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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 11:22 AM ET, 10/28/2011

Republicans are the real guardians of the safety net

Matthew Yglesias and Steve Benen point us to a new RNC fundraising letter, authored by none other than Paul Ryan, that makes this bleeding heart pitch to donors:

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.

Is it fair to ask whether Republicans are growing a tad worried about the Dem charge that they favor the rich over the middle class and would end Medicare as we know it to preserve tax cuts for millionaires?

In a sense, this fundraising email is the ultimate version of an argument that Republicans have been making for some time. After Ryan’s Medicare plan tanked in the polls Republicans began attacking Dems from the left on the issue — a tacit admission that Dems had won the argument over it. This is the next step in that argument: Republicans are the only ones who want to save the entire safety net.

Just as they won the initial argument over Medicare, this fundraising appeal suggests Dems may be winning the larger argument over economic fairness (as opposed to the one over the general scope of government and the efficacy of government spending, where Republicans still have the upper hand). A few data points: Even if the Occupy Wall Street protests do ultimately fizzle, they have already succeeded in sparking a public debate over inequality of wealth and tax unfairness that’s as serious and sustained as any we’ve heard in decades. As many have already argued, this plays against Republicans. This week’s New York Times poll found that a large majority, or 69 percent, think Republican policies favor the rich, versus a meager nine percent who say they favor the middle class. What’s more, Republicans are beginning to concede certain aspects of the argument over taxes. At a time when strong majorities favor hiking taxes on millionaires, Ryan said this during his big speech:

Obama quotes Reagan as saying that bus drivers shouldn’t pay a higher effective tax rate than millionaires. Well, that’s a no-brainer. Nobody disagrees with that.

Republicans agree with the Buffett principle and want to protect the safety net for the poor from callous, indifferent Washington politicians. I can’t prove this is related to the Dems’ newly aggressive populism and the broader populist resurgence we’re witnessing, but it sure seems likely.

By  |  11:22 AM ET, 10/28/2011

 
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