With the Iowa caucuses less than three months away, the Republican presidential candidates have suddenly begun discussing income inequality a whole lot more.
During the first two debates, GOP candidates used words like “inequality,” “disparity,” “rich,” “poor,” and “middle class” just 0.06 percent of the time, according to an analysis by the communications and consulting firm Logos Consulting Group. That rate tripled in the Oct. 28 debate, the first one after the Democratic debate that featured more discussion of inequality. It rose again to 0.20 percent in Tuesday night’s GOP debate.
But Republicans have resisted policy shifts to match the change in rhetoric, and remain committed to lower taxes and fewer regulations, which took hold under Ronald Reagan – [after the Carter administration] when taxes were higher and the wealth gap narrower.
“The only possible reason Republicans ever talk about inequality is if their polling is telling them they are vulnerable on that issue,” said Bruce Bartlett, a former senior policy analyst for Reagan who has since grown highly critical of the GOP. He argued that Republicans generally don’t fret about inequality. “Concern for inequality leads to redistribution, which all Republicans believe is evil.”…
The tax plans of major Republicans feature large tax breaks that would provide disproportionate gains to the affluent, according to the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation. Bush’s proposal would raise after-tax incomes for the highest earners by 16.4 percent; more than any other group. Senator Marco Rubio’s plan would give the top 1 percent a 27.9 percent break, higher than an average 17.8 percent cut for all taxpayers. Senator Ted Cruz’s 10 percent individual flat tax would give the top 1 percent a 34.2 percent tax cut, compared to an average 21.3 percent across all groups.
Although Republican front-runner Donald Trump has raised hackles in calling for closing the “carried interest” tax loophole that benefits private equity and hedge fund managers, the billionaire’s overall tax plan also disproportionately benefits the top 1 percent…
Along with Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Bush, Rubio, and Cruz also oppose Democratic-backed proposals to combat inequality such as lifting the federal minimum wage. Republicans unanimously want to repeal Obamacare, the 2010 law that has slowed the rise of inequality by extending health-care coverage to nearly 17 million middle- and low-income Americans, funded in large part by taxes on the affluent. Many Republican candidates are also campaigning on cutting Social Security, which has dramatically reduced poverty among seniors.
Though economic conditions have changed such that ordinary Americans are taking home fewer real wages for higher productivity, the fundamental tenets of Republican economic orthodoxy have not changed — taxes on upper earners should be cut, rules on business activity should be lifted, and national economic growth trumps targeted efforts at assisting those getting left behind.
Just in case you’re silly enough to believe Republican declarations on behalf of economic policies which have been failing the broad ranks of American wage-earners for a century.
The lies may change from generation to generation. The narrow class interests served by the Republican Party only squeeze the rest of us tighter and tighter.