John Boehner’s life story is all over the media now that he’s about to grab the House gavel. Boehner cries when he gets emotional, and one of the things he’s most emotional about is having reached the pinnacle of power, after ‘chasing the American dream” all his life. Watching him reminisce with Leslie Stahl on Sixty-Minutes last night was revealing for more significant reasons.
The genesis of Republican resistance to taxes was spelled out for us with each word. We know it in our bones now wonder why blue collar Americans voted the Republicans back in power, why some actually resent the health care bill. They hope to achieve what John Boehner did.
Up from hard-scrabble, next eldest of twelve children who start work in their father’s bar by ten, Boehner served during Vietnam, but was discharged because of a bad back, worked his way through college for seven years, (no money from Dad with eleven other kids to feed), and got his first job in a small business company, which he eventually bought out.
Now comes the key point: as a businessman, Boehner gradually started making a decent amount of money; we don’t know how well or badly he paid his workers, let’s assume he was fair-minded because he knew where they were coming from; but he surely thought that being the owner meant a lot more money to take home. Finally. So when he looked at his first income tax return, he flipped: What?! All that money to the government? I’ve been working since I was ten, attended mass every morning, put myself through college, worked hard, played by the rules, and now I’m supposed to give my money away???!
A Democrat until then, Boehner promptly joined the Republican Party. After all, what did government have to do with his achieving the American dream? He worked for what he got, his parents slept on a fold-out couch, the twelve kids were like a mini-army, each with his task, in a one-story house with two bedrooms.
It wasn’t only his family story that formed Boehner’s outlook: his typical Catholic public education gave him a patriotic view of American history (as opposed to Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States) and a cursory view of the Others, out there. It instilled the idea that we must defend the pursuit of happiness. Not some French revolu- tionary idea of liberte egalite fraternite that leads to mob rule, the storming of the Bastille, and the tumbrels to the guillotine. Here we respect power, the pinnacle of the American dream.
Here it’s every man for himself: the roads, the trains, the water-mains, are God-given. If it requires a few dedicated souls to defend our borders, they should do it gladly, like the Boehner kids helped out in the bar, because God gave us this land, it’s ours and we should be proud to defend it. The citizens being defended will hand out a few coins on Saturdays to the ones who also behaved, didn’t ask questions.
A few coins is all the Republicans are ready to give. They work hard for their money: the ones clever enough to get to Wall Street work hard figuring ways to make greasing the wheels for entrepreneurs like John Boehner benefit them too.
Figuring things out is work. Government employees just follow orders, sit in cushy offices shuffling papers that complicate the lives of the rest of us. Let them get out and hustle, that’s productive, that raises the GNP. Then they won’t always be raising taxes.