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“Delusional Pro-Poverty Agenda”: This Is Why The GOP Should Be Afraid Of The Minimum Wage In 2014

Illinois businessman Bruce Rauner, a top candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, demonstrated this week why Democrats are eager to use the minimum wage as a political cudgel in the 2014 midterm elections.

On Tuesday, Rauner suggested reducing the state’s $8.25-per-hour minimum wage to the national level, a $1-per-hour reduction.

“I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage. I think we’ve got to be competitive here in Illinois,” Rauner told Illinois Radio WGBZ.

Rauner’s stance sharply contrasts that of Governor Pat Quinn (D), who has said that he wants to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour. But it’s not particularly controversial in the context of the Republican primary. After all, each of his rivals for the nomination — Kirk Dillard, Dan Rutherford and Bill Brady — oppose raising the wage. Still, throughout the rest of the state, the idea of cutting the already insufficient minimum wage sparked instant outrage.

As The Chicago Sun-Times reports, the backlash to Rauner’s plan was swift and severe.

“In my 26 years in the Legislature, I’ve seen many candidates roll out anti-poverty plans, but Bruce Rauner is the only candidate to roll out a pro-poverty plan,” Democratic state representative Lou Lang said.

“He’s delusional if he thinks that the General Assembly would bow to his class warfare on low-income workers. He needs to have his delusion shaken up,” Lang added. “He needs to come to grips with the fact that the era of robber barons is over, and impoverishing workers is no longer an economic growth strategy.”

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson similarly blasted Rauner, insisting that “instead of alleviating poverty, this cruel and backwards proposal would take thousands of dollars from working people who are doing some of the hardest, most difficult jobs in our society.”

And Chicago labor leader Karen Lewis took even more direct aim at Rauner, who made a fortune in private equity, charging, “It is ironic that billionaire Rauner, who reported $53 million in earnings last year, or $7.36 per second, is calling for a reduction in the state’s minimum wage.

“While he sits back and ponders where to take his next exotic vacation or which mansion to lay his head, others are trying to survive in a climate of foreclosures, rising medical costs, and the shuttering of neighborhood schools,” she added. “Instead of pledging a war on poverty he is vowing to advance a war on poor and working-class people.”

The heated response to Rauner’s proposal was stunningly successful; within days, he was apparently scared away from it.

“I made a mistake. I was flippant and I was quick,” Rauner told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday. “I should have said, ‘Tie the Illinois minimum wage to the national wage and, in that context, with other changes in being pro-business, I support raising the national minimum wage.’ I’m OK with that.”

Rauner expanded on his new position — that after cutting the minimum wage, we should raise it — in a Tribune op-ed on Thursday, writing, “Raising the national minimum wage would raise the level in Illinois and in our neighboring states, eliminating our competitive disadvantage. I support that.”

It’s not hard to understand how Rauner went from advocating a minimum-wage cut to advocating a raise in just a few days. Polls have consistently found that Illinois voters overwhelmingly favor raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour (a recent survey from left-leaning Public Policy Polling pegged support at 58 percent). It is a very difficult political environment to be running against a measure that could lift millions out of poverty.

Increasing the minimum wage isn’t just popular in Illinois; it has broad national appeal as well. So it’s not surprising that Democrats are planning to use the issue as a centerpiece of their 2014 campaigns. And if other Republicans mirror Rauner’s apparent fear of being attacked on the issue, their strategy could prove very successful.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, January 9, 2014

January 11, 2014 Posted by | Minimum Wage, Poverty | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Makers, Takers, Fakers”: A Major Rhetorial Shift For The Party Of Sneering Plutocrats

Republicans have a problem. For years they could shout down any attempt to point out the extent to which their policies favored the elite over the poor and the middle class; all they had to do was yell “Class warfare!” and Democrats scurried away. In the 2012 election, however, that didn’t work: the picture of the G.O.P. as the party of sneering plutocrats stuck, even as Democrats became more openly populist than they have been in decades.

As a result, prominent Republicans have begun acknowledging that their party needs to improve its image. But here’s the thing: Their proposals for a makeover all involve changing the sales pitch rather than the product. When it comes to substance, the G.O.P. is more committed than ever to policies that take from most Americans and give to a wealthy handful.

Consider, as a case in point, how a widely reported recent speech by Bobby Jindal the governor of Louisiana, compares with his actual policies.

