If Jeb Bush is trying to show Republicans that he’s conservative enough to be their nominee, he has a strange way of showing it. Consider the manifesto of his newly created political action committee, The Right to Rise. It defines income inequality as a core economic problem: “While the last eight years have been pretty good ones for top earners, they’ve been a lost decade for the rest of America ... the income gap is real.”As I said a couple of days ago, I don't read the statement that way at all. It has a subtext that conservatives will pick up (which is why Paul Ryan didn't get in trouble with the right for using the phrase "right to rise" in a 2011 speech to the Heritage Foundation).
... His PAC’s mission statement begins, “We believe passionately that the Right to Rise -- to move up the income ladder based on merit, hard work and earned success -- is the central moral promise of American economic life.” But it never mentions American’s right to not rise, or anything about the risks that capitalism brings.
As a result, his rhetoric effectively makes upward mobility a government obligation.
Jeb's manifesto defines the "right to rise" as the right "to move up the income ladder based on merit, hard work and earned success." Beinart writes:
In a Pew poll last spring, only 19 percent of Republicans called the divide between rich and poor a “very big problem.” And when asked why that gap exists, a plurality of Republicans said it was because the poor don’t work as hard.Do you see the link here? Republicans think poor people aren't poor because they don't work hard enough. Jeb says the "right to rise" is the right to succeed via hard work. So Jeb is telling right-wingers what they already believe.
But don't conservatives think the poor already have the right to work hard, a right they're too lazy and shiftless to exercise? Well, not really -- not in the Obama era.
Conservatives say that Obama has the American people (or at least, ahem, certain American people) so hooked on government benefits that they can't exercise their right to rise. Conservatives write articles with titles like "Obama's Dependency Economy" (from the Heritage Foundation) and "Obama's Dependency Agenda" (from National Review). Just after the 2012 election, Fox commentator Andrea Tantaros summed up the current right-wing conventional wisdom in a New York Daily News column titled "How Obama Won: A New Paradigm of Dependency Politics":
The biggest portion of the almost trillion dollar stimulus went mostly to create dependents through expanded Medicaid, more food stamps and the hiring of more state government workers, with little to show for it from an economic growth standpoint.And so we see headlines like "Obama Economy: Welfare Dependency Peaks as Rich Get Richer," the original title of a Washington Times article that tell us that inequality and stagnation are all the result of government programs:
Obama has created a new paradigm in America: dependency politics. The unemployment rate does not matter -- the dependency rate does.
When Reagan won in 1980, 29 percent of the country was getting a government check. This year it is 49 percent and growing. It’ll get even bigger when Obamacare fully kicks in, student loans are expanded and welfare requirements are softened.
It has been the calculus of the Obama camp all along: get more people hooked on government goodies and you get their votes -- like birth control.
Six years into his agenda, Wall Street is roaring higher than ever, with the Dow topping out over 18,000 for the first time recently and the top 10 percent of wealthy Americans amassing wealth at a double-digit pace.Yes, the other evil apart from the government safety net is the regulation of business -- it's crippling the economy! It's preventing growth! And what does Jeb's manifesto say?
But on Main Street large numbers of Americans have dropped from the job market, middle-class wages are stagnant, and even larger numbers of Americans are now dependent on some form of government subsidy for disability, jobless benefits or food stamps.
Even data from the president’s signature legislative accomplishment provides warning signs about the health of Main Street: More than four out of five Americans who got new health insurance under Obamacare did so with a government subsidy.
Experts say forces in the macroeconomy, coupled with Mr. Obama’s aggressive regulatory agenda, have left the promise of a more robust Main Street in shambles.
“The man really believes in regulating the private sector as opposed to structural remedies, and those regulations have hurt Main Street,” said Peter George Morici Jr., an economist and international business professor at the University of Maryland’s R.H. Smith School of Business.
We believe the income gap is real, but that only conservative principles can solve it by removing the barriers to upward mobility. We will celebrate success and risk-taking, protect liberty, cherish free enterprise.... We will strive to ... re-limit government....All of those are dog whistles referring to the right-wing cure-alls: less social spending and less regulation. Yes, inequality is real -- and it's caused by liberalism!
That's the current right-wing message. And Jeb has, I think, repackaged it better than Peter Beinart realizes. Liberals and moderates may miss some of the allusions to right-wing memes, but I don't think conservatives will.
(Beinart link via Ed Kilgore.)