Reflections On the End of the GOP

All hat, no cattle.

All hat, no cattle.

The Republican Party is coming apart, and if this disintegration wasn’t endangering our country and the world, it would be amusing. Much has already been said and written about this, so I am aware that this rant may add nothing to the conversation. But I think this political event was more predictable and is easier to understand than most people realize. And I think that Donald Trump himself has far less to do with the fall of the GOP than the GOP itself.

The end of the modern GOP should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention. Because from the point of view of the typical GOP voter — their 99% — the modern Republican Party has been one of the most epic failures of all time.

The modern GOP as a political construct has principally been an alliance between two interest groups: urban economic elites and rural social conservatives. The reason the party is disintegrating is that it has over-delivered to the former, and completely failed the latter.

If there is one thing the Republican Party stands for and has effectively delivered on, it is trickle down economics. Trickle down economics has three major elements — tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of the powerful, and wage suppression for everyone else — all in the name of “growth.” And the Republican Party (with unfortunate cooperation from some Democrats), has been extraordinarily effective in the promulgation of these ideas. Over the last 35 years, middle-class voters from both parties bought this scam hook, line, and sinker.

Meantime, the Republican Party has theoretically represented the interests of social conservatives, fundamentalist religious types, and racists. And for this coalition, despite the rhetoric, the party has completely and utterly failed. Across any social issue, the country has lurched towards inclusion and liberalism, from LGBT rights to drug legalization, women’s rights, minority rights, and worst of all, the election of a black president named Barack Hussein Obama. From the perspective of these Republican voters, it is the end of days.

But to the GOP’s one percent — the secular, more socially centrist, urban economic elites who have controlled the party — the last 35 years have been a bonanza. They have been the recipients of an immense concentration of wealth and power, without the inconvenience of having to deliver on the backwards and often bigoted social demands of what the GOP elite dismiss as their hillbilly, bible-thumping brethren.

Which brings us to the unresolvable challenge facing the modern GOP.

From the point of view of their 99%, the median Republican voter, the last 35 years have been a disaster, and their party has caused it. Because if you are a working- or middle-class white Republican-leaning man, your party has completely and totally screwed you.

They screwed you by holding down the minimum wage.

They screwed you by almost completely eliminating overtime pay.

They screwed the union that used to defend your interests.

The screwed you out of the pension on which the middle-class once retired.

They screwed you a thousand ways on trade, and exported your job.

They screwed you on tax policy by lowering taxes on the rich.

They screwed you on infrastructure and education investment.

They screwed you by deregulating the banks.

They screwed you out of your home during the housing bubble and subsequent collapse.

They screwed you on health care costs.

They screwed you on the cost of college and on student debt.

They screwed you (and sent your kids to die) in the Iraq war.

And then they also screwed you on abortion, and gay marriage, and the “War on Drugs,” and women’s rights, and minority rights, and Obamacare repeal, and all the other things you culturally care about, by delivering absolutely nothing.

Since 1980, 95 percent of the benefits of growth have accrued to the top one percent of earners.  The share of income for the top one percent has tripled, from about eight percent of national income to about 22 percent over this time. The minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $2.13 plus tips, is at historically low levels; if it had tracked the wages of the top 1 percent, the minimum wage would be over $28 per hour today. Overtime pay, which used to apply to about 70 percent of salaried workers, now applies to only 9 percent. Union membership, and the middle-class wages and benefits that comes with it, has fallen from a third of American workers in 1964 to only 10 percent today — and just 7 percent in the private sector. Consequently, wages as a percent of GDP have fallen about a trillion dollars, while corporate profits have increased by the same amount. Add in the ridiculous increases in compensation and other income for the very rich and you are talking about close to a two trillion dollar-per-year scam perpetuated on the American middle and working class. Over thirty years, that shit adds up.

If you are a rural social conservative, your Republican party has enacted economic policies that destroyed your communities and sucked the life out of your small towns. And then to add insult to injury, they could not stop people like me from winning on all of the social and cultural issues that you care so much about.

So it should come as no surprise that a candidate like Donald Trump, who appeals to the nativist, racist, and nationalist tendencies of some right-leaning voters, despite his flaws, could take the GOP by storm. Who couldn’t? Seriously. Daffy Duck with a nationalist message would be winning today. I do not agree with a lot of the policies preferred by rural right-wing voters. I think they are wrong and misguided. But I do emphatically agree with their anger. They should be angry. They deserve to be angry. And the focus of their anger should be on the GOP elites like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio and the rest of the trickle-down clown car.  These people have screwed, and want to continue to screw, the median Republican voter. And typical Republicans are finally beginning to notice.