Mr. Jindal posed the problem in a way that would, I believe, have been unthinkable for a leading Republican even a year ago. “We must not,” he declared, “be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive.” After a campaign in which Mitt Romney denounced any attempt to talk about class divisions as an “attack on success,” this represents a major rhetorical shift.

But Mr. Jindal didn’t offer any suggestions about how Republicans might demonstrate that they aren’t just about letting the rich keep their toys, other than claiming even more loudly that their policies are good for everyone.

Meanwhile, back in Louisiana Mr. Jindal is pushing a plan to eliminate the state’s income tax, which falls most heavily on the affluent, and make up for the lost revenue by raising sales taxes, which fall much more heavily on the poor and the middle class. The result would be big gains for the top 1 percent, substantial losses for the bottom 60 percent. Similar plans are being pushed by a number of other Republican governors as well.

Like the new acknowledgment that the perception of being the party of the rich is a problem, this represents a departure for the G.O.P. — but in the opposite direction. In the past, Republicans would justify tax cuts for the rich either by claiming that they would pay for themselves or by claiming that they could make up for lost revenue by cutting wasteful spending. But what we’re seeing now is open, explicit reverse Robin Hoodism: taking from ordinary families and giving to the rich. That is, even as Republicans look for a way to sound more sympathetic and less extreme, their actual policies are taking another sharp right turn.

Why is this happening? In particular, why is it happening now, just after an election in which the G.O.P. paid a price for its anti-populist stand?

Well, I don’t have a full answer, but I think it’s important to understand the extent to which leading Republicans live in an intellectual bubble. They get their news from Fox and other captive media, they get their policy analysis from billionaire-financed right-wing think tanks, and they’re often blissfully unaware both of contrary evidence and of how their positions sound to outsiders.

So when Mr. Romney made his infamous “47 percent” remarks, he wasn’t, in his own mind, saying anything outrageous or even controversial. He was just repeating a view that has become increasingly dominant inside the right-wing bubble, namely that a large and ever-growing proportion of Americans won’t take responsibility for their own lives and are mooching off the hard-working wealthy. Rising unemployment claims demonstrate laziness, not lack of jobs; rising disability claims represent malingering, not the real health problems of an aging work force.

And given that worldview, Republicans see it as entirely appropriate to cut taxes on the rich while making everyone else pay more.

Now, national politicians learned last year that this kind of talk plays badly with the public, so they’re trying to obscure their positions. Paul Ryan, for example, has lately made a transparently dishonest attempt to claim that when he spoke about “takers” living off the efforts of the “makers” — at one point he assigned 60 percent of Americans to the taker category — he wasn’t talking about people receiving Social Security and Medicare. (He was.)

But in deep red states like Louisiana or Kansas, Republicans are much freer to act on their beliefs — which means moving strongly to comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted.

Which brings me back to Mr. Jindal, who declared in his speech that “we are a populist party.” No, you aren’t. You’re a party that holds a large proportion of Americans in contempt. And the public may have figured that out.

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 27, 2013

January 28, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Forgotten Millions”: Spending More To Create Jobs Now Would Actually Improve Our Long-Run Fiscal Position

Let’s get one thing straight: America is not facing a fiscal crisis. It is, however, still very much experiencing a job crisis.

It’s easy to get confused about the fiscal thing, since everyone’s talking about the “fiscal cliff.” Indeed, one recent poll suggests that a large plurality of the public believes that the budget deficit will go up if we go off that cliff.

In fact, of course, it’s just the opposite: The danger is that the deficit will come down too much, too fast. And the reasons that might happen are purely political; we may be about to slash spending and raise taxes not because markets demand it, but because Republicans have been using blackmail as a bargaining strategy, and the president seems ready to call their bluff.

Moreover, despite years of warnings from the usual suspects about the dangers of deficits and debt, our government can borrow at incredibly low interest rates — interest rates on inflation-protected U.S. bonds are actually negative, so investors are paying our government to make use of their money. And don’t tell me that markets may suddenly turn on us. Remember, the U.S. government can’t run out of cash (it prints the stuff), so the worst that could happen would be a fall in the dollar, which wouldn’t be a terrible thing and might actually help the economy.

