- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The biggest lie in American politics is that the Republican Party is the party of the rich or wealthy.

In fact, the Atlantic Magazine, a year after the 2000 election, had an article comparing red and blue America. It said Montgomery County, Md., one of the wealthiest counties, voted 68 percent for Al Gore, while Franklin County, Pa., one of the poorest counties, voted 68 percent for George W. Bush.

The article said in Franklin County, the Cracker Barrel was the most expensive restaurant and the death of Dale Earnhardt was a big event, while in Montgomery County, most people did not even know who Dale Earnhardt was.

Similarly, Thomas Frank, a liberal political scientist, wrote a book called “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” in which he expressed his amazement that the poorest county in the United States in the center of Kansas had voted 80 percent for Mr. Bush.

All over the country, Republicans lose the superwealthy areas 2 to 1 or 3 to 1.

I had known this party-of-the-rich business was a big lie for most of my life because of my Tennessee grandfather.

Papa Duncan was a subsistence farmer in rural Scott County, Tenn., on a plateau of the Cumberland Mountains.

He and my grandmother had 10 children and an outhouse and not much more. My father said that Papa never earned as much as $100 in any one month in his life.

I knew him well because I was in high school when he passed away. Papa was so strong in his views that he said, “You could make it to heaven if you were not a Presbyterian and a Republican, but you had a leg up if you were.”

I have spoken to Republican gatherings all over this country. Those meetings have been filled with middle-income people - some upper-middle, some lower-middle.

The few people we have in our party with big money are almost always people who started with nothing or very little, because those people tend to be conservative.

Think of the difference between President Ronald Reagan and his son, Ron. President Reagan was raised in a family that had very little money. He started out with almost nothing, made some money, and he was very conservative.

His son grew up with great wealth and privilege and became the poster boy of arrogant liberalism.

Republicans believe in capitalism and want everyone to do well. We just do not want the federal government to grow so big that it stifles growth and property and wipes out the middle class.

This year, Democrats are hitting us harder than ever about being the party of the rich and are expanding it to say we are trying to protect millionaires and even billionaires. No Republicans in Congress are trying to protect multimillionaires or billionaires.

What our debates are about - on almost everything - is who should spend the people’s money.

Do we turn it over to the federal government, where it will be spent in the most wasteful, inefficient way possible? Or do we leave it in the private sector, where it will do much more to create jobs and hold prices down?

If it were not true that the private sector is the engine of growth, the Soviet Union or Cuba would have been heaven on Earth.

Like almost everyone, I think the salaries of some athletes and chief executive officers are just ridiculous. But I know they are not going to hide their money under their beds. They are going to spend it or invest it.

In my early years in Congress, liberals decided to pass a big luxury tax on huge yachts as a way to get more money out of a few billionaires.

All they did was temporarily stop wealthy people from buying big yachts and throw more than 20,000 boat builders out of work. The tax was quickly repealed.

If we can get beyond this nonsense - this big lie - about Republicans protecting the rich, then we hopefully can show almost everyone that keeping more money in private hands will do much more to help lower-income and working people than any wasteful big-government program.

Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. is a Tennessee Republican.

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