Where Was the GOP’s Middle Class Agenda?

December 12th, 2011 at 10:21 am David Frum | 74 Comments |

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Saturday night’s debate provided a good example of how current GOP orthodoxy thwarts presidential candidates from talking seriously about the economic problems of the American middle class.

Mitt Romney wants to offer a middle-class economic agenda. (Or anyway, his consultants have decided he needs to offer a middle-class economic agenda. Motives don’t matter for our purposes here.)

That agenda reduces itself to one point: elimination of taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends for Americans earning less than $200,000 a year.

How much benefit will this plan offer middle-income people? Precious little. Americans earning less than $200,000 (and by the way, at $200,000 individual income, we are rising well above the economic middle) do not receive many returns on invested capital. To the extent that under-$200,000s do receive capital income, it’s already protected from tax inside retirement accounts.

Retirees may benefit somewhat more. Some retirees may have accumulated significant assets during their working lives, and are now spending those assets down. For that population, the Romney plan will prove a windfall. But that must be a very small group of people – and a group that most Americans would regard as affluent, not middle class. It’s worth remembering that at current interest rates, it takes more than $10 million in government bonds to throw off $200,000 in interest income. It seems an ineffective means of aiding the troubled middle to allow a $10 million bondholder to receive up to $200,000 of interest tax-free.

How did Romney arrive at this unprepossessing result?

In large part, because he was trapped by the structure of Republicans taboos.

In my CNN column posting later this AM, I outline four things that really might make a difference to the middle class:

* health care cost containment

* college cost containment

* a push back against Chinese currency manipulation

* reduction in payroll taxes to be recouped by taxes on consumption or carbon pollution, preferably the latter.

It’s not a perfect or complete program, and others may have better or additional ideas, but at least it’s a program more relevant to middle-class concerns than Romney’s capital income plan. Yet we see that today’s GOP dislikes payroll tax cuts. It champions an export-hampering “strong dollar.” If an insurance mandate is deemed unconstitutional, it’s hard to see how else government can act to control insurance costs unless the US adopts all-out single payer, which of course would be even more unacceptable to most REpublicans.

And so on.

With the result that we’re backed into a strategic position that amounts to this:

“Republicans want to help the middle class, but the only policy tool allowed is tax cuts – with the tax cut that weighs heaviest on middle-class people, the payroll tax, off limits.”

No wonder then that the policy produced is feeble. It’s a wonder that any policy can be produced at all.

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74 Comments so far ↓

  • LauraNo

    Oh dear. I am coming to feel very sorry for you Mr. Frum. The sooner you face facts and admit the republican party has no interest in our welfare, or in policy for that matter, the better for your mental health. There are many conservatives in the democratic party, you know.

    • Fart Carbuncle

      Mr. Frum needs to stop fooling himself.

      He is, mainly, a moderate Democrat.

      • jrd555

        Even if we accept your premise that Frum is a Democrat, what he wrote is true. The GOP is in a tough position. Cutting taxes on capital gains doesn’t help the middle class. Things that do help the middle class are off the table.

        What do you suggest the GOP candidates do?

        • overshoot

          Cutting taxes on capital gains doesn’t help the middle class.

          It doesn’t matter what actually helps the middle class. What matters is that the Republicans can convince the middle class that it will help them. I mean, really — we’ve had thirty years of “trickle down” and last year the electorate voted overwhelmingly to ignore the color and smell of what’s trickling down to vote overwhelmingly for more of it.

        • Fart Carbuncle

          Simple. Do what the masses want: cut spending, get a balanced budget, and stop the bleeding.

        • overshoot

          Do what the masses want: cut spending, get a balanced budget, and stop the bleeding.

          As long as it doesn’t involve cuts to the military, foreign aid to Israel, Social Security, or Medicare.

        • jrd555

          None of that actually helps the economy. Any “masses” that want that are foolish.

      • smajor

        30 years ago, the idea that Frum is a Democrat of any flavor would have been laughed at. I think a better description of Frum is a conservative who chose not to follow the rest of the party through the looking glass. Republicans used to do things like try and protect the environment and raise taxes when necessary.

      • Traveler

        And you need to stop fooling yourself. You are not fooling us.

      • Neon Vincent

        No, he’s a Progressive Conservative. That Canadian party no longer exists, as Harper’s Conservatives have more to do with the Reform Party than the Tories of old.

  • icarusr

    Tee Hee … I have to confess, this is one of the funniest posts I have read in a long time, anywhere.

