“Reform” Conservatives



When you think about it, “reform conservatives” has to be an oxymoron.  Reform implies change, doesn’t it? And isn’t change what conservatives want to protect us against? But there is such a movement, and – as you might suspect –  it’s really ugly.

America’s “reform conservatives” have released their manifesto, and here’s how writer Matt Bruenig sums it up in Salon.com today:

There is the ever-present call to repeal Obamacare in favor of tax credits, which is neither new nor interesting. There is the “drill baby drill” energy policy that makes not even a single mention of climate change. But the biggest horror show of all is the tax reform proposal, which is nothing more than the usual screw-the-poor pablum.

Bruenig examines the group’s convoluted tax plan and concludes that it is “grotesque, vicious and cruel.”

I won’t bore you with the details. There’s a lot of math involved. But the bottom line is that the poor get shafted and the upper middle class get more handouts. As Bruenig points out:

A family making $70,000 per year who had twins would receive more than $7,000 per year in child welfare payments via the tax code. A family making $10,000 or $15,000 per year who had twins might receive a few hundred dollars in child welfare payments, if any at all. They’d also have the pleasure of seeing their current federal income tax rate of 10 percent bump up to 15 percent.

This makes me wonder what the American right wing is up to now. And I harbor dark suspicions about their motives.

I suspect that the Republican Party is counting on the support of privileged Americans. They’re appealing to the worst in human nature – the “I’m aboard, Jack” syndrome that makes some people eager to set sail once they’re safely on the economic boat, leaving the “huddled masses” stranded back on shore. This sentiment is succinctly summed up in the cynical parody:

The working class can kiss my a–, I’ve got the foreman’s job at last.

The Republican Party has a hard core base that includes the “one percent” elite, anti-abortion and anti-gay crusaders, angry white males, racists who are hostile to the idea of a black President, states-rights apostles, free-market zealots … and so on. But these splinter groups only add up to about a third of the electorate. To rule the country, they need to broaden their appeal.

To do this they are reaching out to the upper-middle class. And they’re hoping a substantial majority of these privileged voters are both heartless and selfish.

The validity of the Republican strategy will be tested at the polls in a few months, and we will find out what America the Beautiful is really like. Are American voters driven only by self interest? Or do they – as Ted Kennedy once put it – also listen to their “better angels”?

Click for the Salon article.