Petrified of Obama, Republicans Panick to Cover Up Their Hostility to the Poor

Republicans have given up on Obamacare as their election year issue. Now that the healthcare law seems to be moving along just fine and President Obama is turning up the heat on the Republicans on the economy, Republicans are panicked. The party is still terrified of Mitt Romney's "47% comment," and they would like you to please look over there while they talk a good game and screw the poor in policy.

To appear concerned for the poor, Republicans have picked their tool of choice: the same tool that has helped them disenfranchise poor and minority voters: turn it over to the states. Their basic argument comes down to this: cancel the federal programs for poverty reduction, and turn the money over to the states in bloc grants.
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.
There is only one problem with the plan: Republican states are just not that interested in helping poor people. Right now, 24 Republican-run states are turning away 5 million poor Americans from being able to gain health care coverage, and in order to do so, they are turning down a collective $35 billion in federal funds in just one year's time (2022). They will not help the poor despite the fact that 100% of the funds to cover the cost of expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare comes from federal coffers. 90% of the funds are covered then in perpetuity.

But Republicans don't want to help the poor get health coverage. You can keep your damn federal money, thank you very much. If Republicans will let political games get in the way of covering the poor with the most basics of life - health care - just what makes anyone think that showering these same states with federal money to help the poor will fare any better?

Of course, all the Republican crocodile tears for the poor come from the realization that President Obama and the Democrats plan on using their plain disdain for the poor against them as the country gets ready to vote in the midterms.

The GOP doesn't want to actually support any anti-poverty legislation - like asking ultra-wealthy, multinational corporations to sascrifice some of their tax loopholes, raising the minimum wage so that no one working full time in America has to live in poverty, or extending unemployment insurance so that those without work can put food on the table while looking for work. They don't actually want to invest in education. They don't want to support equal pay legislation for women; they don't want to ban employment discrimination against gay and transgender Americans; and their governors seem more interested in closing down bridges as political retribution instead of building new transportation infrastructure.

No. What they want is for corporations to have to pay no  taxes. What they want is for the superwealthy who make all their money from investments to have to pay no taxes. They want the federal government to be powerless to protect Americans against financial criminals. They want students to have to pay higher interest on their debt and never be able to escape student debt. They want to return to the days when health insurance companies could drop you if you got sick, limit your coverage to arbitrary lifetime caps, or write into fine-prints that they will not cover anything when you actually need them. What the Republicans want is for the middle class to please go away so that America can return to God's rightful place as a quasi-industrial feudal society.

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.

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