My View: The GOP has set the table for class warfare and a Democratic feast
September 26, 2013
Shades of 1995, 1996, and 2011. It has become a bad Republican habit. The GOP threatens to shut down government unless they get their way. In the 1990’s the issue was about wanting to cut Medicaid and Medicare. In 2011, it was the debt ceiling. In 2013 Republicans want to deprive 30 million people of affordable health care. This also sets the stage for upcoming elections to make class warfare the substance of the battles.
The GOP has set the table upon which the Democrats can feast. Republicans seem perpetually obsessed with reducing the size of government even if the programs attacked give the middle class a hands up. When formulating any tax policy, their bottom line is to protect the top one or two percent from any hit to their bank accounts. Those principles seem to be ideologically applied to about every piece of legislation they encounter.
Do not think the middle class is oblivious. According to this September’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, “Democrats continue to be seen as the party that is most looking out for the middle class. They lead (Republicans) on the question by 17 points.”
There are two issues on the Congressional table that do not leap out to voters as middle class issues, but they are, and the GOP is vulnerable on both. Obamacare is indeed a middle class issue and so is shutting down the government. It is just that the Democrats have not articulated those issues as affecting the middle class. They could easily.
A middle class American family 24 years ago was making more than a middle class family made last year. The top 1 percent took more than one-fifth of the income earned by Americans, one of the highest levels on record since 1913, when the government instituted an income tax. A disparity that wide is fertile grounds for discontent.
Obamacare gives the middle class security that, regardless of their health condition, their income, or their employment situation now or in the future, they will be able to afford health insurance that will also provide preventative care and contains consumer protections from some bad insurance company practices.
Sept. 30 is when the government runs out of money. The first opportunity to apply for Obamacare coverage is the next day. The timing is not accidental. The Tea Party perpetrators of the strategy hope to defund or delay Obamacare as part of their resolution allowing government to pay their bills before the public can learn hands on that health care reform benefits them. It is easier to defund something the public does not yet have or understand than later to take away something that is already an appreciated benefit. They may be tilting at windmills, though, because the President holds the veto pen.
Government shutdown affects a middle class that is hoping for economic growth, more jobs, and sound retirement plans. Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf warned that a “long broad shutdown” could “drag an already weak economy.” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said “it is insane not to raise the debt ceiling.” Chief Economist for the National Association of Credit Unions: “We basically would default on our debt, interest rates would go through the roof, and we’d fall into another recession.” As investment guru, Warren Buffett, said last week of a threatened shutdown that is “pretty (expletive) dumb.”