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Rebrand Redux: GOP Hopes To Appeal To Middle Class Through New Book Release

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Rebrand Redux: GOP Hopes To Appeal To Middle Class Through New Book Release


On Thursday, the Republican Party unveiled the latest strategy in its ongoing struggle to appeal to the middle class, or any class outside of the 1 percent. The release of a new conservative manifesto, entitled Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class, is meant to serve as a first step in “building a post-Obama conservatism,” as contributor Ramesh Ponnuru told The New York Times. The 121-page document is a collection of articles from a number of self-described “reform conservatives,” and attempts to rebrand the GOP as more accessible and in touch with today’s voters.

Largely backed by the YG Network, which calls itself a “non-profit dedicated to supporting conservative policies and the efforts of policymakers who fight for those policies,” the book points to the “demonstrable failure of the liberal welfare state” as motivation for “an innovative agenda that empowers individuals by increasing competition and replacing failed government policies.” The agenda includes 10 essays addressing issues like health care, tax, and education reform, as well as pro-family and employment policies.

The book focuses on the issues that affect the everyday lives of middle-class Americans, a markedly different approach from that of Mitt Romney, who focused on the entrepreneurial vote in 2012. As YG advisor Kate O’Beirne told the Times“News flash: Most people don’t own their own businesses.”

According to Peter Wehner, author of the introduction entitled “The Problem: The Anxieties and Worries of Middle America,” the 85 percent of the population that comprises the middle-class serve as “America’s center of gravity,” and are the key to Republican success. Wehner believes that “conservatives in American politics need to understand constituents’ concerns, speak to those aspirations and worries, and help people see how applying conservative principles and deploying conservative policies could help make their lives better.” However, this seems to be much easier said than done.

On Thursday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will attend the book’s release party in hopes of advancing its proposed policies. Since President Obama took office in 2009, however, the GOP has seemed more concerned with opposing his policies than with presenting ideas of their own. The health care debate is a prime example of Republicans’ lack of creativity, as party members have voted more than 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act without ever unifying around an alternative.

Room to Grow fills this gap, suggesting that the government offer tax credits for those without employer-based health insurance, which James C. Capretta — who authored the chapter on health care reform — says will “generate intense price competition in the marketplace.” However, with continued infighting among Republicans, it seems unlikely that the party will be able to come together to support a single Obamacare substitute. To date, the party has debated several other options — including allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines, creating health savings accounts, and forming high-risk pools — none of which have addressed the quality of health care, and none of which have been fully supported by the GOP.

More importantly, however, is the issue with the proposed tax credit alternative itself. In September 2013, the Republican Study Committee suggested a $7,500 tax deduction for individuals and $20,000 for families in order to incentivize the uninsured to purchase health coverage and reduce costs for the already insured. In order to pay for this tax break, however, tax breaks on employer-provided insurance would have to be eliminated, which would likely increase the costs of health care for those who received insurance through their employers. So while such a plan might allow some uninsured Americans to purchase coverage, it would result in an overall increase in costs.

Similarly, a bill proposed in June of 2013 by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) requested a $5,000 tax credit to families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This bill, according to the Congress.gov bill tracker, was referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice last July, and has seen no further action since. With this sort of track record, it is unlikely that the Room to Grow alternative will make it into law, much less work for the middle class.

As for tax reform, the report certainly hopes to address middle-class worries that they bear the brunt of the tax burden. But while Robert Stein says in his chapter that conservatives should offer benefits to middle-class parents, it does not appear that Republicans will agree with such a policy. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget, released in April and passed by House Republicans, actually raised taxes for many middle-class Americans. An analysis of the budget by the Office of Management and Budget showed that middle-class parents in Aurora, Colorado would see a $2,000 tax increase, while those making over $1 million would receive a $200,000 tax cut, according to Citizens for Tax Justice.

