Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Republicans Have Nothing to Offer the Middle Class

The main response of the Republican Party to Barack Obama's proposals laid out in last night's State of the Union address can be summed up in basically one word: "No!"   While giving lip service to aiding the middle class, the GOP is fine and dandy with the growing wealth disparity in America and the New Gilded Age goals of those like the Koch brothers.  Here in Virginia, the Virginia Republicans just killed a very modest increase in the state's minimum wage.  Talking about helping the middle class and doing something are two very different things for Republicans.  A piece in Salon looks at the reality that the GOP has nothing to offer the middle class.  Here are excerpts:
Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are zeroing in on inequality as America’s fundamental economic problem.

Bush’s new Political Action Committee, called “The Right to Rise,” declares “the income gap is real” but that “only conservative principles can solve it.”

Mitt Romney likewise promised last week that if he runs for president he’ll change the strategy that led to his 2012 loss to President Obama (remember the “makers” versus the “takers?”) and focus instead on income inequality, poverty, and “opportunity for all people.”

But they’ve got a whopping credibility problem, starting with trickle-down economics.  Since Ronald Reagan moved into the White House, Republican policies have widened inequality.

Neither party deserves a medal for reversing the trend, but evidence shows that middle-class and poor Americans have faired better under Democratic presidents.  Personal disposable income has grown nearly 6 times more with Democrats in the White House than Republicans.

[M]ore jobs have been created under Democratic presidents as well.  These broad-based job and wage gains haven’t hampered economic growth. To the contrary, they’ve fueled it by putting more money into the pockets of people who spend it — thereby boosting business profits and hiring.

Since Reagan, Republican policies have nudged it toward big gains at the top and stagnation for everyone else.  The last Republican president to deliver broad-based prosperity was Dwight D. Eisenhower, in the 1950s.  Then, the gains from growth were so widely shared that the incomes of the poorest fifth actually grew faster than the incomes of the top fifth. As a result, America became more equal than ever before or since.

Under Reagan, Republican policy lurched in the opposite direction: Lower taxes on top incomes and big wealth, less public investment, and efforts to destroy labor unions.  Not surprisingly, that’s when America took its big U-turn toward inequality.  These Reaganomic principles are by now so deeply embedded in the modern Republican Party they’ve come to define it.

When Jeb Bush admits that the income gap is real but that “only conservative principles can solve it,” one has to wonder what principles he’s talking about if not these.

And when Mitt Romney promises to run a different campaign than he did in 2012 and focus on “opportunity for all people,” the real question is whether he’ll run on different economic principles.
That the leading Republican hopefuls recognize the economy has to work for everyone and not just a few is progress.

But unless they disavow the legacy of Ronald Reagan and adopt the legacy of Dwight Eisenhower, their words are nothing more than soothing rhetoric — akin to George W. Bush’s meaningless “compassionate conservatism.”

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