I wish the answer to all of this was simply that more people should become Democrats. And indeed in this election cycle, given what is at stake, that would be my preference. But long-term, that isn’t what our country needs. Instead, America needs a Republican party that isn’t simply a vehicle for the already very rich to increase their wealth and power. Our country needs a Republican Party that vigorously and honestly competes with the Democratic Party to actually increase the welfare of the typical American family. Not with a scam like trickle down economics that simply makes the rich richer, but with actual ideas that might improve the life of the typical family.

Thus, the Republican Party’s greatest challenge is how to ditch the economic program of their donor elite. Because embracing a new economic narrative that actually delivers the goods to regular folks is what it will take to compete in a meaningful way again. Paul Ryan is against raising the minimum wage because he is paid to oppose increases in the minimum wage. So, too, are Marco Rubio and the rest of these clowns. Claiming that “raising wages kills jobs” is really just saying the Koch brothers prefer wages low and profits high. It’s the GOP elite declaring that “we matter, and you don’t.”

I do not believe a Republican Party that works to ensure a more inclusive capitalism will eliminate the racism in the party. Prosperity does not end racism—but it is one hell of a distraction. When most citizens feel like they are winning, it’s not so important to them that others lose. Shared prosperity creates the conditions whereby few reasonable people are angry enough to take a clown like Trump seriously.

Let’s all hope that the current crisis in the Republican Party will bring the fundamental change necessary to allow it to reconstitute itself in a new and more constructive way—one that we may not all agree with, but at least that we won’t be embarrassed or appalled by. America needs a Republican Party that actually represents the true interests of regular Republicans, and not the exclusive interests of the Republican elite.

Sorry, Liver! Here’s Our GOP Debate Drinking Game

gop debate drinking game

Another Saturday night debate, another excuse to get politically inebriated. Last week, we did pretty well on our BINGO card (just a few squares were left untouched), but then, who could have predicted Jeb!’s plan to mint millionaires or the spectacle that was Robot Rubio?

With Chris Christie’s tap out, Donald Trump’s trumping Ted Cruz in New Hampshire and Marco Rubio’s repetition ramifications, we anticipate that tomorrow night’s debate—which will feature a relatively slender six-man stage—should be rich in sideways punches, completely bombastic claims about national security, and likely a hefty dose of economic policies and ideas that are packaged for the little guy but, in truth, only serve to benefit the wealthy.

Moderators for tomorrow night will be Face the Nation anchor John Dickerson, CBS News White House correspondent Major Garrett, and, interestingly, The Wall Street Journal‘s Kimberley Strassel, who has been extremely critical of Cruz in the past. It’s going to fiery, to be sure.

For this weekend’s viewing, I figured I’d go ahead and stop pretending that any of us are watching these Saturday night GOP debates in any form of sobriety, and just made us a drinking game. All you’ll need is a beer or glass of wine, a shot glass, some form of hard liquor, and probably a grilled cheese sandwich or some other hearty food to line your gut.

(For those among us who don’t imbibe, yes, this game works with mocktails and family-friendly beverages, too. Just make a really tall glass of soda-and-non-alcoholic-bitters and join in. As for the shots, can I suggest a nice demitasse of espresso?)

Here’s the game board:

gop drinking game

And as always, you can follow us on Twitter (I’ll be tweeting, too). Good luck and godspeed.

Marco Rubio Says You Can’t Live on $10/Hr, So…What? People Just Die?

marco rubio minimum wage

Marco Rubio: Thirsty for jobs that pay more

At a campaign event back in October, Marco Rubio said something that is factually accurate: That poverty wages simply are not enough to support a family.

“I have full confidence that the American private sector…won’t just create millions of jobs. They’ll create millions of jobs that pay more,” he said, standing in a backyard in (according to the clip) Portsmouth. “Because even the jobs that are being created now don’t pay enough. You can’t live on $10 an hour! You can’t live $11 an hour! We need to create jobs that pay much more than that. But we have to have an economy and economic policy that make America the best place in the world to create jobs that pay more.”