Furthermore, the Ryan budget points to several “good plans,” including proposals from Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), who hopes to replace the income and payroll tax with a flat 17 percent wage tax, and Representative Rob Woodall (R-GA), who would use a national retail sales tax to replace the current tax code. Neither of these plans is particularly good for the middle class either. Economists have consistently found that a flat tax results in a tax break for the wealthy, and a tax hike for the middle class, who must pick up the slack.

On energy policy, Room to Grow recognizes the need for reform given last year’s frigid winter, which resulted in average spending of 5 percent more on electricity and 10 percent more on gas. But the chances of the GOP passing meaningful energy reform that decreases reliance on natural gas and increases investments in alternative energy sources is slim at best.

Finally, the manifesto’s conspicuous lack of female authors makes it clear that the Republican Party is still not the women’s party. Carrie Lukas, the sole woman involved in writing the document, is the managing director at the Independent Women’s Forum, and wrote — you guessed it — about how to balance work and family.

As the GOP attempts to move forward with the middle class in tow, it seems that even with the release of its new book, there’s still plenty of room for growth in the party.

Photo via Flickr 

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  1. sigrid28 May 22, 2014

    Make room on the shelf for “Room to Grow,” where it will collect dust with other impractical conservative guidelines that no Republicans in Congress have any intention of implementing.

  2. Dominick Vila May 23, 2014

    Considering their learning impairments, I doubt too many Tea Party supporters will be swayed one way or the other by the contents in a book. A more effective, and evident, strategy involves the transformation of morons into humane, pragmatic, and determined candidates. An example involves the political ads being aired in Florida portraying Gov. Rick Scott as a family man, surrounded by little children, in an environment that resembles anyone’s backyard. You can almost smell the BBQ. Not surprisingly, our Republican friends are eating that up, and I am not talking about the BBQ. A person closed to me now refers to Gov. Scott as the “Honorable” Mr Scott. There is something very wrong when the former founder and chairman of Columbia HCA, the company found guilty of fraud and given the largest fine in the history of the USA is called “Honorable”.

    1. Independent1 May 23, 2014

      It’s surprising, at least to me, who blind so many Americans can be to the fraud being perpetrated by the GOP.

      I was wondering if you also get the ThinkProgress emails. There was a very interesting article in ThinkProgress the other day on how 4 counties in southern Florida are working to prepare their counties for sea level rise due to global warming, despite Scott’s and Rubio’s denials on global warming science.

      Being from Florida I thought you would find it of interest if you haven’t seen it. Here’s the link in case you haven’t:


      1. Dominick Vila May 23, 2014

        Thanks for the link. It is about time people start taking the issue of global warming seriously. Part of the problem is that we tend to get hung up on whether or not the problem is man made. I could care less if it is, or if it is a natural phenomena. The fact that the polar caps and glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates is no longer in question. What is still debatable, besides its cause, is how much time we have before rising sea levels threaten coastal cities, and how dramatic changes in weather patterns are going to affect agriculture and the ability of potable water.
        Even if we still have a century before the problem becomes unsustainable, it is better to start build dykes, similar to those in The Netherlands, to protect low lying areas than continue to deny the obvious and wait until the last minute to take appropriate action, which is exactly what is going to happen if the GOP succeeds and this issue continues to be ignored.

        1. Independent1 May 23, 2014

          Absolutely. I was impressed that some folks in southern Florida would take it upon themselves to coordinate the actions needed to deal with what anyone who’s not lying to themself can see from their own experiences. One thing that really ticks me off about the GOP is that they’re willing to not only destroy the country to set elections up for themselves, they’re also willing to drag their feet on global warming, which has potentially fatal consequences for all of mankind for the same purpose.

          It seems to me that there are two major reasons for the right-wing denial of global warming – 1) lobbying pressure from Big Oil and other industries like coal-burning power plants that will be impacted by seriously working at cutting down on what’s exacerbating global warming and 2) their refusal to address anything that may create jobs and spur the economy – like really getting into the projects like you pointed out which will be needed to protect America’s coasts.

