Members Only | May 11, 2022 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Rick Scott revives Romney’s contempt for workers, revealing in the process what to expect if the GOP takes the Congress

Pro-life is pro-poverty.

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Florida Senator Rick Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has released a plan which says, honestly and clearly, exactly what Republicans want to do to the poor. 

It’s this plan that Joe Biden highlighted Tuesday in order to set up a contrast between the Democratic agenda and the Republicans’.

“Republicans in Congress are so deeply committed to protecting big corporations and CEOs that they would rather see taxes on working American families and try to depress their wages than take on inflation, never mind the fact that many of these companies are recording record profit margins even as … they raise prices,” he said.

To Romney, bosses were virtuous wealth generators who deserved all the resources. Poor and working people, who actually did the labor that created the goods and services, were leeches to be brushed aside.

Scott’s peers have not welcomed the plan. They have distanced themselves from his proposals. In doing so, they have demonstrated the extent to which Republican economic policies rely on hypocritical populism to cover for their assault on the disadvantaged. 

Scott’s Plan to Rescue America, unveiled at the end of March, included a lot of rabid Republican nativism and conspiratorial bigotry. 

It demands all students in public school be forced to recite the pledge of allegiance. It promises to double down on completing Trump’s failed border wall. It says Republicans will ban a debt increase — which would trigger default and precipitate a massive recession or worse.

Republican campaigns marinate in this kind of festering nonsensically symbolic stew of word and gesture. But Scott, who is worth north of $250 million, adds policies that deliberately target the least affluent. 

Scott’s plan states that, “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.”

By his own account, therefore, Scott’s plan would raise taxes on more than half of Americans — most of whom pay no income tax because they don’t earn enough income to do so. About 102 million individuals or married couples would owe under his plan.

In addition, Scott proposed that “all federal legislation sunsets in five years.” This would throw the government into chaos. More, it would eliminate Social Security and Medicare. Imagine a divided Congress passing such sweeping legislation quinquennially. You can’t.

Democrats criticized the plan quickly. 

Republicans, meanwhile, disapproved or sidestepped.  

Senate candidate Billy Long said he didn’t support Scott’s tax increases. Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks issued a statement denouncing tax increases. Senator Marco Rubio dodged the issue, saying he didn’t know whether he agreed with it. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was far more forthright. The Senate conference would not run on raising taxes, he said, and the party was absolutely not going to cut Social Security or Medicare.

In 2012, Republican candidate Mitt Romney suggested Americans who didn’t pay taxes were freeloading or were not invested in the system. There was a massive backlash. Since then Republicans have generally opposed all tax increases of any sort for everyone. 

Trump in 2016 promised a big middle-class tax cut. He also promised to preserve entitlement programs — at least when he’s not, in typically incoherent Trump fashion, promising to cut them

The Republicans can be trusted generally to say they are committed to reducing the burden on the working and middle class. But what they do is more in line with the goal of Rick Scott’s proposal– soak the poor.

Trump’s 2017 tax cut was a bonanza for the rich and a punch in the gut for the less affluent. The richest, earning at least $308,900, had their income tax cut, giving them a 3 percent boost in income.

The poorest saw a decrease in income of about 3 percent. That’s because it repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. 

Similarly, Republicans almost uniformly opposed President Joe Biden’s Child Tax Credit program which provided hundreds of dollars in cash payments to poor families with children. 

Thanks to GOP obstruction, the program ended in January. 

When it did, child poverty spiked by 41 percent.

The Republicans and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin look more heartless as it becomes clear the conservative Supreme Court intends to shred abortion rights, allowing states to force women to give birth.

That should make clear that Republicans are keen to control women’s bodies, but lose interest once they’re born. Some Republicans have made vague noises about maybe providing some limited benefits for children, but these plans sound half-hearted at best.

The GOP is eager to shovel money into the wealthy’s deep pockets. They are just as eager to take money from those who need it most. 

More, they love restricting, regulating and harassing the poor by denying them access to reproductive healthcare or any healthcare. 

Romney accurately explained the Republican philosophy when he characterized the rich as “makers” and the poor as “takers.” 

To Romney, bosses were virtuous wealth generators who deserved all the resources. Poor and working people, who actually did the labor that created the goods and services, were leeches to be brushed aside.

Open contempt for working people proved to be fairly unpopular. Republicans have instead embraced a pallid populism with which they blame the country’s economic woes on immigrants and mutter indistinctly about helping the middle class.

Scott’s plan gives the game away. It openly acknowledges the policies that Republicans don’t like to admit to their own voters. 

Scott wants to take money from the poor triumphantly, rather than quietly letting their cash payments lapse. He wants to slice benefits with a flourish, rather than scuttling them in the fine print. 

He says the less powerful are less worthy, rather than (or in addition to) using dog whistles and insinuations to encourage people to think that GOP hate is directed solely at immigrants, Black people, LGBT people — anyone but the GOP’s core constituency of white people.

Democrats have been talking about Scott’s plan on the campaign trail. It may help around the edges, but it’s not clear any message will avert the midterm curse that typically scars the president’s party.  

Rick Scott’s plan advertises what voters can expect from Republicans. His party wants to harm working people and the less affluent. 

When they’re out of office, they dream of it.

When they’re in office, they’ll deliver it.

Noah Berlatsky writes about the political economy for the Editorial Board. He lives in Chicago. Find him @nberlat.

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