    I’ve been marking papers all weekend, and the most common comment I have on the margins is, “but is the assumption even valid?” Middle Class? Republicans? Can one reasonably assume, under any scenario, that the political party that refers to 47% of the US population on the basis of cooked-up statistics and false information as “takers”, and seeks to shield income earners above $1 million from additional taxes by shrill cries of “class warfare”, cares one wit for the “middle class”?

    I mean, there is cognitive dissonance and there is cognitive dissonance. To continue to ask for any sort of “middle class” recognition within this crop of clowns is entering psychosis territory.

    Or, morbid irony.

    Take your pick.

    • Frumplestiltskin

      Ick, I think it is even worse than that, Republicans want to get rid of the EITC and home mortgage interest deduction in order to make sure the Middle Class is the one on the hook for the debt, and they seem to believe the Middle class will then turn its ire on the poor and eliminate every social safety net there is.

    • NRA Liberal

      Can one reasonably assume, under any scenario, that the political party that refers to 47% of the US population on the basis of cooked-up statistics and false information as “takers”, and seeks to shield income earners above $1 million from additional taxes by shrill cries of “class warfare”, cares one wit for the “middle class”?

      There is a whole vast upper-middle class, suburban or exurban, McMansion dwelling chunk of Republican or independent voters who exist above the 47% mark (ie they pay taxes) and yet below the million-dollar income line. This is the “middle class” that matters to Republicans.

      • overshoot

        There is a whole vast upper-middle class, suburban or exurban, McMansion dwelling chunk of Republican or independent voters

        FSVO “vast.” I’m well up into the 2%, if not 1%, and the only way this comes close to me or the people I work with is aspirational.

  • jdd_stl1

    “Saturday night’s debate provided a good example of how current GOP orthodoxy thwarts presidential candidates from talking seriously about the economic problems of the American middle class.”

    And that is why you don’t have any serious GOP candidates in the race.
    They all looked at the positions they would have to take a stand on
    and knew they couldn’t do it and mean it.

    Our problems are bigger than the current GOP “Policy”:

    1. Make Obama a one term President.
    2. Starve the Beast through tax cuts.
    3. Bomb Iran.
    4. Repeat “Job Creators” as often as possible.

  • rover1492

    I’m with Laura. I actually used to be a Republican – back in the days of Reagan and H.W.. No more. These people are a pox upon the political landscape. C’mon over to the Democratic side. You’ll find fewer crazy people here. Really.

    • dante

      I think that there are actually quite a few ex-Republicans on this site, due to the fact that we’ve coalesced around Frum, who is himself an ex-Republican (although he just doesn’t know it yet).

      I thought that one of the overarching themes of Saturday night was how out of touch *all* of the candidates were. The closest any of them could come to talking about how they’ve been impacted by the recession was Newt’s claim that some of his relatives have lost their jobs. Romney flippantly offering up a $10k bet, not realizing that to many people in this country $10k would pay their mortgage for a year and enable them to keep their house out of foreclosure while they’re unemployed. NONE of them could talk realistically about hardships in any way. Ask anyone in my family (parents/my wife/my sister/etc) and we could easily talk for hours about areas where we’ve cut back (no cable tv, no home phone, driving cars that are 7 and 12 years old, etc), or where we’re naturally frugal (the term “heat nazi” can pretty much be used for any of us).

      Is it any wonder that the candidates are so completely clueless when it comes to Middle-Class America? Is there any question that the vast majority of Americans will connect more with Obama than any of these multi-millionaires? Romney was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Gingrich parlayed his time spent in office into lucrative lobbying deals worth millions, and Bachmann’s “family farm” is massive and supported with government subsidies. Huntsman’s family is rich, although to the best of my knowledge most of his money is is his own, with his father insisting on his children going out and earning it.

      There’s a reason that 70+% of Americans today feel that the Republican party is the party of the rich, and these candidates (ALL of them) aren’t doing anything to change that.

    • _will_

      one more here. i initially left because of the noxious social policies/ culture wars and aversion to science, but i’ll NEVER EVER go back because of the economic platforms that eschew demonstrable economic facts.

      i’m no fan of the Dems, but i’ll continue to hold my nose and vote that way until a reasonable third alternative presents itself.

    • Baron Siegfried

      I used to be a YR ( back when I was A: younger and B: Republican) until the 90s when the GOP started going ’round the bend. Where the break came for me was when a preacher came to our Young Republicans meeting and it was basically made known that we would either make known our commitment to Jesus very publicly or leave the group. After a soul satisfying confrontation, I (and several others) departed, and I changed my party affiliation to ‘D: None of the Above’.

