Champions of the Poor?



I’m puzzled by the Republicans’ new-found concern for America’s poor.  Surprisingly, that’s the common theme in the flurry of GOP responses to President Obama’s State of the Union address.

Are we supposed to accept the latest iteration as the real Mitt Romney – the caring billionaire who would work to reduce America’s scandalous income inequality?

Does he no longer despise that 47 percent who – according to the old Mitt – sponge off their hard-working betters?

Are we supposed to accept Joni Ernst’s portrayal of her childhood as evidence of her party’s sympathy for struggling Americans?

So her mother covered her “only good pair of shoes” with bread bags to protect them from the rain. So that gives her party special insights into the lives of suffering families?

What am I to make of the following excerpt from her televised speech?

Just look at my parents and grandparents. They had very little to call their own except the sweat on their brow and the dirt on their hands. But they worked, they sacrificed, and they dreamed big dreams for their children and grandchildren.

And did you notice that Joni Ernst is a woman? Who says the Republicans don’t care about women?

I suspect the GOP is trying to one-up (or should that be one-down?) the President, who touted “middle-class economics” in his speech. The President wants to help the middle class? Then the Republicans will help the poor as well. How do you like them apples, Obama?

Jeb Bush put it this way:

We need to create economic opportunity for every American, especially middle class families and those trying to rise out of poverty.

But wait till you hear how they propose to give America’s sufferers a hand up.

By  “simplifying the tax code” and making “across the board” cuts in federal taxes, for one. Of course that will help some middle class families and it might even make life a little easier for the working poor – at least those who make enough money to pay income taxes. But the rich will benefit far more. It’s what Bill Clinton used to call “arithmetic.”

(President Obama proposed a slight increase in taxes for the rich and substantial cuts in taxes for middle class families.)

Ms. Ernst also promised to repeal Obamacare and get the Keystone Pipeline built.

Building one pipeline would lift families out of poverty?  President Obama proposed a comprehensive program to repair and improve all of America’s tottering infrastructure.

And how does taking away their health insurance help struggling families?

In the Spanish-language version of Ernst’s  “official response,” Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo inserted a promise to reform immigration laws. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are desperately trying to reverse President Obama’s executive order shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The Republicans in Congress are also intent on slashing funds for such programs as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, school lunches, unemployment insurance and even food stamps.

And they’re doing their best to criminalize abortion, block equal pay for women, prevent a minimum wage increase, turn back the clock on such social change as gay marriage, and so on.

How’s that for empathy? Did they think we wouldn’t notice what they’re doing as well as what they’re saying?

Click for Joni Ernst’s speech.

Click for more on the responses.