"Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community." George Bailey, "It's a Wonderful Life"
Jimmy Stewart's best-remembered character had just been trying to explain to the board of his family's Bailey Building and Loan that helping the working families of the town afford their own homes was not an act of charity. It was a shrewd business decision.
"You're all businessmen here," George told the board. "Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers?"
Doesn't it make them, in the current expression, better job creators?
George Bailey's little talk was behind closed doors. Though, thanks to Frank Capra's better-than-you-remember-it movie, we all heard it. So was Mitt Romney's. Though, thanks to one surreptitious video and, more recently, one leaky conference call, it's all out there. And, if nothing else, it should help the many voters who had to hold their noses to vote for Barack Obama's re-election feel a lot less buyer's remorse.
The conference call with donors and supporters that Romney had the other day made it clear that he and, presumably, those who bankrolled his campaign are the true class warriors in this country. They see nothing wrong with offering bribes and gifts to senior citizens, as in no changes to Social Security for those already on it, and to the idle rich, as in oil subsidies, lower capital gains and top tax rates.
But when Obama promises something akin to 21st century health care coverage for all which, by definition, includes contraception or more progressive tax rates, then, Romney says, Obama is buying votes by offering "gifts" to those who got off the couch Nov. 6 to vote for him.
They aren't gifts. They are a vision of a fairer society where more people people who do most of the "working and paying and living and dying" in every community can better contribute as workers, as taxpayers, as customers, as parents and as citizens.
Romney's most troubling error was referring to such things as Obamacare coverage or government-provided student loans as "free." They aren't. We, as a society, pay for them. Mostly through taxes, taxes that have to be raised, in one form or another, to reduce annual deficits and pay down the debt.
Working families pay those taxes. The rates are relatively low but, lacking access to loopholes, tax attorneys, tax accountants and off-shore accounts, they pay.
The rich, meanwhile, almost have to be fools to pay anything near their fair share. Unless, of course, they make a conscious decision to avoid tax avoidance and pay up, not for the benefit of poor people they don't know, but for the greater good. To help build a country that they want to live in. Where they can hire educated workers, workers who can concentrate on their jobs because they aren't being bankrupted by medical bills. And find customers with enough disposable income to actually buy things.
Meanwhile, perhaps noting that Romney was elected president of Utah with some 73 percent of the vote, state politicians are planning to ignore the Affordable Care Act, raise the regressive sales tax on groceries in a way that hurts the poor the most, even try to wrest 30 million acres of federal land away from the national commonweal in order to sell it to the 1 percent.
They are, though, ready to sell us all "In God We Trust" license plates. Appropriate, seeing as how they don't trust the people.
George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, likes to think he does not have to be bribed to behave correctly. Tempt him at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stateofthedebate