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.
Please check out my new books, "Prosecutors Gone Wild: The Inside Story of the Trial of Chuck Panici, John Gliottoni, and Louise Marshall" and also, "The Definitive Dossier of PTSD in Whistleblowers"