Depending on whose standard of political measurement you go by, Jeb Bush did a thing today that moved him a small degree closer to an official presidential bid. The thing he did was the formation of a political action committee, called The Right To Rise PAC, and according to press accounts, this means he’s crept closer, edged closer, or took a step closer to becoming a for-real candidate instead of a candidate in a state of flux. However far he’s moved, the formation of the PAC allows him the pretext he needs to travel the country and raise money and do various other things demanded of presidential candidates without officially declaring himself a candidate.
None of this is particularly surprising, given that Jeb’s been doing all the other steps required of him in this silly dance – announcing an exploratory committee, severing ties to all his corporate sinecures, etc. What is noteworthy, however, is the PAC’s stated focus and what it says about Jeb’s incipient candidacy.
The PAC’s name, “Right To Rise,” is a turn of phrase that Jeb poached from a speech Paul Ryan gave to the Heritage Foundation in 2011. It’s an expression of the newfound concern in some corners of the GOP over rising economic inequality, and that concern is reflected in the Right To Rise mission statement. “We believe passionately that the Right to Rise — to move up the income ladder based on merit, hard work and earned success — is the central moral promise of American economic life,” it reads. “While the last eight years have been pretty good ones for top earners, they’ve been a lost decade for the rest of America.” You get the pretty clear sense that Jeb and his coterie of advisers saw what happened to Mitt Romney in 2012 and are trying to get out ahead of the idea that Bush would be a candidate of and for the wealthy. Hence the bemoaning of the income gap and the dismissive wave towards the “top earners.”
That sounds pretty good until you remember that we’re talking about a member of the Bush family poaching an ideological slogan from Paul Ryan. The policy thinking that lurks behind this pabulum seeks primarily to make things even better for the top earners by drastically reducing their tax burden (as governor of Florida, Bush “cut taxes by some $19 billion, much of it benefiting businesses and investors”). Those at the other end of the economic ladder, meanwhile, are told to put their faith in “American exceptionalism” and understand that their food stamps, home heating assistance, and long-term unemployment benefits have to be cut because they’re disincentives to finding real work (and that’ll help pay for more tax cuts).
And, in an example of perfect political dissonance, the very first thing Right To Rise PAC will do to realize its mission of battling income inequality is to head to the unofficial capital of the “top earners” to raise obscene amounts of money from his family’s network of wealthy donors.
Fundraising events already are being planned in Florida, the New York area, and Washington, D.C., in the next few weeks, and meetings with major donors are being organized.
As reported Monday by Fox News' Carl Cameron, Bush is holding a private Greenwich, Conn., fundraiser on Wednesday with relatives. The money raised at this event will go to his Right to Rise PAC.
Ah, Greenwich… hometown* of the Bush family and so many other beloved up-by-the-bootstraps icons of American success, like the Winklevoss twins and Dick Fuld. The fundraising event itself will be held at the home of George W. Bush’s ambassador to France and the Czech Republic (whose wife just happens to be George H.W. Bush’s cousin). Nothing speaks to a commitment to the American dream of upward mobility through “hard work and earned success” like the favored son of a longstanding political dynasty cleaning out the wallets of hedge fund managers and his old-money relatives.
*Full disclosure: Greenwich is also my hometown. It’s a great place to say you’ve left.