In back-to-back speeches in Washington on Wednesday, House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor argued for giving state and local governments more control over education dollars; and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio called for dismantling federal programs aimed at reducing poverty by turning money over to states.
One may legitimately ask the question though, why now? Why are Republicans so terrified now that they are falling over each other to declare themselves champions of the poor? After all, the only things they have done on the economy since President Obama has taken office is tilt the playing field in favor of the privileged in states where they are in power, and at the national level, attack the President for not improving the economy fast enough while they have thrown every monkey wrench possible into the wheel. The answer is simple: now, because with unemployment below 7%, economic growth revving up, the deficit falling like a rock and the economy finally returning to the days before the Great Crash of 2008, President Obama has something to show for his stewardship despite painful Republican obstructionism.
Republicans can't legitimately hammer the president on unemployment when the rate is getting back to pre-crash levels and while they oppose extending unemployment insurance. They can't legitimately attack the president on economic growth. They can't attack the president on income growth since it only helps Democrats bring up a wildly popular idea that they hate: raise the minimum wage. They can't attack the president legitimately on the deficit without being laughed out of town. Not to mention the American people still remember them recklessly shutting down the government.
Simply put, simply attacking Obama has become ineffective. The president has real economic improvements Americans are feeling (health care is a very integral part of that security), and the Republican propensity to "just say no" to Obama over the last 5 years has forced them into a corner. They don't want to be seen by voters as being insensitive to the plight of the middle class and the poor, but they don't want to do anything to help them either, lest their base come after them. They are stuck between Barack and a hard place, and this is their sad attempt to wiggle out.
The Republican agenda to steal from the poor and give to the rich has not changed one iota. Paul Ryan still believes in privatizing and voucherizing Medicare, and Republicans still want to rob Social Security for the benefit of Wall Street. Their problem is that President Obama has made it clear that he plans to use this election year to expose them to the voters, and Republicans are petrified that Democrats in the Senate will force votes to put them on the record. Hence, they are trying to get ahead of the coming storm by proposing to break up the American social compact, moving it piecemeal to states, and handing it over to the same people who brought you mandatated transvaginal ultrasounds.
It won't work. President Obama has no intention of letting them get away with it as he builds steam to a State of the Union address laser focused on building a strong, broad-based, fair economy that works for anyone who is willing to work hard. And Harry Reid is having none of the Republican shenanigans about offsetting the cost of emergency unemployment benefits now after they allowed Bush to do the same 5 times without paying for it (as well as putting two wars on the credit card).
The proposition that Republicans want to do anything to help the poor or middle class is painfully comical. But their attempts to pull the wool over everyone's eyes have rarely been so pathetically inept, and the Democratic pushback has rarely been so strong as it is now under President Obama. We need to keep this up and make the Right face their pro-corporate, anti-worker agenda. Not so that we can win an election. But so that we can finally free the greatest country on earth from the stranglehold of the worst politics money can buy.