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How the Republicans Became the Party of the One Percent

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Grover G. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, which is opposed to higher federal, state and local taxes.
Grover G. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, which is opposed to higher federal, state and local taxes.
Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

New today on the site (and in the forthcoming issue of Rolling Stone, on newsstands Friday): a blockbuster of a piece by Tim Dickinson on how the GOP became the party of the rich. What's that you say? Hasn't the GOP always been the party of the rich? Well, not exactly. Consider this, from the story's opening scene:

The nation is still recovering from a crushing recession that sent unemployment hovering above nine percent for two straight years. The president, mindful of soaring deficits, is pushing bold action to shore up the nation's balance sheet. Cloaking himself in the language of class warfare, he calls on a hostile Congress to end wasteful tax breaks for the rich. "We're going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share," he thunders to a crowd in Georgia. Such tax loopholes, he adds, "sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary – and that's crazy."

Preacherlike, the president draws the crowd into a call-and-response. "Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver," he demands, "or less?"

The crowd, sounding every bit like the protesters from Occupy Wall Street, roars back: "MORE!"

The year was 1985. The president was Ronald Wilson Reagan. ...

Booyah!

See, the party of Reagan (who raised taxes 11 times in eight years!) is a far cry from today's GOP. At a certain point, Republicans completely and unambiguously abandoned the poor and the middle class to pursue their single-minded agenda of tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent. The result? "Since Republicans rededicated themselves to slashing taxes for the wealthy ..., the average annual income of the 400 richest Americans has more than tripled, to $345 million – while their share of the tax burden has plunged by 40 percent. Today, a billionaire in the top 400 pays less than 17 percent of his income in taxes – five percentage points less than a bus driver earning $26,000 a year. 'Most Americans got none of the growth of the preceding dozen years," says Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist. 'All the gains went to the top percentage points.'"

And that is a big part of why all across America thousands of people have lately taken to the streets in protest. The Occupy Wall Street movement, Tim writes, "has been fueled to a large extent by the GOP's all-out war on behalf of the rich."

In an interview with Rolling Stone quoted in the piece, Grover Norquist, the man who more than any other warrior in the Republicans' anti-tax jihad has shaped the transformation of the Republican Party, expresses pride that the GOP has been remade since the days of Reagan. "It's a different Republican Party now," he says. The "modern Republican Party," he says, would no sooner recognize a revenue-raiser than the "modern Democratic Party would recognize George Wallace."

Read the full story of how the GOP became the Party of the Rich here.

Related
Grover Norquist: The Billionaires' Best Friend
The Enablers: Democrats On Board With the Party of the Rich

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