Thursday, February 21, 2013

GOP Solution (To Its Problems): Help the Middle Class!

We are the change we believe in. Will the middle class buy it? Uh, well, hmm...

I just watched a Republican, a former Rick Santorum advisor, tell Rachel Maddow that the GOP needs to stop being viewed as the party of rich people and corporations and begin to be viewed as the party that wants to help the middle class. It's a great sentiment and ostensibly good advice, though it's hardly new. It's what Marco Rubio, Eric Cantor, and others have been saying, but not doing, for the past few weeks.

Which made me think: How would the Republican Party change from the party of rich people and business and instead help the middle class? What would that switch look like? Let's look at it.

The middle class needs jobs. The GOP solution? None, except to declare every Obama move a "job killer."

The lower class, aspiring to become middle class, needs higher wages. The GOP solution? Raising the minimum wage is DOA.

Consumer protection would help the middle class. The GOP solution? Leave the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without a director, on purpose.

Affordable health care would help the middle class. The GOP solution? Fight Obamacare tooth and nail, to this day. Also, have absolutely no plan themselves. Also, advocate for "free market health care solutions," which have been proven to raise health-care costs.

Infrastructure spending leads to more jobs, and a better economy, and more jobs. The GOP solution? In the middle of a slow, painful economic recovery, call for deficit reduction and economic policies that mirror the UK and EU's austerity programs, which have mired their economies in double- and even triple-dip recessions.

Businesses, among them mega-farmers and oil producers, benefit from a bunch of corporate tax breaks and subsidies. The GOP solution? During a time when the federal government needs more revenue to bring down the debt, Republicans fight tooth and nail against tax reform targeting these sweetheart deals for oil companies and big agribusiness. Great for the middle class.

At a time when retirement is a fading option for near-retirees and 401(k)s no longer work, the lower and middle classes gets hurt the most. The GOP solution? Fights pensions tooth and nail, as well as urge cuts to Social Security and Medicare, even going so far as recommending a voucher program for Medicare, which is a form of privatization leading to severely reduced benefits.

For more than thirty years, real wages have stagnated or even declined, driving the middle class into the lower class, and the lower class to a life below the poverty line. The GOP solution? Fight to the last ditch for cuts to food stamps, unemployment insurance, WIC, SCHIP, and any other federal domestic-spending program that the GOP regards as helping the takers instead of the makers.

Solutions to immigration and gun safety are readily available -- and timely -- and would stabilize our economy. Fact: green cards for undocumented workers eliminates illegally low wages and leads to higher tax revenues and Social Security and Medicare taxes as workers come onto the books and out of the shadows. Another fact: Gun violence has extremely high health-care costs, most of which is paid by taxpayer dollars, as a majority of gunshot victims have no health insurance. We pay, not the gun manufacturers and sellers. The GOP solution? Fight and delay these reforms, in hopes that they eventually don't happen at all. (Update.  Robert Reich has written about the benefits to SS and Medicare that immigrants could provide.)

The sequestration, if allowed to occur, will cost middle-class federal workers millions of dollars in lost wages, just this year alone (and more each year for a decade). The GOP solution? Let the sequestration cuts happen. And we're not talking about two other deadlines we face, including the delayed debt-ceiling rise.

Okay. I'll grant that the Republicans and their core conservative base have their ideologies and their philosophy of governance, and they have a right to them. The trouble is, where are the policy alternatives that would change in order to meet their new "commitment" to the middle class? What are these real proposals, these real solutions, that are different from the policies that have, heretofore, earned the Republicans the reputation as the party of the rich, the party of business, the party of the NRA, and the party that wants all the Latinos to go home even though we don't have enough farm workers, even now?

They are nowhere to be found. And until they are, all the rhetoric in the world won't change a thing. The Republicans will be seen as a party bankrupt of ideas, whose only true policy prescription is to put their fingers in their ears and say NO as loud and as often as possible.

Where am I wrong?

This middle class barely exists anymore, and the GOP is going to fix it?

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