A soon-to-have can’t wait

The Republican path to a classless society

When I was a kid, one of my teachers explained how we lived in a “classless society,” an idea that confused me entirely. The only understanding of the word “class” I’d learned was what I’d picked up from my mom on those occasions when she pointed out people chewing with their mouths open or some guy who failed to offer his seat to her on a crowded bus. “No class,” she’d mutter, “no class at all.”

To be without class was to be a person without grace or manners. So, when that fifth-grade teacher boasted how lucky Americans were to live in a classless society, I wondered why that should make us proud. Still, I saw lots evidence of how true it was. The slobs were everywhere, belching in public, not washing their hands after going to the bathroom, all displaying an appalling lack of class.

Only later did I realize what that teacher had been trying to convey. We weren’t like the Europeans who had strict boundaries separating rich from poor, trapping those in the underclass from ever rising. The USA, she wanted us to believe, was a nation where everyone was able to move fluidly from one status to another, with no ingrained disdain for the poor and no traditional veneration of the rich that made us doff our caps and defer to people who outranked us with sobriquets like “governor” or “your lordship.”

Had I not clarified that concept of classlessness, I would be even more confused than I often am, especially when it comes to the class war started by Obama supporters who are, apparently, motivated solely by envy. People who are less class conscious—like Rush Limbaugh and Mitt Romney—don’t see the chasm the dividers keep telling us is there. It’s not haves and have-nots, but a nation of “haves and soon-to-haves,” say Republican egalitarians like Mitch Daniels and Marco Rubio.

As much as I’d like to believe in a society of “haves and soon-to-haves,” my own experience has not borne out the Republican notion of how the goodies get divided. And when. If my “soon-to-have” status isn’t upgraded pretty soon, I’m afraid I’m going to miss my turn altogether.

Some say that people who raise the issue of inequities in the tax code just wish they could be more like Donald Trump. I have no secret desire to emulate The Donald, though it’s surely true that if we were all like him, we’d be a thoroughly classless bunch, in every sense of the word.