The raison d’être of the Republican Party for much of the past 100 years has been to slam the brakes on anything that would make the poor and middle class feel more secure and prosperous.
Look at the list of popular government programs and initiatives they’ve decried as “socialism”: unemployment insurance, Social Security, disability insurance, Medicare, the ACA’s protections for people with preexisting conditions—the list goes on.
And now you have Joe Biden’s ambitious American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, which, to hear Republicans tell it, were concocted in the same dank mausoleum where Hugo Chavez built the Dominion voting machines out of obsidian, mummy detritus, and 11 secret burial herbs and spices.
It will be tough to pass both those plans in their current form, much less one of them. But if Democrats do manage to pull it off, Republicans are in for a world of hurt. That’s the conclusion Princeton economist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman made in his April 29 New York Times column, anyway.
Noting that the plan would confer “huge, indeed transformational benefits to millions,” Krugman argues that those benefits would be all but impossible to strip away once Americans have gotten used to them and realize that, hey, if this is socialism, socialism ain’t so scary.
I mean, just imagine trying to take away affordable child care, universal pre-K and paid leave for new parents once they’ve become part of the fabric of our society. You’d face a backlash far worse than the one that followed Republican attempts to eliminate protection for coverage of pre-existing health conditions in 2017. And that backlash quickly gave Democrats control of the House and set the stage for their current control of the Senate and White House as well.
While Republicans continually screech about this country turning into Venezuela, what they’re really worried about is that it will turn into a European social democracy, like Denmark or Germany. Workers have a much better go of it in those countries, and Republicans and their plutocratic muses really don’t want you to know that.
Many Americans would, I suspect, be surprised to learn that the truth is that many high-tax, high-benefit countries are quite successful at creating jobs. Take the case of France: Adults between the ages of 25 and 54, the prime working years, are more likely to be employed in France than they are in America, mainly because Frenchwomen have a higher rate of paid employment than their American counterparts. The Nordic countries have an even larger employment advantage among women.
How can employment be so high in countries with lots of “job-killing” taxes? The answer is that taxes don’t visibly kill jobs — but lack of child care does. Parents in many rich countries are able to take paid work because they have access to safe, affordable child care; in the United States such care is prohibitively expensive for many, if they can get it at all.
Krugman also notes that the upper-class tax increases Biden is proposing to help him pay for this middle-class renaissance are unlikely to affect the economy the way Republicans envision. They’ve been running this same trick play for decades now, and it looks like we may finally be learning how to stop it. Bill Clinton’s tax increases on top earners didn’t just fail to bring disaster, they brought robust job growth. Krugman further points out that people “seem to forget that Barack Obama presided over a significant hike in high-end taxes at the beginning of his second term; the economy continued to add jobs rapidly, at the rate of about 2.5 million a year.”
The GOP will continue to fearmonger over these jobs plans for years—at least until they’re wholly and warmly embraced by the American people, at which point Republicans will be forced to move the goalposts once again while pretending they’re the only ones who will protect your child care.
It’s what they do: Stand in the way until they can’t stand any longer, and then lie their asses off about how they support Medicare, Social Security, protections for preexisting conditions, child care so, so hard.
But we have to get it passed first, and that’s still a pretty tall order.
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