There's always been confusion about how you determine who's rich, middle class or poor. There's rich and super-rich. There's lower, middle and upper middle class. There's working class, working poor and poor.
Finally, President Bush weighed in on Tuesday to clarify things with a broad, new definition. Speaking to a campaign crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Bush warned that John F. Kerry was going to blather endlessly about how he was only going to soak the rich to pay for trillions of dollars of new spending.
"In the campaign, you'll hear, we're only going to tax the rich," Bush said. "That's what you'll hear. Now, this from a fellow who has promised about $2 trillion of new spending thus far. And only taxing the rich, first of all, creates a huge tax gap, which means buyer beware.
"You see, if you can't raise enough by taxing the rich, guess who gets to pay next?" Bush asked. "Yes, the not-rich. That's all of us."
So it turns out that Bush, unlike your typical grandsons of senators, sons of presidents and graduates of fancy prep schools, Yale and Harvard business school, is just another "not rich" guy, a regular working stiff. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average annual wage for the Cedar Rapids area is $34,600. So that crowd was clearly "not rich."
But who else are the "not rich"? Well, Bush last year reported an income of only $822,000, and his assets were worth as much as $19 million. That includes his 1,583-acre ranch in Crawford, Tex.
Clearly not rich.
But Bush didn't define the minimum wage and assets needed to be considered rich. Would Vice President Cheney be in that class? Cheney reported income of almost $1.3 million and had assets in 2002 worth between $19.1 million and $86.4 million. Surely close, but not quite there.
These class divisions are, by definition, subjective and arbitrary. So let's set the standard: Rich means a yearly income of at least $2 million, assets of more than $100 million and ranches larger than 2,000 acres. Everyone else is "not rich."
That would mean that "fellow," Sen. Kerry, would be trying to raise those trillions from a relative handful of people, including his own wife. Absolutely impossible. So all of us "not rich" better beware, we're gonna get hammered if Kerry wins.
He Read It in the Newspaper
A story's been floating around for a long time that President Bill Clinton rejected an offer from the pro-terrorist Sudanese government to turn over Osama bin Laden in 1996. Clinton, in a February 2002 speech to the Long Island Association, explained that "the United States did not accept a Sudanese offer and take Bin Ladin because there was no indictment," according to a footnote in the Sept. 11 commission report.
"But the president told us that he had 'misspoken,' " the report said, "and was, wrongly, recounting a number of press stories he had read. After reviewing this matter in preparation for his Commission meeting, President Clinton told us that Sudan never offered to turn Bin Ladin over to the United States."
So, here's how it works: Bush has been known to brag that he doesn't read the newspapers. But Clinton does and, worse yet, actually believes what he reads!
Guess we better start checking this stuff.
How's That Again?
Some political observers think challenger John Kerry should be further ahead of President Bush in the polls, given widespread concerns about Iraq and the economy and, of course, Bush's inability at times to say things in English.
So here is Kerry's answer last week to ABC-TV's Peter Jennings, who asked him, "If you believe life begins at conception, is even a first trimester abortion not murder?"
"No," Kerry said, "because it's not a form of life that takes personhood in the terms that we have judged it to be in the past."
Can't wait for the debates. Will they use subtitles?
Unscheduled Stop in Richmond
Keeping up with . . . former Clinton administration energy secretary Hazel R. O'Leary, who was recently appointed president of Fisk University in Tennessee.
The details are a bit fuzzy, but it appears O'Leary was escorted off a Nashville-to-Washington flight Thursday night after "getting loud and abusive" and had to be physically restrained at one point, a Richmond airport police officer told the Nashville Tennessean.
O'Leary reportedly said she just wanted to get off the plane in Richmond, where it sat on the tarmac for more than an hour after the flight was diverted because of storms. At some point, O'Leary tried to get into the cockpit but was blocked by a male flight attendant, police Cpl. Frank Donkle told the paper.
An airport spokesman said the flight crew contacted airport police and asked them to escort a passenger off the plane but declined to confirm that O'Leary was the passenger.
Donkle said that, when police boarded the plane, they found O'Leary sitting calmly in a seat. They turned her over to local FBI agents for questioning, he said.
But O'Leary issued a statement Thursday night saying, "I regret the unfortunate misunderstanding that occurred. . . . The situation was resolved. At no time was I rude or disrespectful to anyone. I answered all the questions that were asked and resumed my journey."
Unclear, the Tennessean said, was where she went or what mode of transportation she used.