          I think the GOP is determined not to agree with global warming because that would then open them up to having to agree to funding massive infrastructure projects which which would create at least hundreds of thousands of jobs. It’s just totally appalling that a political party would even put their country’s future at risk to achieve their political objectives – and to me it’s even more galling that they would put our planet at risk too!!

          1. Dominick Vila May 24, 2014

            Our grandchildren will someday wonder how we all allowed this situation to exist, and may be perplexed by the deliberate acts of negligence, which border on criminality, taken by a political part that is more likely to make decisions based on material imperatives than what is best for the nation, and in this case by the world and the future of humanity.
            Needless to say, the issue of global warming involves a lot more than protecting coastal cities and towns. There are no words to describe the impact of serious shortages of potable water on life and agriculture.

          2. Independent1 May 24, 2014

            You’re certainly right about global warming involving more than just protecting our coastal cities and towns, but I’m a little hard pressed to come up with specific solutions that will mitigate the damage that will be done by changes to the weather itself.

            Unless scientists can figure out some way to shift and control weather patterns, I’m afraid we’re going to be seeing more instances of drought that are now plaguing especially California and which I’ve read contributed strongly to the starting of the Syrian war. And the increased incidences of wildfires that come along with drought are not only being experienced in California now but also in New Mexico and Arizona and other places.

            And we’re going to continue seeing increased violence of storms that are now spawning more tornadoes and creating monster hurricanes such as Sandy. Unfortunately, until scientists come up with something to control the weather itself, we can at least start taking actions to protect the millions of Americans that will be affected by sea rise and their property.

            It’s truly unfortunate, that the GOP are such hypocrites even with lying about being “pro-business”; when in reality their obviously nothing but “pro-money”. if the GOP was truly “pro-business”, they would have jumped at the chance of passing Obama’s American Jobs Act because even the CBO projected it would create 2-3 million jobs. But unfortunately, those jobs to improve Americas infrastructure, educational facilities and more, would be like the ones that would be created by protecting our coastal cities and towns from sea rise, which would be jobs created for smaller, more local construction companies and small builders, most of which are probably not major donors to the GOP. So by not being willing to support creating jobs for these types of businesses, the GOP, at least to me, has made it clear that they are in no way really “pro-business” but rather purely “pro-money”.

            This shows that not only is “money”, the love of it, destroying America’s election processes today, it’s also the catalyst that is working to destroy our nation and the planet. Jesus’ brother James, was so right in his general letter to the Christian churches, when he said words to the effect of “money is the root of all evil”. So whether you’re a Christian or not, his words still have to ring very true.

          3. Dominick Vila May 24, 2014

            I doubt science will advance to the point of changing weather patterns. At least not this century, and probably not the next.
            At this point, I think the best option is conservation, and we may be able to make great strides without the need for dramatic scientific progress in the immediate future. Our houses, for example, are very inefficient, and tend to consume too much energy. It would not surprise me if human habitat goes underground within the next century or so, or at least cave dwellings, which will probably not be as primitive as most of us think.
            Another possibility is underground water storage to mitigate the effects of evaporation. A greater dependence on seafood, including species we currently don’t eat, is also very likely.
            Transportation is, obviously, an area that is going to have to change. Dependence on fossil fuels is absurd, regrdless of what the oil industry “scientists” say to support an outdated and polluting form of energy.

          4. Independent1 May 24, 2014

            All what you said makes a lot of sense to me. And with respect to transportation, I think one of the biggest disappoints in my lifetime is that America hasn’t done more with improving its mass transit. Even China, that not that many years ago was trailing the world in its infrastructure, has now developed a far superior mass transit system to America. They have bullet trains which travel 200-250 mph which move people much more efficiently with respect to energy use than cars and planes.
            In my mind, we should not be using planes on to move people travel routes that are not at least 1,000 miles apart. It simply uses to much fuel getting a plane into the air for many of the short hops that people are now flying.

