Nation: Congress gets checklist

by Judy Ferro

“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort.”

“Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another, or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?”

Last Tuesday President Obama challenged the new Republican Congress to abandon infighting and move America forward.  He shared a vision of an America where families are more secure and corporations and infrastructure are strong.

In effect, he presented the country with a checklist by which to measure the success or failure of our Congress.  I’ve seen no comments from Republican leaders to show they got that message—except, perhaps, Romney’s recent lip service to poverty issues–but they could not miss it.

Obama proposed what the vast majority of the American people want.

“That’s what middle-class economics is: the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

Right after that Democrats’ abysmal showing in the November elections, the Progressive Change Institute asked thousands of liberals what changes they’d like to see.  Then it hired GBA Strategies to measure support of 52 proposals among a cross-section of Republicans, Democrats and Independents in Mid-January.   The poll found that 17 items were supported by 70% or more of those polled; 43 items, by 50% or more.

Several of the items with 70% support are similar to ones that Obama proposed:  giving students the same low interest rates as big banks; universal pre-kindergarten; fair trade that protects workers, the environment, and jobs; an infrastructure jobs program ($400 million per year); debt-free college at all public universities; and millions of clean energy jobs.

Each of these issues are supported by more than 50% of Republicans; two—fair trade and low interest rates on student loans—are supported by more than 70%.  The Republican rank-and-file apparently see these as bipartisan—or even Republican—issues.

With a supportive President and Republican majorities in both House, how will Republican leaders explain not getting any of these passed?

Other proposals similar to Obama’s supported by the majority of Republicans included:  net neutrality; closing tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs or hiding money overseas; increasing the income tax rate on incomes over $1 million to 50%; transparency in trade negotiations; and raising the minimum wage for tipped workers.

Such results make it clear why the Republican leadership works over the same tired issues over and over.  Lowering taxes (primarily for the very rich), ending required health insurance, and stopping gun control appear to be the only issues on which they agree with their own rank-and-file.

In fact, the Progressive Institute’s poll indicates that most Republicans support many progressive issues that Obama didn’t mention in his address: allowing Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate medicine prices; allowing persons of any age to buy into Medicare; applying social security taxes to higher wages; requiring that corporate political donations be voted on by shareholders and made public; and requiring that NSA get warrants before spying.

In spite of decades of propaganda by the Republican machine, the party rank-and-file do not see eye-to-eye with the party’s billionaires.

The majority of Republicans, like Democrats and Independents, want to see less divisiveness and more action.

Well, Obama has laid out a a checklist.  The Republicans have the ball.

We, the people, will be keeping score.

 

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