Thursday, March 26, 2015

Always attack the powerless

You'll never go out of business.
In other words, while they don’t quite say it this way, the GOP budgets are rooted in the idea that one of the primary obstacles to economic opportunity and mobility is that there is too much government-engineered downward redistribution of wealth. It’s reasonable to surmise that the GOP presidential candidates implicitly share this analysis. As Paul Waldman writes, many of the candidates have flirted with the idea of a flat (i.e., less progressive) tax. Ted Cruz sees the repeal of Obamacare and a flat tax as pivotal to restoring opportunity for our children. Scott Walker is flirting with the party’s most prominent supply siders. Even Jeb Bush, who is said to be the most moderate of the bunch, tacitly premised his big economic speech on the idea that the primary driver of inequality is dependence on the federal government.
The 2016 GOP electoral strategy, believe it or not, will try to make inequality a central issue. I pointed out back in November that we actually saw a preview of this during the 2014 midterms.

Why do Republicans consider inequality a winning issue for their party?  Well, for one thing the polling says so.

People Think The Economy Is Rigged To Favor The Wealthy

Q: Do you think the U.S. economic system (generally favors the wealthy) or (is fair to most Americans)?

Generally favors the wealthy 71%
Is fair to most Americans 24%  

People Think Republicans Will Fix This

Other polls show something ironic: People trust Republicans more than Democrats to fix this and make the economy favor regular people again.

An October 13 Gallup poll: “On the No. 1 issue, the economy, Republicans have more than doubled their April lead over Democrats, to 11 percentage points.”
That's easy to do when Democrats, as cozy as they are with the 1% themselves (see President Obama's support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for the latest example)  present no true alternative.

No one is blaming the super-wealthy for everyone else's diminishing standard of living. And if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for President, we can rest assured that no one will. But inequality is a real and growing problem.  So there's an opening for somebody's rhetoric to connect with voters around the issue. 

And as we've seen time and again, the Republican strategy of blaming the poors; that is blaming " downward redistribution of wealth"  is primed to be a big winner once again.  This is certainly the case in Louisiana. Take a look at this release from the  LSU public policy survey, for instance.
The public doesn't understand much about how the budget works. About 40 percent of people surveyed thought Louisiana spent more on food stamps and welfare than education, health care, prisons and transportation infrastructure. Less than one percent of the state budget goes to welfare and food stamps.
Louisiana is not exactly on outlier in this regard.  The pitiful edifice that remains of our so-called welfare state costs almost nothing compared to the the billions of dollars spent on the upward redistribution of wealth that takes place through manifold tax, trade, and labor policies all over the country.   But as long as no one is complaining about that, voters are perfectly willing to accept whatever scapegoat they are offered.  And Republicans are as eager as ever to make that offer.

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