Republicans are just getting weird.
Instead of their usual complaining about how talk of inequality stokes class warfare—or denying the existence of inequality altogether, as they have many times—leading members of the GOP are now taking every chance they get to mention “the 1 percent,” how they are “worried about income inequality,” and how “more people are living in poverty than ever before.”
Huh? I guess that means they’re also now supporting a raise in the minimum wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, reining in excessive executive pay, reinstating the estate tax, extending long-term unemployment, paid sick leave, and other investments in working Americans like affordable child care, universal pre-K, and free community college, right?
Of course, they haven’t changed their position on any of these issues. No new taxes on the wealthy, leave corporations alone, no extension of unemployment, no new investments for working Americans, no change in the minimum wage (unless we abolish it altogether, which they might support).
Several key Republican leaders—and Presidential hopefuls—like Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul dodged a question this past weekend about whether they think we need a federal minimum wage at all. (Incidentally, this happened at an event sponsored by the Koch brothers…)
So what gives? Why are they worried about inequality all of a sudden?
On 60 Minutes this past Sunday, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell shed some light on this.
McConnell said, “The so-called 1 percent that the president is always talking about have done quite well,” adding that everyone else is now “worse off than they were” when President Obama came into office.
“Frankly, the president’s policies have made income inequality worse,” Boehner chimed in. “All the regulations that are coming out of Washington make it more difficult for employers to hire more people. Chief among those, I would argue, is Obamacare.”
Okay, let me see if I’ve got this. Republicans suddenly discovered inequality because they think they can blame it on Obama. They know inequality is a rising concern among voters, and they don’t want to seem out of touch in the next election. So maybe inequality-denying isn’t the best route. Instead, they’re trying out a little inequality-opportunism.
But there’s just a minor flaw. They don’t support any of the policies that would actually reduce inequality. In fact, they continue to push all the things we know make inequality worse.
Dr. Marjorie E. Wood is managing editor of Inequality.org and a senior staff member of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.