      I didn’t leave the Republican party, it left me. I’m a sane american, tolerant and rational. There’s no room in the GOP tent for such as me . . .

    • CAPryde

      +1 to all above.

      I don’t see myself as a Democrat, but I just can’t vote in good conscience for the Republicans with their current policies and ideological framework. The Rs still get a few of my pulls at the local level, but I’ve pretty much given up on the GOP at the state and the national level out of disgust.

      I didn’t leave them; they left me.

  • beowulf

    What’s funny is that the Republicans are foursquare against single payer healthcare.. unless its called Medicare. If the individual mandate is shot down by the courts, the only way forward is to eliminate Medicare’s age restrictions and proceed from there.

    David’s platform is a sound one. By tackling healthcare and stagnant family incomes (as well as, along the way, addressing climate change with a carbon tax), the Republicans would catch the Democrats off-guard by taking leadership on issues the Dems have owned for decades. As for controlling the cost of college, Uncle Sam should promise to reimburse the tuition and fees of any citizen who earns credit (or a degree) from the online Western Governors University. It would lay down a baseline offer that other colleges would have to improve on to justify their tuition expense.
    http://www.wgu.edu/about_WGU/overview

  • overshoot

    To the extent that under-$200,000s do receive capital income, it’s already protected from tax inside retirement accounts.

    With one very large exception: their homes.

    I’m looking right now at the house I’ve lived in for almost 30 years. It’s just about kept up with inflation, but when I sell it I’ll be paying $30,000 in capital gains tax on it, for a net constant-dollar loss.

    One of the old excuses for a reduced rate on capital gains was to compensate for inflation. That joke ended with the 70s, but with current computing technology it would be trivial to adjust gains for inflation before taxes.

    • dante

      Is it your first house? Then you won’t pay any taxes on it. You also get a $250k ($500k if you’re married) exemption. Furthermore, since you’ve owned it for 30 years it’s only taxed at the 15% rate….. So assuming you’re married, and that this is your second house, your house would have had to have gained ~$700,000 in value from where you bought it 30 years ago? So if you bought for $100k in 1981, it would be worth $800k now?

      Not exactly feeling that sorry for you.

      • overshoot

        Not married, and didn’t know about the $250K exemption (moot at present.) The you-only-get-one-free is a hard decision because I’m moving, not selling out (details are messy.)

        However, the basic fact remains: below $200K/yr, capital gains are in long-term investments, primarily real estate. The sweetheart tax rate is much less of a benefit than an inflation adjustment would be.

        • beowulf

          No he meant first home as opposed to the second home (at the beach) or the third house (in the mountains) . Homeowners can buy and sell new homes every two or three years and still take advantage of the capital gains exclusion.

  • Holmes

    “It’s not a perfect or complete program” — ya think?

    “Republicans want to help the middle class” — please, don’t insult our intelligence.

    Once again, your not even in the ballpark of middle class concerns or solutions, Mr. Frum. But you don’t really want to be, do you?

  • jdd_stl1

    “* health care cost containment”

    First, is there really any evidence that the GOP cares about containing the cost of health care?

    And second, I’ve been struggling to understand how that could possibly happen
    with private health insurance. When does it become in the insurance companies
    interest to contain costs? Don’t they just pass the cost on in higher and higher premiums?
    And if you as a consumer want to save money, you buy a lower priced policy
    which provides less coverage. Is that what “contains” the cost of health care for
    the consumer, buying less coverage?

    Obviously, I’m confused.

    • wileedog

      “When does it become in the insurance companies interest to contain costs?”

      In fairness, like any business there is a desire to control costs. Higher premiums = more people opting out of the system entirely. Even with the mandate, if premiums are too high many people will simply elect to pay the govt. fine.

      Most insurance companies are devoting a lot of resources to consumer driven health care (prevention) and better transparency into providers, including tools to show doctors who provide better outcomes for less money, all of which in theory should help control costs. That said, its an uphill climb, as the majority of people pick their doctors based on how close their office is to their home, not on any sort of price or outcome metrics.

      Most Republicans now talk about “market solutions” to health care costs, when they mention it at all. The problem with that is you can’t use the market to control costs when there is limited supply and unlimited demand, and when most consumers put more thought into where they buy their gas then how they pick their healthcare services.

      Whether they manage to repeal Obamacare or not, I don’t see a significant way to control costs without Single Payer. Half the country just needs to get that through their heads.

