Republicans blow it on response to Obama budget
Once again, Republicans blew another opportunity to speak directly to voters. This time, it happened in response to the president's new budget proposal. "The president is advocating more spending, more taxes, and more debt," Speaker Boehner droned on, yet again. "A proposal that never balances is not a serious plan for America's fiscal future."
Senator majority leader McConnell didn't do much better when he characterized the budget as "another tired, tax-and-spend manifesto [that] focuses on growing the bureaucracy instead of opportunity. It does not balance – ever. And because it is not designed to pass Congress, of course it doesn't."
While both men speak the truth, "tax and spend" has become such a commonplace clarion call of conservatives that no one pays attention to it anymore – certainly not when the opposition is talking about you and me, our college tuition, the roads and bridges we drive on, and taxing the evil rich guys instead. There is nothing about opportunity, balanced budgets, fiscal futures, growing bureaucracies, taxes, spending and debt, that captivates busy American workers or enlightens low-information voters. Such responses generate nothing more than a big yawn when this precious sound-bite time should be used to talk directly to the American people instead of speaking past them.
Pundits are already branding the ensuing budget battle as Envy Economics vs. Middle Class Economics, with the former belonging to the Republicans – as if you couldn't tell. If this is the 2016 presidential campaign in a nutshell – and yeah, it is – then Republicans might as well just forfeit the race to Hillary today and save a billion dollars, because we've already lost.
You and I know what Republicans mean by Envy Economics, but no one else does. It requires too much to explain and, no matter how Republicans spin it, Democrats will use it to divide the haves and have-nots. America has an income inequality problem, where the rich get richer at the expense of America's working families. Republicans don't want the rich to pay their fair share. They insist that the problem isn't about what's fair, but that you are just envious – while you struggle to pay the bills.
As always, Chuck Schumer is in the zone: "If the GOP takes this budget and sticks it in a drawer, they'll be making it crystal clear that they're more interested in helping special interests than middle class families." No political technospeak. He lays it out: Democrats are looking out for you, and Republicans are not.
Meanwhile, back at the Republican Snooze Ranch, where the hopelessly clueless reside, Senator Dan Coats sniped, "President Obama likes to talk about his veto pen, and with the release of this budget, we can only conclude that he writes with red ink."
Very cute. But in a 5- to 7-second sound bite, what does all of this wit convey to the busy low-information voter? Nothing. Responses need to be simple and catchy and resonate with the audience, not something you have to think about. Hm, red ink…being in debt? What does that mean, being in debt? Who is in debt? Is Obama vetoing a budget with his pen with red ink? Is it the same budget he just proposed? Ugh, it's so much simpler to follow the Democrats.
Boehner and McConnell should have said something more incisive, with several sound bites that could be extracted and disseminated to the rest of the Republican rapid response team for their press appearances – something along these lines:
President Obama's budget is an attack on all hard-working Americans and saddles middle class families with higher taxes.
America's working families cannot afford Obama's proposed budget. Already under Obama, median family income has plummeted by $2,900. The projected 2015 budget deficit is $583 billion and will saddle each household with $47,000 in additional debt. Families might not feel the pain today, but their children will certainly feel the pain tomorrow.
Obama also wants to siphon more tax revenue from the middle class by changing the way homes, stocks, businesses, and farms are valued when they pass upon death from parent to child. This affects Americans of all incomes who have worked hard to acquire property, invest in stocks, or build successful businesses and farms.
Finally, Obama will allow tax credits only for working spouses and two children. This is a direct assault on middle-class families who sacrifice two incomes so one parent can stay at home. It penalizes families with more than two children and puts immense pressure on both spouses to work.
This budget does only one thing: it sends the tax collector not only knocking on, but kicking down the doors of hardworking Americans.