RNC Chairman Michael Steele and former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN) held a joint appearance Thursday night at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. When the debate turned to President Obama’s plan to let the Bush tax cuts expire on families making over $250,000, Steele “joke[d]” that that wasn’t very much money:
The two often traded jokes, especially when Steele panned President Barack Obama’s long-stated plan to let income tax rates return to higher levels for families making more than $250,000 a year.
“Trust me, after taxes, a million dollars is not a lot of money,” Steele said.
Ford later asked the audience of mostly college students, “Who in here makes a million dollars a year?”
“How many of you want to make a million dollars a year?” Steele quickly responded when no hands were raised.
Of course, to most Americans, $250,000 — let alone a million — is “a lot of money.” The median household income is about $52,000 and only two percent of Americans make $250,000 or more. Fewer than half-a-percent make more than a million dollars. “After taxes,” someone making a million dollars can still expect to keep about $675,000.
Yet Steele is not alone in his out-of-touch assertion. Hate radio host Rush Limbaugh — who reportedly makes about $50 million a year — also recently argued that “$250,000 is not wealthy.” And like Limbaugh, we can “trust” Steele about high income. In addition to his $223,500-a-year RNC post, Steele charges between $8,000 and $20,000 for personal speaking engagements. Indeed, the University paid Steele and Ford a combined $40,000 for Thursday’s event.
Steele’s claim reflects a larger conservative attempt to falsely claim that tax hikes for the very wealth will hurt the middle class.