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Monday, August 3, 2009

The Republicans Opening for the Middle Class

Especially in the last four years, though throughout his presidency, the Democrats effectively painted the Bush presidency as in bed with fat cats at the expense of the middle class. How often did we hear the mantra of "tax cuts for the rich"? How often did we hear the Democrats bemoan the "skyrocketing costs of health care" under Bush? How often did we hear about "stagnating wages for the middle class"? Even though the economy was largely booming up until his last year of his presidency, the Democrats were still able to paint the Bush administration as anti middle class and pro fat cats.

There's a truism in politics and that's that its much easier to criticize than to govern. For instance, the same Republicans that were all too happy to pass bloated budgets throughout the Bush presidency are now bemoaning expanding deficits. Still, there's nothing that helps a party than incompetence and bad policy of the opposition. That's what we have with the Obama administration and it presents the opportunity for the Republicans to paint the Democrats as anti middle class and once regain that voting bloc.

There is some debate among conservatives about how to classify President Obama's ideology. In reality, what it really is, is standard and traditional tax and spend liberalism. Tax and spend is the worst thing to happen to the middle class. This opening started this weekend when two White House advisors suggested that a middle class tax hike is coming. Both advisors were far from clear that it was coming. The reason that this is creating buzz is because most people know that his policies are unsustainable and everyone assumes that at some point everyone's taxes will go up. It all starts with out of control deficits. Out of control deficits always hurt the middle class much more than the wealthy. First, eventually you run out of wealthy people to tax. Wealthy people can take a hit that comes with a tax increase. It hurts but they're still wealthy. Someone making $50k a year has much less room to take on a tax increase. Second, budget deficits are always a tax increase even if there is no explicit tax increase. That's because massive deficits lead to either or both 1) higher interest rates or 2) bigger inflation. That's no different than a tax increase.

Now, remember what the Democrats were promising under Bush: affordable health care for all, affordable education for all, wage increases for the middle class, and an economy that stops favoring the fat cats at the expense of the middle class. Yet, none of that is happening. The health care bill is putting fear into the hearts of those with insurance that theirs will go away. Wages, hours, and jobs are all disappearing. They've put in a few subsidies for education but that's not going to cut it in the face of deficits, lost jobs, and massive deficits.

The Republicans have an opportunity to paint the Democrats as supporting policies that will saddle them with debt, which will increase taxes, interest rates, and create inflation. All these policies are job killers, wealth killers, and prosperity killers and the major proportion of that pain will be felt in the middle class. We've started to see the Republicans begin to engage in exactly this message. We hear Republicans mention that cap and trade will be the "biggest middle class tax hike in history", his health care bill will "kill small businesses", and out of control deficits "are mortgaging our children's future".

The rub is that no one can escape their past. The Republicans are far from strict fiscal conservatives. It's one thing to criticize the other party. It's quite another to speak credibly about your own policies. What the Republicans need is a sort of second coming of the Contract with America. They must, in writing, commit to balancing the budget, drill off shore to create more domestic energy, cut taxes for all, reform health care to create competition, The best way to put past mistakes in the past is to put commitments in writing. The Democrats have given the Republicans the opening to recapture the middle class, but the Republicans must do more than simply walk through the door. Their electoral future now depends on it.


Jim said...

I've been saying this for six months. Don't even talk about the social issues. Don't even mention the birth certificate. Be the party of fiscal conservatism. Tell America that we will cut spending, balance the budget, and be tough on national security. America will come back to the Republican Party.

Anonymous said...

That's all fine and wonderful, Jim. But you're forgetting the most salient point: The Republicans keep tripping over their base.

There's a reason that the Democrats falling poll numbers aren't being met with a corresponding rise in Republican numbers: The Republican base does not want anybody who disagrees with them in their party.

Its just like Mike said earlier: Reagan made it clear that you were welcome to join the Republicans so long as you didn't try to change what Reagan wanted them to stand for. It was only a matter of time before people started to realize what a raw deal that was.

So you can say the Republicans need to stop talking about birth certificates but you know its not going to happen. Because at this point, the Republican base cares more about fighting some wild-eyed crusade against Communism than actually governing.

Anonymous said...

The problem with Republican ideas is they are being viewed as obstructionist rather than helpful.

Consider this example

Imagine you are a shareholder in a company that, year in and year out, gives its chief executive 10-figure pay packages. You're unhappy about this, and you'd like to make your feelings known. So you want a chance to tell the company. (You know, the one in which, thanks to being a shareholder, you are part owner.) Should you have that right? Now, mind you, this isn't the right to actually overrule the board's decision on how much the chief gets paid. It's just to have a vote in which you get to tell the board—in a nonbinding way—that you're fed up.

Who could possibly oppose this? House Republicans, that's who. On Tuesday, the House financial services committee approved a bill, the Corporate and Financial Institution Compensation Fairness Act of 2009, that would mandate companies to allow such a vote, which has become known colloquially as "say on pay." "Say on pay" got out of committee after a strict party line vote, with all 28 Republicans voting against it.

mike volpe said...

Those are very kooky comments. Democrats have filibuster proof majorities and yet someone calls Reps. obstructionists. How much do you know about politics?

Tben, another person proclaims the Republicans aren't governing. Well, they're the minority. They aren't governing. The Dems are governing.