Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Not So Subtle Shift in Strategy: Republicans as Champions for the Poor

No shame. And it's very hard to believe that this Republican shift in strategy will work, but stranger things have happened. After all, these are the people who have made it a point of pride to not only dodge blame for the consequences of their policies, but they have figured out the way to effectively pin all the damage on the Democrats nearly every single time. With that in mind, this next bit bears watching.

The following comes from a Republican National Committee mailing, complete with picture of Paul Ryan, the author of the grand plan to dismantle Medicare and give more tax cuts to the wealthy. The RNC "Presidential Trust" is begging for money to make Obama a "one term president". Here's the text:

“America is at a tipping point. 14 million Americans are unemployed and 9.3 million are underemployed. Our debt has grown over $4 trillion in less than three years and will be above $16 trillion before the end of 2012. The safety net for the poor is coming apart at the seams and no one in Washington seems to care.”

I'll let Steve Benen take it from here.

The letter is right to note that there’s a jobs crisis, though it seems pertinent that President Obama has presented a popular and effective jobs plan that congressional Republicans have killed. The letter is also right to note that the deficit is quite high, though it matters that Democrats have unveiled sensible, moderate debt-reduction plans that Republicans have rejected.

But putting that aside, a Paul Ryan letter sent by the RNC is concerned that “the net for the poor is coming apart at the seams and no one in Washington seems to care”?

You’ve. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

Ryan is the one swinging the machete at the safety net precisely because he doesn’t care. Put it this way: there’s only one party in Washington trying to slash spending on unemployment aid, student loans, food stamps, and job training, and I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the Democrats.

But unless the Democrats make that perfectly clear, the tactic of simple repetition is going to start to set in. Before you know it, it will be the Republicans who want to keep that safety net intact, if only it weren't for that meddling Obama and those Democrats in the Senate. Ryan kept up with this theme in a speech to the right-wing Heritage Foundation this week, attempting to tear down the message coming from Elizabeth Warren and yet somehow take ownership of the good stuff at the same time. Joe Conason reports:

Under a Ryan budget, infrastructure and education would not only continue to languish but starve. He also nodded toward "our safety-net system," calling it "necessary, I believe, to help people who can't themselves, to help people who are down on their luck get back onto their feet," without acknowledging that his budget would decimate that system entirely, depriving seniors of the benefits that have raised millions from poverty over the past half-century.

The gist of Ryan's speech was to scold President Obama for allegedly promoting "class warfare" and for incivility toward his political opponents. (Such complaints might be taken more seriously from a politician who had spoken up at some point against the racially divisive "birther" propaganda in his own party.) Understandably, Ryan isn't eager to discuss the issues of wealth and income distribution, preferring to focus on "upward mobility."

If you start seeing this from other Republicans, we've got a problem that needs to be nipped in the bud right now, or you're going to see it featured in ads next year. The job will be even harder to do with the Democrats on the Super Committee offering up cuts to Medicare and a chained CPI on Social Security. Doesn't matter if that never passes; the Republicans will use it against the Democrats anyway. Have we forgotten the lesson of 2010 already?

Ryan repeating this theme to Heritage is tacit permission to the troops to start spreading this particular talking point, so watch for it from here on out. And FSM help us if it takes root.