Many different members of the Republican Party – Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan – are planning to unveil anti-poverty agendas in the coming months.
The problem is, as Josh Barro points out today, none of their policy solutions will actually address the problem.
The reason that Republicans are not proposing any such ideas is not that conservative anti-poverty ideas don’t exist. It’s because they have backed themselves into a corner over the past five years with a political strategy of opposing all new spending.
They have screamed about spending and deficits so much that they cannot support any policies that would increase them, even if those policies are traditional conservative ideas that would jumpstart the economy.
Michael Strain’s recent essay in National Affairs is the perfect example of this.
He wants to reform unemployment insurance to give long-term unemployed workers a bonus when they find a new job, reducing the work disincentives that jobless benefits create. He wants to offer them relocation subsidies so they can move to areas of low unemployment. He wants to lower the minimum wage for companies to hire the long-term unemployed, and then provide a compensating subsidy so they can have a decent standard of living.
How about more infrastructure spending? Republicans have historically supported it and Strain proposes it as well.
These are all good ideas that would significantly help the unemployed, but Republicans can’t touch them because they would require additional spending.
Since day one of Obama’s presidency, Republicans have used the deficit to oppose just about everything he has proposed. It was a nice catch-all reason to block the president’s agenda. “It will blow up the deficit and turn us into next Greece” was good enough for almost everything.
This was a calculated political decision. Now, it’s blowing up in their faces.
After all this fear mongering over the deficit, Republicans have severely limited the policies they can support. In turn, they don’t have a policy agenda and are paying the political price for that.
You can see this same pattern developing with health care as well. Republicans have spent the past few months denouncing Obamacare for causing insurers to cancel peoples’ plans. But this is exactly what would happen on a larger scale if Republicans implemented many of their preferred health policies such as eliminating the tax exemption for employer-sponsored care.
Or look at high-deductible plans. Republicans have long supported these, because they give people “skin in the game” with their health care decisions. Now that Obamacare includes high deductibles, suddenly Republicans oppose them.
This is the same mistake that Republicans made with the deficit. They’ll earn short-term political points by attacking Obamacare, but will have few policies to choose from when they finally have to unveil their own replacement plan. They’ll have backed themselves into a corner once again.
This is a result of always putting short-term politics before policy. Republicans have been so caught up in defeating President Obama that they have focused solely on shooting down his agenda instead of offering alternatives. It’s hurt the country and now it’s hurting their party.
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