Yet there is a whole industry built around the promotion of deficit panic. Lavishly funded corporate groups keep hyping the danger of government debt and the urgency of deficit reduction now now now — except that these same groups are suddenly warning against too much deficit reduction. No wonder the public is confused.

Meanwhile, there is almost no organized pressure to deal with the terrible thing that is actually happening right now — namely, mass unemployment. Yes, we’ve made progress over the past year. But long-term unemployment remains at levels not seen since the Great Depression: as of October, 4.9 million Americans had been unemployed for more than six months, and 3.6 million had been out of work for more than a year.

When you see numbers like those, bear in mind that we’re looking at millions of human tragedies: at individuals and families whose lives are falling apart because they can’t find work, at savings consumed, homes lost and dreams destroyed. And the longer this goes on, the bigger the tragedy.

There are also huge dollars-and-cents costs to our unmet jobs crisis. When willing workers endure forced idleness society as a whole suffers from the waste of their efforts and talents. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that what we are actually producing falls short of what we could and should be producing by around 6 percent of G.D.P., or $900 billion a year.

Worse yet, there are good reasons to believe that high unemployment is undermining our future growth as well, as the long-term unemployed come to be considered unemployable, as investment falters in the face of inadequate sales.

So what can be done? The panic over the fiscal cliff has been revelatory. It shows that even the deficit scolds are closet Keynesians. That is, they believe that right now spending cuts and tax hikes would destroy jobs; it’s impossible to make that claim while denying that temporary spending increases and tax cuts would create jobs. Yes, our still-depressed economy needs more fiscal stimulus.

And, to his credit, President Obama did include a modest amount of stimulus in his initial budget offer; the White House, at least, hasn’t completely forgotten about the unemployed. Unfortunately, almost nobody expects those stimulus plans to be included in whatever deal is eventually reached.

So why aren’t we helping the unemployed? It’s not because we can’t afford it. Given those ultralow borrowing costs, plus the damage unemployment is doing to our economy and hence to the tax base, you can make a pretty good case that spending more to create jobs now would actually improve our long-run fiscal position.

Nor, I think, is it really ideology. Even Republicans, when opposing cuts in defense spending, immediately start talking about how such cuts would destroy jobs — and I’m sorry, but weaponized Keynesianism, the assertion that government spending creates jobs, but only if it goes to the military, doesn’t make sense.

No, in the end it’s hard to avoid concluding that it’s about class. Influential people in Washington aren’t worried about losing their jobs; by and large they don’t even know anyone who’s unemployed. The plight of the unemployed simply doesn’t loom large in their minds — and, of course, the unemployed don’t hire lobbyists or make big campaign contributions.

So the unemployment crisis goes on and on, even though we have both the knowledge and the means to solve it. It’s a vast tragedy — and it’s also an outrage.

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, December 6, 2012

December 9, 2012 Posted by | Politics, Unemployment | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Bemoaning Their Hardship”: The Billionaire Obama Hate Club Up In Arms Over Obama’s New Tax Plan

So Obama, defending his plan to raise taxes on the rich, says this:

“If you are a wealthy C.E.O. or hedge-fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been. They are lower than they have been since the nineteen-fifties,” the President said. “You can still ride on your corporate jet. You’re just going to have to pay a little more.”

And billionaire hedge-fund manager Leon Cooperman, a former Obama supporter, responds with this:

“You know, the largest and greatest country in the free world put a forty-seven-year-old guy that never worked a day in his life and made him in charge of the free world … Not totally different from taking Adolf Hitler in Germany and making him in charge of Germany because people were economically dissatisfied.”

Cooperman, like so many of his fellow super-rich, is upset at Obama’s class-warfare “tone.” But in response, as Chrystia Freeland documents in her definitive New Yorker treatment of billionaire Obama hate, Cooperman raises the level of divisive rhetoric light-years beyond Obama’s, straight into a galaxy of ludicrous imbecility. It is beyond irrational to compare Obama with Hitler, or to argue that in any meaningful way his administration has waged class warfare against the rich. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times, Obama has been great for the rich!

Freeland says it again:

The growing antagonism of the super-wealthy toward Obama can seem mystifying, since Obama has served the rich quite well. His Administration supported the seven-hundred-billion-dollar TARP rescue package for Wall Street, and resisted calls from the Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, and others on the left, to nationalize the big banks in exchange for that largesse. At the end of September, the S. & P. 500, the benchmark U.S. stock index, had rebounded to just 6.9 per cent below its all-time pre-crisis high, on October 9, 2007. The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty have found that ninety-three per cent of the gains during the 2009-10 recovery went to the top one per cent of earners.

