Recently, one of the right-wing talking-point tweeters said “the lies about how the GOP hates the poor are getting old.” While I’m not sure most people think Republicans hate the poor, I do think most people believe they are indifferent to their plight. And the GOP seems to keep reinforcing that impression.
This week, the House Republicans voted to drastically cut food stamps. At the same time, a report showed unemployment is 21% among families earning less than $20,000 per year. In addition, the three-year poverty rate is the highest it’s been since the mid-1960s and median household income is falling.
In North Carolina, the Republican-led government kicked 70,000 people off of unemployment and drastically reduced benefits at a time when there are few jobs to be had. They refused a federally funded expansion of Medicaid that would have provided medical care to 500,000 of the state’s poorest residents. In addition, they raised taxes on the working poor by eliminating the earned income tax credit, a tool proven to lift families out of poverty, while giving massive tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations.
Republicans make all sorts of predictions about how their policies are going to get our economy going again, but that’s small comfort to the people that they are hurting today. And it’s not just Democrats who see the problem. In August, The American Conservative ran an article titled “How Raleigh’s Republicans Forgot the Working Class” essentially arguing that Republican policies are re-enforcing the stereotypes they are trying to avoid.
However, instead of making any argument or offering any policy that indicates compassion or concern for our most desperate families, the GOP just cries foul when they are accused of being uncaring. They claim they are rooting out waste and fraud and ending dependency. Well, that’s what you do when people have economic opportunities, not while our poorest families are stuck in an economic depression.
Really, though, the whole thing illustrates a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats focus on people. They will tolerate a little waste and fraud to make sure families, and particularly children, are not slipping through the cracks. Republicans, on the other hand, focus on money. They want to protect every taxpayer dollar from waste and fraud even if it means letting deserving families fall deeper into poverty.
The Republican viewpoint might gain some currency when the unemployment rate is under 5% or so. Not so much when it’s over 8%. In the current environment, the GOP would do well to gain a little compassion.