Who wants to be a millionaire (with a flat tax)?

Many of the poorest in the US support low tax rates for the wealthy, as they believe they too will one day be rich.

Republican candidates struggle with US voters asking for affordable healthcare [GALLO/GETTY]

Columbus, Ohio – During Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate, in the all-important state of Florida, a woman calmly walked to the microphone, and explained her situation. She was unemployed, and had been for a year, after many years of steadily working. But now she didn’t have health insurance. She wanted to know what the candidates would do for someone like her.

Sadly, for the four well-off white guys on the stage – all of whom have benefited from (perish the thought) government-run healthcare programs at some point in their respective careers – her question was not easy to wave off.

She was not an “Occupier” or other such dirty hippie that they could tell to take a shower. She wasn’t the self-described “Palestinian-American-Republican” (is that like a Jew for Jesus?) who had somehow gotten into this debate and asked about the rights of Palestinians, a people Newt Gingrich believes are a fantasy, like unicorns or his marriage vows. No, she looked like a suburban “soccer mom”, someone who easily could have been one of the candidates’ wives.

In other words, they had to take her question seriously. This is what made their answers so interesting. Ron Paul, in classic Ron Paul fashion, blamed the government for her problem – because apparently government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid were what made healthcare so darn expensive. The lack of competition between big players, explosion in the cost of prescription drugs and crony-capitalist protection of these rackets through policies such as keeping generic drugs off the market or allowing near-monopolies – none of these were a factor.

Poor US citizens ‘exchange time for health’

He actually had the gall to say something along the lines of “nobody had been out on the street” before Medicare and Medicaid. Perhaps he was thinking of Mitt Romney’s street.

The rest of the participants pretty much agreed, with tax schemes to make healthcare cheaper – definitely a boon to someone unemployed and therefore likely with little-to-no income – and promises that if they were president, there would be more jobs, so this kind of thing presumably wouldn’t be a problem.

Dreams of being rich

Because just like Gingrich’s moon colony and Mark Wahlberg’s unique ability to have prevented 9/11 if he had only been in the right place (or wrong one), these presidential candidates have the unbelievable ability to create zero per cent unemployment for the first time in human history.

The truth is that they had no answer for two reasons. First, because the culture of the Republican Party is one that doesn’t allow any solution that involves government funds. From fixing potholes to Gingrich’s moonshot version of the Martian Chronicles, if you’re spending money, you’d better be invading some place or blowing something up – and the moon doesn’t count because there is no oil there (that we know of).

The second one is the culture we’ve allowed our Mitt Romneys to make. Everyone thinks they’re going to be rich someday, even if they’re head-over-heels in debt and lack the education, connections or wherewithal to become wealthy. Even though social mobility has largely become passe, like “shared sacrifice” or Stephen Tyler’s singing voice.

I was reminded of the former point recently when I was at a party at a friend’s house. A gentlemen who had been among the long-term unemployed, was just sure he was going to be the next JP Morgan. So we had better keep the tax rates flat, so he’d get to keep the lion’s share of the profits when he eventually mined enough unobtainium from the planet of Pandora.

The truth is that woman who walked up to the microphone, and really everyone in that hall watching the debate, should be angry. Angry that they probably paid at least twice as much at Mitt Romney in taxes over their careers, while he was pulling in more bank than your average Bildeberger. Angry that a bunch of millionaires standing on the stage, who make their pile through connections and capital gains, would lecture anyone about working for a living. Angry that the United States we had for 200 years up until the 1980s, has seen working hard replaced by Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

No, the woman at the microphone didn’t get an answer to her problem – but we got the answer to ours.

Cliff Schecter is the president of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

You can follow him on Twitter: @cliffschecter

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.