In the wake of Pope Francis’ reminder Thursday to “keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty,” Jeb Bush traveled to South Carolina for a campaign event. At one point, an attendee looked around the room, noted the absence of black faces in a state that is 28 percent black, and asked Bush how he intended to attract the votes of African Americans, few of whom vote for Republican presidential candidates.
“Our message is one of hope and aspiration,” Bush responded, according to The Washington Post. “It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting — that says you can achieve earned success.”
1.) I’m sorry. A message premised on the belief that black Americans vote according to who promises to “take care of you with free stuff” is not “uplifting”, as Bush described it. Nor is it a message of hope and aspiration. It is ugly and deeply, deeply divisive.
2.) No candidate who has internalized and accepted that insulting mythology, and who casually endorses it in public, will win a significant portion of the black vote. Nor should he. Bush’s attempt to explain how he would bring more black faces to an event like that instead serves as a vivid demonstration of why so few if any were there in the first place.
3.) In his remarks, Bush showed a clear disdain for trying to buy votes with “free stuff,” a stance that might be admirable if it were consistent. Instead, that disdain disappears when the intended beneficiary changes.
Take a look at his proposed tax plan. It includes tax cuts for a lot of people, but more than half of its financial benefits accrue to those in the top 1 percent of income. Taxpayers making more than $10 million a year and in the top 0.01 percent — basically, those funding Bush’s campaign and writing seven-figure checks to his $100 million SuperPAC — would enjoy an average annual tax cut of $1.5 million a year thanks to his proposal.
Based on his own tax returns, Bush’s plan would have reduced his 2013 federal tax burden by $800,000, on a reported income of $7.3 million. And according to an analysis by data crunchers at the New York Times, “taxpayers earning over $10 million would experience a 6.8 percent rise in their after-tax incomes on average under the Bush plan.” (That doesn’t include the impact of significant cuts in corporate taxes, most of which would also accrue to the wealthy.)**
So, an additional $1.5 million in annual after-tax income for the wealthy. An additional $800,000 in his own pocket. But for black people, no “free stuff”. Got it?
** And just as a reminder, Bush’s own campaign acknowledges that his tax proposal would increase the federal deficit by a minimum of $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, and by as much as $3.4 trillion, on top of deficits already projected.