WASHINGTON – Rush Limbaugh is complaining that the Republicans, poised to take control of the Senate as well as the House next week, have no brand. One could reasonably infer that no one knows what they would do with their new power, should they get it.
It’s a cute notion. But it’s a good bet that people linked to the super-rich like Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch and Steve Forbes know perfectly well what they want.
The GOP hopes to win handily because of perceived fumbles by President Obama on Ebola, ISIS, an Arab Spring turned deadly, prevarications about Obamacare, corruption in a section of the IRS and racism about Ferguson, Mo.
To a growing number of citizens who plan to vote a week from Tuesday, the perception that we have a careless, fumbling president is offering us a tough choice. A closer look at this crop of Republicans makes it even bitterer.
These are not Republicans like those who served a decade ago: Liberal Rep. Jack Quinn of Hamburg, who sponsored an increase in the federal minimum wage. Or moderate Rep. Tom Reynolds of Clarence, who stepped up a decade ago to protect Social Security from other Republican leaders.
The party isn’t a party anymore. We are in the second federal election shaped by the 2010 Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court. It makes a sham of financial accountability. The Republican logo is governed by very large private and semi-secret banks. Some are directed by the oil magnate Koch brothers, the Club for Growth and projects of Karl Rove.
But other sources of megacash we won’t learn about until after the election, if ever, according to a study by Dave Levinthal for the Center for Public Integrity.
These forces are dedicated to undermining public confidence in, and effectively abolishing, programs such as Social Security, Medicare, the Earned Income Tax Credit and extended unemployment insurance. Programs that, for the most part, directly cost employers a lot of money because of mandated co-payments.
It is reasonable to conclude that the Republicans decline to say what their brand is because to unveil it would make them unelectable. Yet you can tell because of whom they attack. Enter Janet Yellen, Obama’s choice to head the Federal Reserve Board.
A professional economist who learned her trade at Brown and Yale, Yellen is being slimed by the ultra right because of a speech she gave weeks ago. Her sin: Pointing out in detail the growing gap between rich and poor.
She was narrowly confirmed by the Senate, drawing only a handful of Republican votes across the aisle. Unlike her predecessors, Yellen takes seriously the Fed’s congressional mandate to make the economy fairer. And she has been talking about disparities in income and wealth for a long time.
The right-wing American Enterprise Institute on Thursday called Yellen “a partisan hack” for publishing some simple facts:
• The top 5 percent in recent years had an income growth of 38 percent; the other 95 percent had an income growth of only 10 percent.
• The wealthiest 5 percent held 63 percent of all wealth last year.
• The lower half of households by wealth held just 3 percent of wealth – savings, investments, property – in 1989, and only 1 percent in 2013.
• Fifteen million households reported zero or negative net worth last year.
• The average wealth of the top 5 percent nearly doubled from 1989 to 2013 to $6.8 million per household.
The New York Times reported some Republicans want to rewrite the Fed’s charter, effectively to shut Yellen up.