Vein-popping blood-pressure spikes are hard to avoid when one reads about the hurt feelings of America’s billionaires. Seriously, if you’re looking for ways to provoke real socialist revolution in the United States, the behavior investigated by Freeland is surely the best way to go about it, outside of mass-mailing invitations to a storm-the-barricades party to every American on food stamps. Flaunt your entitlement! Bemoan the hardship of your 14.1 percent tax rate! Complain that you are not getting enough credit for endowing the local symphony!

But the real wonder is that Obama doesn’t take more advantage of this obvious public relations bonanza. It is impossible to imagine anything that could play better for Obama with working-class voters than the fact that “hostility toward the President is particularly strident among the ultra-rich.” Franklin D. Roosevelt knew what to do with banker ire — just a few days before Election Day in 1936 he famously told a crowd at Madison Square Garden that “I welcome their hatred.”

Obama should be doing the same.

Or maybe he is. Because if we want to understand why polls show Obama up comfortably in Ohio, at least part of the reason has to be that Wall Street billionaires hate him — and like the other guy.

 

By: Andrew Leonard, Salon, October 1, 2012

October 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Words Not Intended For Voters To Hear”: Precious Moments Of Republican Candor Reveal The Party’s Core

The time-tested tactic used by Republicans to deflect attention from their most unpopular positions — especially on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and taxes — is to cry “class warfare,” as if the workers were laying siege to the citadels of finance. It is a complaint that distracts from substantive debate and disguises the real vector of aggression against middle-class and low-income Americans over the past 30 years.

That old style of misdirection has gone stale, thanks to the emergence of audio and video clips that feature prominent Republican candidates voicing their true views… in private, of course. Caught on tape during those fleeting moments, they reveal intentions that they clearly believe most voters should never hear.

Mitt Romney’s ugly unguarded blather at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton — where he expressed scorn for the “47 percent” who supposedly pay no taxes, glom onto entitlements, and consider themselves “victims” — instantly became notorious when Mother Jones released a pirate videotape that went viral. His harsh (and highly inaccurate) words confirmed negative public opinion about him personally. But there is no shortage of fresh evidence, very little of which has received commensurate attention, that Romney’s remarks reflect core attitudes among the elite in his party.

Consider the audiotaped speech delivered by Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, when he appeared several years ago to pay homage to the late author Ayn Rand at a meeting of her acolytes in the Atlas Society. Although the Wisconsin congressman now insists that he disdains Rand, mostly because of her atheism, he can be heard on tape saying that he measures every important vote according to whether it advances her ideology of selfishness. He denounces Social Security and Medicare, which he constantly promises to “save” and “protect” in public, as “collectivist” schemes that violate individual freedom.

Or consider Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor and Secretary of Health and Human Services now running for the U.S. Senate in his home state. Appearing before a Tea Party group several months ago, Thompson offered a boast. “[W]ho better than me, who’s already finished one of the entitlement programs” — by which he meant welfare reform — “to come up with programs to do away with Medicaid and Medicare?”

Around the same time, Linda McMahon, the World Wrestling Entertainment tycoon and Republican candidate for an open Senate seat in Connecticut, told a Tea Party outfit that she wants to “sunset” Social Security, which means in Washington jargon that she wants a chance to kill it. Surely that would come as a very unpleasant surprise to the working taxpayers who have underwritten the program for decades as a pillar of their retirement.

Obnoxious, offensive, extreme — such blurted gaffes used to be heard mainly from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who need not worry whether he can win over a majority of the electorate. But the advent of the Tea Party, with its far-right agenda and insistence on purity, has given full voice to the GOP’s core crankiness. These are people who proudly pour vitriol on families surviving through unemployment and food stamps.

Naturally, Republican worthies like Ryan, Thompson, and McMahon protest, usually via paid spokespersons, that they would never, ever damage America’s most vital programs, and that their empathy for the struggles of the middle class is boundless. Amazingly, they seem to think nobody heard what they candidly told their Tea Party supporters. And if anyone mentions those embarrassing tapes, they will scream ” class warfare.”

It just may not work this year.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, October 1, 2012

October 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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