Tuesday was “Make America Work Again” day at the Republican National Convention. But this day wasn’t about making America work again for working people. This was, as always with conservatives, all about tax cuts for the rich and corporations, deregulation of oil and coal companies (and other paying corporate clients) and austerity cuts in the things government does to make people’s lives better.
There was nothing about how to actually make America “work again.”
Truth is, the economy has added 14.8 million private-sector jobs since the big Bush/Republican downturn of 2008.
Nonetheless, “Make America Work Again” day is described this way in the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) convention schedule announcement:
The Obama years have delivered anemic economic growth, the lowest labor-force participation rate in 38 years, and job-killing regulations and legislation like Obamacare. These policies are crushing middle-class families, and a Hillary Clinton presidency would merely be an Obama third term that would deliver the same poor results. Donald Trump is a successful businessman with a solid record of creating jobs and the experience we need to get America’s economy up and running … and get Americans working again.
Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White, describing himself as a “fight promoter” (which is an appropriate description for the speakers at this Republican convention) began with an endorsement of Trump, saying, “He’s that guy, he shows up,” because Trump helped him promote fights as a business. “I’ve been in the fight business my whole life and Donald Trump is a fighter.” Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson gave a negative speech about Hillary Clinton and “Benghazi,” not about how to make America “work again.”
Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey also gave a negative speech about Clinton’s email server and “Benghazi.” Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Businessman Andy Wist from Brooklyn, who has a waterproofing company, said that after eight years of President Obama he doesn’t see the American Dream. Donald Trump “is a leader … He will make America work again.” He didn’t say how.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson said, “Benghazi.” Also, “ISIS.” And “We shouldn’t have to live in fear” while stoking the fear… Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Chris Cox of the National Rifle Association (NRA) spoke about how “you have to be able to protect yourself and your family.” Fear. “Imagine a young mother at home with her baby when a violent predator kicks the door in.” Fear. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Golfer Natalie Gulbis said that Trump helped her open a Boy’s and Girl’s club and told her to be fearless. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, known as the master of obstruction, said the cost of living has been rising out of people’s reach. “Emails.” “Benghazi.” “Hillary lies.” “Repeal Obamacare.” “Keystone pipeline.” “Defund Planned Parenthood.” He also pledged to continue to obstruct by not allowing a vote on Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is best known for his austerity budgets, the practice of literally taking money out of the economy to kill jobs and growth. His budgets demand cuts in Social Security, even privatizing Medicare. Ryan’s budgets make it impossible to invest in America. Ryan and Republican worldview, government spending bad, austerity.
Ryan said that Democrats are offering “a third Obama term brought to you by another Clinton.” He said the Democratic Party convention will be a “four-day infomercial of politically correct moralizing,” and then “from now to November we will hear how many ways progressive elitists can find to talk down to the rest of America.” He offered “a reformed tax code that rewards entrepreneurs.” He offered the poor “the dignity of having a job” but not how to accomplish that. Ryan said very little else about how to make America “work again.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said “enough of feeling less safe and less secure.” “Iran.” “ISIS.” “Chaos spreading across America and across the globe.” He said that “in a Republican agenda our enemies will fear us.” He called up the ghost of Ronald Reagan. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, known for blocking bridges and killing badly-needed infrastructure projects like the Hudson rail tunnel, launched into a harsh, negative attack of Clinton’s record and character. “Emails.” “Dismal record as Secretary of State.” “Violence and danger in every region that has been infected by her flawed judgement.” “ISIS.” “She never fights for us.” Christie said nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Tiffany Trump said her father’s “desire for excellence is contagious” and that he has always helped her be the best version of herself. Her father takes pride in all that she has done. He wrote “sweet notes” on her report cards. “Small loving acts help an enormous amount in times of grief.” Her father “is someone who will never tell you to lower your sights or give up your dreams.” “A man I am so proud to call my father.” Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Dr. Ben Carson said we are one nation under God. He said Hillary Clinton has as a role model someone who acknowledges Lucifer. “Think about that.” He also said nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Sajid Tarar of American Muslims for Trump? What? No, he didn’t say anything about how to make America “work again.”
How We Got Here: Obstruction And Sabotage
When President Obama took office the country was losing 850,000 jobs a month. Democrats controlled the House and Senate at the beginning of 2009 and with three Republicans votes — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — broke a Republican filibuster to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, known as the “stimulus.” This chart shows what the stimulus accomplished:
But after the stimulus passed the Republican strategy since 2009 has been to vote as a unified block to obstruct and sabotage anything that might make the economy better, and then campaign for office on themes of government not working, and the economy not getting better. And here they are, using “Make America work again” as a theme at the convention. Calculated. Cynical.
May, 2014: Obama: GOP has filibustered 500 bills.
Here are just a few of the things they obstructed: (Note that the corporate media likes to say “the Senate” when Republicans filibuster bills.)
September, 2010: Bill on outsourced jobs fails Senate test, (“a Senate bill designed to end tax breaks for U.S. companies that move jobs and manufacturing plants overseas.”)
October, 2011: Republicans Vote to Keep Teachers, First Responders Off the Job (rehire 400,000 teachers, firefighters, paramedics and police officers.)
