Expect a lot of “Yeah buts” in the upcoming election cycle. As more and more signs point to a recovering United States economy, even for the ranks of the forgotten majority in this country, you can still expect to hear a lot of dissatisfaction from the right. It has already begun.
In recent days reports from various conservative convocations and the GOP response to the State of Union Address all share a theme. The middle class isn’t participating in the recovery, inequality is not being addressed, and so on. From Mitt Romney to Joni Ernst to Ted Cruz, the rhetoric — even if it is not genuine concern — appears in place for the race to 2016.
But who’s going to fall for this? Seriously.
There is the old adage that a tiger cannot change his stripes and people should take heed, especially when that tiger wants you to think it has changed overnight.
Besides, we have been through all of this before, haven’t we? Remember when the Affordable Care Act became law? Republicans — at least the most reasonable, which isn’t saying a lot — began a campaign of “repeal and replace”. After years of attacking government involvement in the for-profit health care industry, they suddenly claimed (actually implied because no concrete alternative ever came to light) that they would repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better. Remember that? Well, if that were true, why didn’t Republican law makers propose these ideas when the health care law was being created?
No, instead Republicans did nothing more that obstruct what they view as an inherent evil. There was no give, no help, no ideas. Instead they voted dozens of times in a fruitless display of protest. Their counter efforts were nothing more than self-serving.
Therefore, when we look at promises to address something like income inequality and stagnate wages it makes sense to ask some questions, most simply “why?”. Don’t forget that the wealth inequality and wage stagnation took root more than 30 years ago under the policies of Ronald Reagan, a conservative idol. In fact a conservative cannot be taken seriously unless he or she has earned Reagan worship bona fides. So should we really expect conservatives to stray from the very policies that have gutted the prospects of today’s working and middle classes? Probably not.
What we’ll likely see are pledges to cut more taxes. The difference, you can bet, will be the purpose. Instead of pledging tax cuts for the so-called job creators these cuts will be sold as a benefit for the middle class. Unemployment is going down, after all, so whining about unemployment and therefore arguing for tax cuts to benefit “job creators”, we will address the hardship of stagnate incomes.
(I doubt you will hear any serious conservative make the argument that more money in consumer pockets will stimulate economic growth however. Too Keynesian. But you never know…hypocrisy doesn’t seem to trouble the conservative mind.)
Tax cuts sound great, however it is important to remember that our well being and prosperity is more than wages. Take a look at any of our OECD peer nations. Nearly all of these nations spend more on their citizens and tax them for the service. They also report a greater life satisfaction and security. They have access to education, health care, retirement benefits, holidays, child care, and much more that still eludes too many Americans. More tax cuts will not fund the services that we have lost in recent decades. Americans would be best served if we again invested in our futures and our economic security. Republicans have shown nothing — absolutely nothing — that even hints at this sort of public policy. Rather they still embrace the government-as-problem argument. We have seen the results that perspective delivers.
Overall the nation is on the mend. As imbalanced as it might be, at long last the trend is finally reaching working Americans, even if only in small dozes. The last thing we need now is more of the ideas and policies that have already done so much harm in the first place. So when I Republican says something like “Things are getting better, but…” just stick with things are getting better. That’s good enough.