Where Are The Populist Republicans?

By Thomas Heaney

Hearing very successful rich people assert that US tax rates on the rich are too low should give Republicans and the current group of Republican Presidential hopefuls pause. When asked directly by Charlie Rose about the frequently leveled charge that Democrats were engaged in “class warfare”, Warren Buffett blamed billionaires. Buffett suggested both that the rich were the aggressors in the class war and that they were winning. He’s right on both counts.

To his credit Buffett has been suggesting that it is unhealthy and wrong for those in the bottom 98% of the income distribution to be sacrificing while the top 2% are getting richer. Doug Edwards, retired Google executive, recently echoed similar sentiments and also requested that his taxes be raised. He stated investment in things like Pell grants and infrastructure were responsible for his entrepreneurial success. Edwards is “unemployed by choice” and makes his money from investments.

Tea Party Republicans have actively rejected infrastructure investment on the grounds that we can’t afford it. If we “could afford it” they would still reject such spending on the grounds that they don’t want the government to provide these kinds of opportunities.

No such reasoning applies when it comes to matters of war, at least in 21st century Republican thinking. This school of “thought” has no problem borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars for war spending. Poll after poll indicates that jobs and peace are what Americans want. Yet the Republican solution for the economy remains to keep spending on the military while cutting social spending and taxes further and further. Never mind that this prescription has been tried for the last decade and has created the current economic crisis.

The time has come for Republicans to listen to what’s going on in the country. They might then be in a position to respond with specific plans to deliver what most Americans really need and want. This, of course, would involve the inconvenient truth that President Obama already has most of that covered.

Instead, Republicans have rallied behind the same “tax cuts forever” message they’ve been mindlessly repeating for years. It has become obvious that the Republican party is dominated by lobbyists and lobbyist appeasers. Few among these paid shills deserve to be re-elected to whatever office they hold now. The idea that one of them deserves to be president is ludicrous.

Governor Christie may be an attractive candidate in comparison to the motley assortment currently vying to become Republican Presidential nominee. Perhaps he would appeal to someone who values abrasiveness or to rich folks lacking a moral compass, like the Koch Brothers. He is not the missing populist the Republican field sorely needs.

President Obama looks to be the only realistic populist Presidential contender on the 2012 ballot. As a progressive I’m somewhat frustrated with President Obama’s overly centrist agenda. That said, it is job one to send the current group of Republicans and their lobbyists packing in 2012.

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