November, 2011: Senate blocks $60 billion infrastructure plan, another part of Obama jobs bill
March, 2012: ‘Phantom filibuster’ blocking path forward for highway bill, says Reid
August, 2013: Bipartisan Transportation and Housing Bill Filibustered
October, 2013: Government shutdown over funding ObamaCare. This had a direct cost of $24 billion, reduced fourth-quarter GDP growth from 3 percent to 2.4 percent.
April, 2014: GOP Filibusters Minimum Wage Hike
July, 2014: Republicans Again Filibuster Bring Jobs Home Act (stop tax breaks for moving jobs and production facilities out of the country.)
January, 2015: Sanders’ Solar Bill Blocked by Senate Republicans, (10 million solar home power systems.)
March, 2015: $478B Infrastructure Bill Blocked by Senate GOP
July, 2015: Senate blocks progress on highway bill
And for a finishing touch, just this month the Congress left for the summer, having done nothing to fight the Zika Virus or help with mosquito control.
Republican Platform Blames Obama For Results Of Obstruction
With the economy right where Republicans wanted it, their 2016 (draft) platform proposes “solutions.” The section “Rebuilding the Economy and Creating Jobs” begins with an anti-government screed: “Government cannot create prosperity, though government can limit or destroy it.”
It calls for a “pro-growth tax code.” This is codespeak for “tax cuts for the rich,” also known as “trickle-down economics.” The idea is that you redistribute society’s money to a few at the top, and they will use the money to give jobs to the peasants. But after Bill Clinton raised taxes the economy boomed, and after ‘W’ Bush cut taxes the economy tanked. Really tanked. Now Republicans want to do more of that. Go figure.
A 2012 study by the Congressional Research Service, titled “Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945,” looked at the history of tax cuts and economic growth and concluded, “Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.”
Repeat: Cutting top tax rates does not increase growth, but does increase inequality. Also known as “look around you at what has happened since Reagan.”
Then the platform calls for “A Competitive America.” By “competitive” they do not mean reducing the power of monopolies or breaking up the big banks. No, it calls for reducing high corporate tax rates and “regulatory burdens and uncertainty.” On top of that, it calls for a territorial” corporate tax system so corporations that move jobs, production and profit centers out of the country won’t have to pay any taxes at all. On top of that, Trump has called for letting corporations off the hook with an extremely low tax rate on “deferred” taxes on profits held in offshore subsidiaries. Corporations owe more than $620 billion in taxes on these profits, but would get to keep most of that. What about honest corporations that didn’t dodge their taxes using offshore subsidiary schemes? Too bad for them. And the government? It might be owed $620 billion-plus. But too bad, the Wall Street shareholders get to keep it.
Next up, “A Winning Trade Policy.” It’s hard to argue with this entire section that begins, “International trade is crucial for all sectors of America’s economy. Massive trade deficits are not.” The platform calls for trade agreements that protect U.S. interests and U.S. sovereignty and tough enforcement of violations of existing agreements, saying, “we cannot allow foreign governments to limit American access to their markets while stealing our designs, patents, brands, know-how, and technology. We cannot allow China to continue its currency manipulation, exclusion of U.S. products from government purchases, and subsidization of Chinese companies to thwart American imports.” It calls for transparently negotiated agreements in the interests of American workers.
Then a section sponsored by Wall Street, “Freeing Financial Markets.” It blames the 2008 crash on “the government’s own housing policies.” It demands repeal of the Dodd-Frank law regulating Wall Street, and abolishing the “dictatorial” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which protects consumers from financial fraud. (Trump has said he would “absolutely” repeal Dodd-Frank. Of course, he said that last year at the same time he said the economy was going to “burst”… which didn’t happen.)
What passes for housing policy calls for “a comprehensive review of federal regulations, especially those dealing with the environment, that make it harder and more costly for Americans to rent, buy, or sell homes.”
In “America on the Move” the platform calls for an end to mass transit programs and “repeal of the Davis-Bacon law, which limits employment and drives up construction and maintenance costs for the benefit of unions.” It calls for public-private partnerships (privatization) as a means to fix roads and bridges. It calls for privatization of Amtrak and ending federal support for high-speed rail. It calls for getting rid of unions in the Transportation Security Administration.
The platform calls for a return to “a metallic basis for U.S. currency.”
It calls for getting rid of laws that protect workers’ right to join unions, saying unions “limit workers’ freedom and lock them into the workplace rules of their great grandfathers.” It calls on states to enact Right-to-Work laws. It calls for eliminating the federal minimum wage.
Finally the platform elsewhere calls for just abolishing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Note – the only mention of manufacturing in the entire Republican platform is part of its complaint that unions are “designed to fit a manufacturing workplace” which is representative of a “1930s economy” of the past. (Unless you count an NRA-sponsored line condemning lawsuits against gun manufacturers.)
If You Want To Really Make America Work Again
Americans for Tax Fairness says:
“Congress should make U.S. corporations pay the $700 billion they owe in taxes on their $2.4 trillion in profits stashed offshore.
That kind of revenue would help us invest in our country’s future – creating economic opportunity for all of us and millions of good-paying jobs by improving schools, making college affordable, rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges, building a green energy economy, researching new medical cures and so much more!”
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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.