That’s the epithet Orrin Hatch threw at his fellow senator, Sherrod Brown, during a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee. Brown’s offense? He pointed out that Republicans aren’t shooting straight when they say their tax cuts for the rich will help the middle class.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) had called the GOP’s bluff with an amendment to their bill that would have cancelled tax cuts for corporations if middle-class wages don’t rise – something Republicans have promised their tax plan will deliver.
Republicans promptly blocked it.
Stating the Obvious
As he spoke for Wyden’s doomed amendment, Brown commented upon the obvious. “I just think,” he said, “it would be nice, just tonight, before we go home, to just acknowledge, well, this tax cut really is not for the middle class, it’s for the rich.”
Apparently that remark hit a little too close to home, because Sen. Hatch pretty much lost it. “I come from poor people,” Hatch said, “and I’ve been here working my whole stinkin’ career for people who don’t have a chance. And I really resent anybody saying that I’m just doing this for the rich… We didn’t have anything. So don’t spew that stuff on me — I get a little tired of that crap!”
Added Hatch: “This bullcrap that you guys throw out here really gets old after a while.”
Believing In Opportunity
The problem with Hatch’s impassioned tirade is that Brown was correct, and voters know it. Only one-third of registered voters support the Trump/GOP tax plan, according to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, while slightly more than half oppose it.
Nevertheless, Hatch must have been impressed with his own performance, because he tweeted a video of the exchange to his Twitter followers, and in case they missed it, he elaborated on his credentials as a working-class hero:
“I grew up in a shack with a Meadow Gold Dairy sign for a wall. I worked as a janitor to pay for law school. I believe in opportunity because I’ve lived it.
“And that’s what we’re going to deliver with #TaxReform.”
Just The Facts, Ma’am
A couple of minutes of quick research yielded the following information:
Orrin Hatch went to the University of Pittsburgh Law School. Tuition and fees there now total $33,152 per year for in-state students, and $41,332 per year out-of-state. The average tuition plus fees for the country’s top ten ranked law schools is $60,293.
The average janitor’s salary in the United States, according to one survey, is $28,117 per year. That’s not enough to cover tuition and fees, much less the cost of books, incidentals, food, and rent.
What’s more, it seems unlikely that Hatch worked full-time. According to his biography, Hatch graduated college in 1959 and law school in 1962, which means he took no more than four years to earn his law degree. At the same time, Hatch says, he had three children at home and was living in a converted chicken coop.
Simple arithmetic shows that a present-day version of Orrin Hatch – a “Hatchling,” if you like – would be unable to afford a law degree and begin the career arc that brought him to the United States Senate. So he’s either out of touch, willfully dishonest, or both.
The Great Unmaking
Ryan Grim notes that Hatch received a scholarship to law school, but the math is still against him – especially if Hatch’s tax bill passes. More on that in a moment.
Hatch is quoted as saying his scholarship was the result of a chance encounter in a hallway with a professor which, in his own words, “must have been the sloppiest scholarship application in history at the University of Pittsburgh.”
Reading his account of this professor who, impressed by Hatch’s Mormonism, encouraged him to ask for a scholarship, it’s impossible not to wonder how a different aspiring lawyer – a woman, perhaps a person of color – would have fared if she, rather than he, had encountered that professor in a hallway in 1962. Bias was even more pervasive in those days than it is now. But tuitions were much lower.
Why? Prof. Christopher Newfield, who studies higher education policy, has written that “the public university… (is) being systematically unmade. Newfield describes “a decades-old effort to give the public university a lesser place in American society, which in turn downgraded its major social creation, a racially-mixed mass middle class.”
The unmaking of publicly-supported universities all across the country – the University of Pittsburgh is a “state-related” public/private hybrid – has occurred in parallel with another unmaking. For decades, Republicans and some centrist Democrats have systematically attacked a national ethos which was based on the belief that the betterment of one life served the betterment of all.
The tax plan Hatch so heatedly defends would make the “book value” of any tuition waivers taxable for graduate students. That means a modern-day “Hatchling” would see his or her taxable income rise from $28,117 to more than $67,000 per year.
Assuming our Hatchling filed taxes individually and took standard deductions, one tax calculator estimates that her federal tax bill would rise from $2,613.75 per year to $9,803.75 – a burden that would put the dream of becoming an attorney out of reach of most low-income students, if it weren’t already.
The GOP tax bill is exactly what Sherrod Brown says it is: a tax giveaway to the rich. And it takes away from working-class students to give to those who need it least.
Orrin Hatch is apparently willing to ruin the futures of countless younger versions of himself. He either can’t see – or won’t admit – that he’s closing the door of opportunity behind him. But voters can see it. There’s no dairy sign in the world big enough to hide that from them.
Has Orrin Hatch been “working his whole stinkin’ career for people who don’t have a chance”? Not according to an analysis in his hometown paper, the Salt Lake City Tribune. It concluded that his tax plan would result in “a huge tax break for the wealthy, higher taxes for his middle-income constituents, and millions more people without health insurance.”
Meanwhile, Hatch has been raking in huge campaign contributions from Big Pharma and the financial industry. You’d think that after his years of honest work as a janitor, Hatch would come clean about who he’s working for now.
You know who else worked as a janitor while he attended college? Me. And while I did this years later than Hatch, at the time a public college education was still much more affordable than it is today.
Unlike Hatch, some of us are still grateful to the society and the shared values that made our educations possible. We know that today’s young people deserve every opportunity we had, and more. And we can see that, behind all the bellowing and bluster, Hatch’s tax plan is nothing more than another giveaway to his rich patrons.
“Bullcrap”? Ask not for whom the bull tolls, Senator. The whole country can see this bull tolls for thee.