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s go point by point:

  • Marco Rubio believes that the private sector, not the government, should be creating jobs and spreading wealth, even though he’s often said that a tax credit is the best way to put more money in the pockets of Americans.
  • Marco Rubio doesn’t like the jobs that are being created now, even though he’s very much a believer that the economy is a game of straight supply-and-demand and thus, theoretically should believe that the jobs being created are the ones that are most in demand.
  • Marco Rubio admits that the minimum wage—well below $10 or $11 in all states—is not enough to live on, and yet, does not suggest what to do about that.
  • Marco Rubio wants people to be paid more than $11 per hour, but somehow refuses to admit that a quick way to do that is to raise the minimum wage.
  • Marco Rubio says that to pay people more, we need to have “an economy and economic policy” that would favor job creators, though he fails to quite put together that a good way to do that is to, again, give more purchasing power to people who spend their money with job creators.

In this address, he admits that the minimum wage is not enough to live on, which forces the question: Who does he think works for the minimum wage?

People who…are not alive? People who don’t need to live on those wages?

Perhaps, like a lot of misinformed people, Rubio believes that the minimum wage is not for people who need to survive on it, i.e., it is just for teenagers. If so, that could be a major problem; BLS numbers showing that more than 3.3 million Americans earn at or below the Federal minimum wage, and Census data demonstrates that the US has the lowest percentage of teenagers we’ve ever had. If minimum wage jobs really are just for those who don’t have a family to support, we may actually not have enough of a workforce to keep it afloat.

Or, perhaps Rubio is just perfectly ok with a caste system, wherein some people get to live and others do not. After all, he’s previously stated that the best way to raise wages is to “make America the best place in the world to start a business”—but of course, in suggesting this, he’s stating that business owners deserve a living wage, but their employees, who would ostensibly be pulling down make wages of $10 or $11 per hour do not.

Rubio’s statements echo those of fellow Republican Paul Ryan, who delivered his first major policy address as Speaker of the House earlier this month, and focused almost entirely on poverty and income inequality. And, much like Rubio, he got oh-so-close to actually admitting that increasing the minimum wage could actually be the best possible thing for the economy…but he, too, couldn’t quite get there.

Writing for the Nation, Rebecca Vallas and Melissa Boteach explained it pretty concisely:

As Speaker Ryan so eloquently points out, our minimum wage is a poverty wage and not nearly enough for working parents to support their families, leaving many with no choice but to turn to public assistance to make ends meet.

“So say you’re a single mom with one kid. You’re making minimum wage. You’re on food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance, and other assistance.”

So, by raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 as the Murray-Scott bill would do, not only would 35 million Americans get a raise, but we would also save nearly $53 billion over the next 10 years in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program alone.

Unfortunately, Ryan has voted against raising the minimum wage at least 10 times since he’s been in office.

Because here is what is becoming extremely clear about the Republican party: They can see the issue (which is that people simply are not earning enough money), but for some reason they can’t seem to just say the words:

We could solve these problems by ensuring that all workers receive a wage that is economically feasible.

The GOP loves to tout the private sector and decry the use of social services by people living in poverty, but it’s the private sector’s unwillingness to pay its workers enough to purchase basic necessities—like a one-bedroom apartment, which the minimum wage can’t cover in any state—that results in the reliance on social services. Republican presidential hopefuls talk a big game about “creating jobs” and “pushing up wages,” but can’t quite follow the end of that thought to “if people had more money, demand for goods and services would increase.”

There seems to be some cognitive dissonance that exists right in the way of drawing these conclusions. What is it?

marco rubio minimum wage

I tried to do some scratch math but was unable.

Could it be that their major donors are the exact members of the private sector who are posting record high CEO pay while paying their workers a wage that all but requires them to rely on food assistance and other social services? That would certainly make sense statistically; in an article for Salon, Sean McElwee points to the fact that while plenty of GOP voters actually do support raising the minimum wage, it’s the donors who do not.

“A whopping 63 percent of Republican non-donors support a higher minimum wage, compared to only 32 percent of donors who gave more than $1,000,” McElwee notes—indicating that conservatives who are struggling, who don’t have $1,000 or more to give, really do believe in higher wages, while those with means are hoping to keep their money by railing against redistribution.

Or is it just that all of these men are so bound by the ideas of trickle-down economics that they legitimately do not see the fact that it’s not working?

Because that’s exactly what Rubio, Ryan, and their ilk are saying when they make these claims about the needs to “create jobs that pay more”—they are saying that our current system, a system where the minimum wage has neither kept up with inflation or productivity, but where tax cuts for the wealthy are tipping the scales, isn’t doing what they want it to do.