Following President Obama’s lead, the Democrats are seeking to make income inequality the wedge issue of the 2014 Congressional and Senate elections. This unquestionably addresses an issue that — after forty years of middle class family wage stagnation — resonates with voters. Yet the Republicans, thanks to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tx), not the Democrats, are better positioned to take this on.
The Republicans are far better positioned to get right and use the underlying issue — which is more one of inequity than inequality — to political advantage. The rise of stagnation and inequality started (and continued and continues) with shabby monetary policy. The GOP (which, by the way, has issued an authentic invitation for Democrats to engage with them) has taken the lead on getting to the root of stagnation and inequality. There is a Republican-authored, with one Democratic co-sponsor, pending proposal to form a Monetary Commission to get, among other things, to the bottom of this very issue.
This legislation was introduced slightly less than a year ago by Rep. Kevin Brady, chairman of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. It so far has attracted 33 House co-sponsors, 32 Republicans and one Democrat, and steadily is gaining. This legislation took a giant leap forward on January 6th with companion legislation introduced into the US Senate by the Senate’s Number 2 Republican, John Cornyn.
Brady-Cornyn has the potential to become this era’s Kemp-Roth, something politically and economically transformational. Think job creation. Think opportunity — both working and political class.
Will the GOP pursue its advantage? Or will it revert to its obsession with tax and regulatory policies which, while not wrong, are shopworn, not intuitively relevant to the struggling single working mom, and subject the GOP to caricature as the party of Thurston Howell III.
The Democrats are tackling inequality, initially, with unemployment benefits and the minimum wage. This is well calculated. Rank and file voters have an understandable propensity to look at Republicans as gimlet-eyed tightwads. Republicans have a certain affinity for gimlet-eyed tightwads and are vulnerable to playing into that role. Yet it need not be that way.