Republicans have begun their campaign to regain the Senate in the 2014-midterm elections. So far, they’ve emphasized negative ads about Obamacare. If this tactic falters, the GOP will fall back on the same lies they used in the 2012 presidential election: “Obama’s policies have hurt the economy.” Republicans talk as if they are job creators but they’re actually job destroyers, engaged in class warfare.
Republican television ads running in states such as North Carolina and Louisiana claim “Obamacare doesn’t work,” and “attempt to stoke fears that the law will force people off of their current plans, require them to pay more, or prevent them from seeing their current doctors.” The problem with this GOP tactic is that by the time election day, November 4, rolls around most voters will have realized that Obamacare does work.
Early in January, House Speaker John Boehner indicated that Republicans have a contingency plan; in addition to attacks on Obamacare, Republican candidates will ask, “Where are the jobs?”
It’s a familiar Republican tactic. In 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said:
President Obama’s answer to the our economic crisis was more spending, more debt, and more government… We’re struggling because our government is too big. As President… I will cut marginal tax rates across the board for individuals and corporations, and limit deductions and exclusions. I will repeal burdensome regulations, and prevent the bureaucracy from writing new ones… Instead of growing the federal government, I will shrink it.Romney’s “jobs” agenda was a reprise of the discredited maxims of Reaganomics: government is the problem; helping the rich get richer will inevitably help everyone else; and markets are inherently self correcting and therefore there’s no need for government regulation.
In 2012, voters didn’t buy this message but Romney was an inept candidate. (Remember his gaffe, “47 percent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what [because they] are dependent upon government [and] believe they are victims.”) In 2014, Obama is not particularly popular and Republican “independent expenditure” groups will spend millions blaming the jobs crisis on the President.
As Congress reconvened, NBC news reported that Democrats will respond by painting Republicans as the Party of the rich; they’ll accuse the GOP of waging class warfare.
President John Adams famously said, “Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.” In 2014 Democrats can seize upon the job crisis and the record unpopularity of Republicans to formulate a winning argument that the GOP is ruining the promise of America.
1. Since the Reagan Administration, the gap between the rich and poor has grown to an unprecedented degree due to conservative policies. In 2011, the Congressional Budget Office found that between 1979 and 2007, “After-tax income for the highest-income households grew more than it did for any other group… 275 percent for the top 1 percent of households, 65 percent for the next 19 percent, just under 40 percent for the next 60 percent, and 18 percent for the bottom 20 percent.” A recent Gallup Poll found that only one-third of respondents believed the current distribution of money and wealth is “fair” and 59 percent felt they should be more evenly distributed. 52 percent felt the government “should redistribute wealth by heavy taxes on the rich.”
2. Since 1980 the wages of working people have declined because of the Republican class war. Economist Robert Reich observed: “Nearly 55 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 have experienced at least a year in poverty or near poverty… Half of all American children have at some point during their childhoods relied on food stamps.”
3. Republicans in the 113th Congress haven’t addressed jobs or inequality. In fact the Republican-controlled House of Representatives hasn’t done much of anything. In 2013 Congress sent a record low number of bills to the White House. (Instead of working on America’s economic problems the House voted 47 times to defund Obamacare.)
4. Rather than address jobs, in October the Republican-controlled House of Representatives shut down the government for 16 days. This damaged the economy:
The financial ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said… the shutdown ‘to date has taken $24 billion out of the economy,’ equaling $1.5 billion dollars a day and ‘shaved at least 0.6 percent off annualized fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth.’It’s estimated that approximately 120,000 fewer private sector jobs were created because of the Republican shutdown.
To respond to Republican class warfare, Democrats must deliver a strong populist message in the midterm elections. The US economy must work for all the people. This means ensuring that everyone who wants to work can find a job – a job rebuilding American’s infrastructure, if need be – with a living wage. The Democratic midterm message must emphasize that the proceeds from America’s economic growth should go to everyone, not just the one percent.
Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org