree –- he'd be worse," Schumer said. "Now take taxes. When Mitt Romney says he wants to reform the tax code, hold on to your wallets. We know Mitt Romney never met a tax haven he didn't like. But his new favorite tax haven is actually not the Cayman Islands -- it's Paul Ryan's budget.
"Under this plan, under this Ryan budget, Mitt Romney's own taxes would drop to almost zero," Schumer said. "But for the middle class, it's a rip-off. Families with children whose household income is less than $200,000 would see their taxes go up $2,000, on average.
"That's not trickle down. That's a dirty trick," Schumer said.
He also cast Romney as an elitist who doesn't understand most people.
"The problem is that he confuses his own narrow, self-interest -- and that of people like him -- with the national interest," Schumer said. He thinks as long as we do right by the Mitt Romneys of the world, America will be just fine. We can't afford a president with so narrow a perspective."
"You cannot base your whole approach on a life experience as rarified as his," Schumer said.