Joseph Estrada's famous political battle cry will probably not work for John McCain, not with this Republican presidential nominee's definition of rich as someone who earns at least $5 million a year. But in a way, McCain faces a dilemma similar to the one that got Erap in political hot water – home ownership.
When the online news site, Politico, asked McCain how many houses he owned, his answer was puzzling: "I think – I'll have my staff get to you. It's condominiums where… I'll have them get to you."
It was not exactly a response to inspire confidence among Americans, many of whom are on the verge of losing their homes or have already lost them. Then there's McCain's idea of a rich person. In Philippine terms, being middle class or poor to McCain means someone who makes less than 18 million pesos a month (which could exclude many residents of Ayala Alabang.)
I'm sure many of us would want to have McCain's problem -- to have so much money, and so much property, that you've lost track of how many houses you have. Remember Dely Ataytayan's famous role as Dolphy's super-rich mother-in-law in 'John en Marsha' and how, whenever she needed money, she would ask her maid Matutina to sweep around the house for cash scattered throughout her mansion?
Suddenly, in a presidential race in which race had played a prominent role, class has become an important issue. This is not surprising as many Americans reel from rising gas and food prices, eroding home values and a cloudy economic future.
To be sure, the two men vying to be the next American president are both millionaires. But while Barack Obama is pushing to impose higher taxes on the rich, defined by his campaign as those earning roughly $150,000 a year – or 565,000 pesos a month – McCain has been for maintaining the current administration's tax cuts which many consider unfair to middle class and poor families.
Filipinos are, of course, familiar with the way issues affluence and poverty are used in politics. You’ve heard of the senator from a prominent and very rich political family portraying himself as Mr. Palengke. The current president even once embraced the supposedly insulting monicker, Gloria Labandera.
And an election season is simply not complete without politicos, most of whom live in
Joseph Estrada topped them all, of course, with his “Erap para sa mahirap” slogan despite the fact that he is actually a man of means. He eventually found himself in trouble when the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported that he owned more than a dozen real estate properties, including some palatial homes.
It’s unclear if McCain's own housing dilemma will have an impact on what has been a glaring irony in American politics.
The Republicans have been known historically as the party of
Obama's own slip-ups during the campaign served to reinforce this perception. There was his infamous remark describing some working class Americans as being so bitter that they cling to guns and religion. Then, in a hilarious campaign misstep, Obama once asked a group of
But the Obama campaign pounced swiftly and strong on McCain's so-called "personal housing crisis." And expect the Democrats to highlight other major differences between the two. After all, while they are both rich, McCain's links to Richistan are deeper and longer. So deep that he apparently thinks someone who makes just $1 million a year – or five times less than the threshold he set – must be facing serious economic difficulties.
On the other hand, Obama became rich only recently, mainly from writing two bestselling books. He grew up in a lower middle class household, raised by a single mother who struggled to support her family. Then, as I mentioned in a previous column, Obama also has had intense encounters with the faces of extreme poverty in