As Robert Reich points out in a recent article, the new Republican strategy is to fracture, split, and pit against each other, the vast middle and working class, in four separate ways:
- pitting unionized workers against non-unionized,
- public-sector workers against non-public-sector workers,
- older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don't believe these programs will be there for them, and who don't currently need them,
- the poor against the working middle class.
By spending billions to fracture working America along these four faultlines, the Republican financial elite want ordinary Americans to come to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we very much need to do as a nation. Simultaneously they hope to deflect our attention away from their increasing share of total income and wealth, which is essentially being funneled into the pockets of this richest 1%, while jobs and wages for everyone else are allowed to languish (by being sent to China and/or be replaced by the growing efficiency of automation and computerization).
In addition, Republicans don't want us to notice their campaign to grant additional tax cuts for the rich, by way of:
- making the Bush tax cuts permanent,
- further reducing the estate tax, and
- allowing the wealthy to shift ever more of their income into capital gains, taxed at a measly 15%.
Their efforts to accomplish all this will take place on three different fronts:
1. The Washington D.C. Battle Over the Federal Budget
As they raise the alarm over deficit spending and simultaneously squeeze popular middle-class programs, Republicans want the majority of the American public to view it all as a giant zero-sum game among average Americans that some will have to lose if others are to win.
The president has already fallen into this perceptual trap by calling for budget cuts in programs the poor and working class depend on: assistance with home heating, community services, college loans, and the like.
In the coming showdown over Medicare and Social Security, House budget chair Paul Ryan will push a voucher system for Medicare and a partly-privatized plan for Social Security -- both designed to attract younger, healthy middle-class voters, who will essentially be invited to split themselves off from the rest of us and save money for themselves in the process, at our expense.