William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.
I've got to let Democratic readers in on a little secret as these "fiscal cliff" negotiations drag on.
We Republicans don't give a damn about rich people. Truly. We don't.
Sure, it's good to get money around election time from the occasional wealthy conservative. It helps offset the huge sums of money given to Democrats by the public employee unions. But other than that, we don't think of the rich much at all.
There seems to be an impression out there -- and I credit Democratic political operatives with creating it -- that Republican backrooms are filled with WASPy old patricians thinking of ways to hold onto dust-covered family inheritances. But, in truth, most of the super-wealthy in America today tend to vote Democratic. I mean really, on what car would you more expect to see an Obama bumper sticker, a Ford or a BMW? Be honest.
So why on Earth do we Republicans defend "the super rich"? Why did we just get our clocks cleaned in an election defending a tiny -- 1 or 2 percent -- demographic group whose political enrollment actually skews Democratic?
Is it because we're stupid?
Partly. Defending the rich clearly isn't a political winner.
Is it because we got outplayed?
Without question. When we pledged not to raise taxes, ala Grover Norquist, we failed to anticipate that Democrats would roll out a smart and brutal class war strategy, separating the middle- and upper-middle classes from those dreadful "super rich" and forcing us to defend the latter against tax increases.
Checkmate. (See Nov. 6.)
Here's the truth, though. Our main reason for defending the rich -- for not picking on them -- is that we don't think they owe us anything.
That's a fundamentally different viewpoint from that held by our countrymen to the political left. We don't expect anything from rich people, and we certainly don't feel cheated by them.
I can't speak for all Republicans, but here's my view of fairness: If you go out to dinner with a dozen people, you split the check 12 ways. If someone pays more than their share, you say "thank you."
But the idea of "fairness" has become so perverted in this country that two of our dinner companions are now paying 70 percent of the bill and being called greedy by the rest of the diners for not picking up more of it.
President Barack Obama was educated at Columbia and Harvard. He understands the meaning of many words, but "fairness" clearly isn't one of them.
What the president and the rest of us should be saying to the wealthiest Americans is "thank you" -- thank you for the tens of billions of dollars you pay in taxes every year, for the businesses and jobs you create, and for the philanthropy you shower on the neediest.
Another reason we Republicans oppose tax hikes on the wealthy -- on anyone -- is that we don't think the United States spends too little. We think it spends too much.
Communists in China and Venezuela -- c-o-m-m-u-n-i-s-t-s ! -- say we spend too much and make fun of us in the news for it to boot.
There's a reason we do. Government is filled at every level with people thinking 24/7 of how to spend taxpayer money to increase their re-election chances. Republicans realize that will never stop. No matter how much money taxpayers fork over to government, it will always demand more in time. That's its nature. Government's bottom line isn't fiscal balance, it's votes. Sure, we balanced the budget and created surpluses during the Clinton years -- but only because Hillarycare was defeated. It wasn't for lack of trying.
Republicans know that if taxes are raised on the "super rich" or on the ordinary rich or on the middle class for that matter, they will only be raised again to accommodate more "public investments," so we have drawn the line where it currently is. It has to be drawn somewhere.
Unfortunately, this administration, and the Bush administration before it, accelerated spending even after taxes were cut, and paid for it by selling debt and printing money. So now we are spending and borrowing too much.
It's anyone's guess what happens with the fiscal cliff talks in Washington, but one thing should be made clear: It's Obama and the Democrats in Congress who are obsessed with rich people in America, not Republicans. We'll keep defending those plutocrats on principle, though, even as they vote against us.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.