Morning Plum: On inequality, Republicans are all alone

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

This week, the Senate will vote yet again on an extension of the unemployment insurance program. Republicans are widely expected to kill it one more time, even as the battle over UI has become a proxy for a larger argument over whether government should act to reduce inequality, and over whether the GOP is serious about producing an affirmative policy agenda to help poor, working, and middle class Americans.

In this context, a new CNN poll finds that a large majority wants government to work to “substantially” reduce income inequality, and an even larger majority thinks GOP policies favor the rich. But a large majority of Republicans are alone in opposing such government action, which could help explain why GOP leaders don’t feel any urgency to act on things like UI. The CNN poll’s crosstabs were sent my way.

The poll finds that 66 percent of Americans, including 66 percent of independents and 71 percent of moderates, strongly or somewhat agree with the statement that “the government should work to substantially reduce the income gap between the rich and poor.” By contrast, 57 percent of Republicans disagree with that statement.

The poll also finds 69 percent of Americans, and 72 percent of independents and 76 percent of moderates, “think the policies of the Republican Party generally favor the rich.” Only 23 percent of Americans, and 22 percent of independents and 20 percent of moderates, think GOP policies favor the middle class. (30 percent think Dem policies favor the rich; 36 percent say they favor the middle class.)

Meanwhile, 42 percent of Republicans strongly disagree with the statement that government should reduce the income gap. The GOP base has been bombarded for years with the message that Obummer Big Gummint is the source of all our current economic ills. And so, even though the deficit is shrinking, there is strong opposition among GOP voters — who are all alone on this point — for government action to help spread the gains of the recovery more equitably, something that would require spending some money. Yet fewer than one in four Americans think GOP policies favor the middle class. So this could be another sign that the preoccupations of the GOP base are at odds with GOP efforts to develop a more affirmative agenda.

Indeed, it’s even worse than this. The GOP base’s hatred of big government and spending – again, even though the deficit is shrinking — could be helping to push Republicans into another destructive debt limit fight.

* HOUSE GOP TO STAGE DEBT LIMIT SHOWDOWN? The above polling suggests the political context within which the debt ceiling fight is set to unfold. The Post reports that even some House conservatives are now admitting it’s time to agree to a clean debt limit increase. But:

Much of the caucus, however, seemed to be coalescing around the idea of linking a one-year extension of the debt ceiling to another effort to repeal some provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

And here’s Ted Cruz, urging the GOP to use the debt limit showdown to extract spending cuts:

“Of course the debt ceiling should be used to enact structural spending reforms to fix the problem, to fix the out-of-control spending and debt. That’s what all of our constituents expect, and it’s what every member of this body tells our constituents we will do.”

Sure, Obamacare is unpopular, as is generic “government spending.” But do Republicans really want to take the blame for another destructive governing crisis at a time when fewer than one in four Americans think they prioritize the middle class? I’d say this will be a big fizzle.

* WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY: Congressional Budget Office chief Douglas Elmendorf is set to testify before the House Budget Committee today. It will be interesting to see what he says about widespread claims that the CBO report yesterday found that Obamacare will kill over 2 million jobs. Also watch for his testimony about the shrinking near-term deficit.

* MEDIA BLEW IT ON CBO REPORT: Erik Wemple has a good rundown of all the botched and corrected headlines that resulted after news orgs ran with interpretations of the CBO report that echoed the false spin pushed hard by Republicans yesterday. Worth noting: ”partisan” bloggers on the right and left initially characterized the report more accurately than many neutral news orgs did.

* OBAMACARE FREES PEOPLE FROM THE “INSURANCE TRAP”: Relatedly, the New York Times has a good editorial laying out how the CBO’s findings actually show that Obamacare is freeing people from being tied to jobs because they need insurance:

Some workers may have had a pre-existing condition and will now be able to leave work because insurers must accept all applicants…Some may have felt they needed to keep working to pay for health insurance, but now new government subsidies will help pay premiums, making it more possible for them to leave their jobs…The new law will free people, young and old, to pursue careers or retirement without having to worry about health coverage. Workers can seek positions they are most qualified for and will no longer need to feel locked into a job they don’t like because they need insurance for themselves or their families.

* KOCH BROTHERS SPENDING HUGE MONEY IN 2014: The Post reports that the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity is set to launch a sustained air assault on Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, the latest big expenditure on ads hitting Dems over the health law. Note this:

AFP’s strategy is not built around the 2014 midterms but is a long-term effort to ultimately repeal the health-care law.

One wonders how much money will be spent overall on efforts to destroy the law. By the way: Dems believe the Kochs will spend as much as $200 million this cycle. Where is the spending from the left to match this onslaught?

* MORE EXECUTIVE ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Coral Davenport has the latest:

The Obama administration is to announce on Wednesday the creation of seven regional “climate hubs” aimed at helping farmers and rural communities respond to the risks of climate change, including drought, invasive pests, fires and floods…the creation of the climate hubs is a limited step, but it…is also part of a push to build political support for the administration’s more divisive moves on climate change — in particular, the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on coal-fired power plants.

With Congress stalemated, successfully implementing the health law and aggressive crackdowns on carbon pollution could become his best shot at a legacy, though drafting the EPA regulations on existing power plants is proving to be a serious challenge.

* SENATE REPUBLICANS OPPOSE IMMIGRATION REFORM: Yesterday Mitch McConnell said immigration reform is probably not gonna happen. The Hill explains the reason why:

Should the thorny debate continue in the months ahead, it could hurt the chances of GOP senators facing primaries and jeopardize the party’s chances of winning the majority in November.

Yeah, okay. Perhaps Republicans would prefer that immigration reform gets tied up in presidential primary politics next year.

* AND KEEP AN EYE ON GEORGIA: Via Taegan Goddard, a new poll finds gaffe-prone Tea Party Rep. Phil Gingrey ahead in the Georgia GOP Senate primary. Dems hope an extreme nominee makes a surprise pickup possible — which would in turn make the road to a GOP Senate majority that much steeper.

What else?

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