            With trains like those in Europe and China, travel between cities like NYC, Boston, DC, and even NYC to Atlanta would be from 30 minutes to 3 hours. With efficiently placed mass transit terminals it could well be quicker to get you from NYC to Atlanta than the time it now takes to get from your home in NJ or NY to one of the NYC airports, checked in through security, get boarded on the plane and then get into plane into the air. Just doing that often takes 2-3 hours or more.

          5. Mark Forsyth May 24, 2014

            I would blame it on ideals,values,and perspectives that run counter to Democracy.When you consider the overriding influence of the Koch boys along with a large percentage of corporate America,it’s easy to see fascism lurking ’round every corner.And we haven’t even begun to be paranoid.

    2. Mark Forsyth May 24, 2014

      Those s.o.b’s. don’t understand much that isn’t spoken in the language of money.And even that is limited to that which inflates their own wallets.I dare say that a good many of “us” might suffer heart attacks if those cretin dolts were ever to start making sense.

  3. disqus_ivSI3ByGmh May 23, 2014

    How the GOP shows they love the middle class:
    1. They are opposed to minimum wages pay increase that has not kept pace with inflation in over 30 years. The economy should decide your pay.
    2. They are opposed to minimum wages. Your employer should decide what you are worth.
    3. They are opposed to pay equity for men and women doing the same job. How can they be paid the same when they don’t do the same job?
    4. They are opposed to public school education. You mean that everybody cannot afford to send their children to Phillips Academy or Essex?
    5. They are opposed to Health Care reform. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, “Then they should die and decrease the surplus population”.
    6. They are opposed to Birth Control, but refuse to provide prenatal care, or any assistance for the children after they are born.
    7. They want to decrease military pay and retirement pay raises, but want to increase spending on weapons systems the Defense Department neither wants nor needs.

  4. Bambi May 23, 2014

    They are defining their vision for conservative domestic reform, including removing excessive regulation, removing current affordable healthcare, removing the minimum wage, removing a woman’s rights to choose, removing social security by returning to traditional family values where the children cared for their parents, removing gay rights, removing immigrants absent of blond hair and blue eyes, removing affordable educational opportunites, reducing veterans benefits, removing environmental safe guards, remove, remove, remove…..but never replace to improve upon. These are the powerful reform ideas that Sen. McConnell recently said, should speak for themselves. These are the conservative policy options to further the prosperous “Great Society”……no one ever said but a selfish conservative.

    1. Independent1 May 23, 2014

      So their reforms will effectively remove all the progress America has implemented over at least the past 150 years and set America back to toward the middle to the end of the 19th century. And that’s what the GOP would like us to believe is progress??????

      1. FredAppell May 23, 2014

        It wouldn’t be called conservatism if it were any other way. LOL! We’ll never get rid of them but we have history on our
        side to defeat their so-called facts.

  5. Sand_Cat May 23, 2014

    “Room to grow…”
    Wasn’t that what Hitler used to talk about? Sorry I can’t spell the German word translated as “living space,” but all too often seems that he is the unacknowledged – actually, hotly-denied – inspiration for today’s GOP.

    1. dtgraham May 24, 2014

      It’s “lebensraum” which is literally ‘living space’ in German, but more often the phrase was used and implied by the Nazi’s as ‘room to grow’ during their eastern conquests. It was especially tossed around during the early days of Operation Barbarossa.

  6. dtgraham May 23, 2014

    It’s an interesting read. It has tidbits of advice scattered throughout, like “tax tips for billionaires” and “America’s favorite yacht colors”. The later chapters get more into the meat of their strategy such as their heartwarming pledge to the middle class, to learn the names of each and every one of the tens of thousands of Americans whose jobs they’ll help to arbitrarily ship overseas. Then there’s their populist shout out to the blue collar working class via their promise to donate 50 cents to Budweiser for every American they cut off from food stamps.

    It really all starts to come together though in the final chapter with the GOP’s grand master plan:
    1) Gerrymander Congressional districts so they’ll never lose the House in a million years.
    2) Stop as many Democratic leaning voters as possible from voting for any branch of government.
    3) Teach goosestepping to elementary students.
    4) Invade Poland.

    How can this lose?


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