Reps Hate Minimum Wage and EITC

Jonathan ChaitSometimes, Jonathan Chait annoys the hell out of me. But other times I just want to kiss him. When I disagree with him, it is usually about fairly minor issues of policy and ideology. But when it comes to the state of the Republican Party, no one is more clear. Just about an hour ago, he wrote an article, Why Republicans Love Taxing the Poor. And it is great.

Most of the short article is about an article by one of my favorite conservatives, Ramesh Ponnuru. Ponnuru himself has a clear view of the Republican Party, like when he suggested that Republicans stop talking about how Latinos are natural Republicans because of their “family values.” As he said, “I suspect most people throughout human history have been hard-working, family-oriented, and religious, without sharing conservative views about limited constitutional government.”

Ramesh PonnuruBut as clear-eyed as Ponnuru is, he is still a professional apologist for the interests of the rich. So he still pumps out the propaganda and Chait called him on it today. Ponnuru was saying that the Republican Party ought to show that it really does care about the poor even while staying against raising the minimum wage, by raising the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This way, the Republicans could signal that they are against the government interfering in the free market as exemplified by the minimum wage, but still help out the poor with the tax credit for low wage workers. Chait called him on this by noting that the the Republican Party—far from wanting to raise the EITC—wants to lower or even eliminate it. Chait noted that Ponnuru made no mention of this. I will only add that Ponnuru knew what he was doing because he’s a propagandist.

One thing that Chait did not talk about is the contradiction of Ponnuru’s choice. Raising the minimum wage would take money away from everyone in higher costs and lower profits. As such, however, it would be highly progressive: the rich would pay a lot more for a rise in the minimum wage than the poor would. But raising the EITC would be much less progressive because it would be paid for by our taxes, which are modestly progressive but at the super rich level are actually regressive. So there is no narrative here about government intervention. All that Ponnuru is concerned about is how best to protect the money of the rich. This is something he can’t come out and talk about explicitly because the rich are just not a very large constituency. Politicians do the work of the oligarchs, but they’ve still get to get the votes of the working man.

Chait ended the article with what I think is about the clearest description of the modern Republican Party and the tough choices it faces (or rather doesn’t face):

I can see why Ponnuru needs to present his idea, which is a 180-degree reversal of the Republican agenda, as “a way to show that they want to help the poor.” The trouble is they don’t want to help the poor, if you define “help” as “letting them have more money,” as opposed to “giving them the kick in the ass they need to stop being lazy moochers.”

That’s right my fellow Americans: the Republican Party hates the poor. But it’s worse than that. It hates anyone who is not rich. I am still amazed that this country could get one political party to go so far on tilt. A large part of the problem is the New Democrats and their move to the right. But another part of the problem is the very intelligent propaganda of pundits like Ramesh Ponnuru, who go around lobbying the people to believe that the Republicans stand for the exact opposite of what they actually stand for.

But it’s okay, America; just keep voting to end abortion and sex education, so that the babies of your thirteen-year-old daughters can grow up to be serfs of the grandchildren of the Koch and Walton families.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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