  • Pericles

    David,

    Surely you jest. This is just silly coming from a guy who used to work at AEI:

    “If an insurance mandate is deemed unconstitutional, it’s hard to see how else government can act to control insurance costs unless the US adopts all-out single payer, which of course would be even more unacceptable to most Republicans.”

    You really think that the only way to control insurance costs is to mandate everyone in the U.S buys insurance (or we adopt a single-payer system)? Please. Time to dig into the work on your former colleagues like Mr. Miller: http://www.aei.org/scholar/thomas-p-miller/

    Or better yet, how about a fellow Canadian: http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/gratzer.htm

    Also, the middle class would benefit from tax cuts, (like across the board rate cuts or a flat tax) not gimmicks like replacing one tax with another (which in the case of a carbon tax is not needed).

    And finally, I know it’s not popular to say this, but if the Chinese are stupid enough to subsidize their exports then we all benefit through cheap consumer goods. Walmart is good for the American economy!

    • overshoot

      Also, the middle class would benefit from tax cuts, (like across the board rate cuts or a flat tax) not gimmicks like replacing one tax with another (which in the case of a carbon tax is not needed).

      An interesting proposition. Are you suggesting that under a flat tax “lower classes” would pay a larger share of the budget, or that the “upper classes” would?

      In the first instance, I believe that the usual reference is either to “blood from a stone” or “the iron law of labor.” In the second, well, that’s not part of any Republican or Libertarian plan proposed to date.

      Put another way, every “flat tax” proposal to date shifts more tax burden onto the middle class so as to free the “job creators” to do that voodoo that they do.

    • pdxcitizen

      Pericles,

      The idea that a flat tax, or even an across the board tax cut, by itself would help the middle class, is illogical.

      Median household income in USA is only in the mid $40,000′s, and currently you pay only 15% in income tax on the first $35,000.

      So how low would a flat tax have to be to give them any significant benefit?

      And how exactly would you balance the budget with such dramatically lower tax revenues.

      Flat tax is a mirage, and IMO simpkly a Trojan horse for those who wish to “drown the government in the bathtub”, to quote Grover Norquist, but who don’t have the courage to come out and say it.

      Face it, a progressive tax system is the only way to come close to be able to pay for the supercharged military and comprehensive social welfare programs the majority of citizens in this country seem to want.

      Unless you you advocate DEEP cuts in either military spending or Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, flat tax numbers do not begin to add up.

  • Graychin

    Where is the Republican plan for the middle class. There isn’t one. It should be painfully obvious by now that the Republican Party doesn’t give a damn about the middle class – only the people in the very top tax bracket.

    Romney is so far out of touch, he thinks that middle-class families are pining for elimination of income taxes on their investment income and capital gains.

    Meanwhile, the capital gains realized inside an IRA or other tax-deferred account is NOT “protected.” Those gains are taxed at ordinary income rates when they are withdrawn. Only people who hold their investments outside a tax-deferred account (primarily those whose tax-deferred accounts are already full) get the favored capital gains treatment.

    And would someone please explain to me, at long last, why income from labor for 8+ hours per day is taxed at full rates, but investment income including capital gains gets favored treatment? Do we believe that people with money won’t invest if they don’t get a tax break? Really? Hide it in their mattresses instead?

    • Sinan

      Graychin…you know the answer to your tax question…you and I have no power to influence tax policy. We make most of our money on our W2. Those with the ability to influence power make most of their money through capital gains, passive income and through investments. They write the code and fund the spin machine that covers for them. Imagine if the tax code was reversed to bias labor over income…wow.

    • Another Matt

      And would someone please explain to me, at long last, why income from labor for 8+ hours per day is taxed at full rates, but investment income including capital gains gets favored treatment?

      Isn’t the argument supposed to be that it’s because corporate profit – which becomes dividend income after it’s distributed – is “taxed twice” – once as corporate profit per se (effectively 27%) and then again as dividends (15%), making (so the argument goes) a 42% tax on investment income. Fine, but you can just as easily argue that sales tax counts as the same double taxation because my income is taxed, and then taxed again when I spend it on a TV. Money changes hands everywhere, and some of those transactions are taxed. It’s not honest to choose a combination of those transactions and treat them as “the same money” for the purposes of taxation.

      • overshoot

        Over the years there have been a host of “single tax” proposals, such as (exclusively) tariffs and real estate. If we wanted to avoid double taxation, we could pick one of those [1] — pretty much anything else is going to be subject to double taxation, and any attempt to avoid double taxation in a multiple-tax system can be dodged by avoiding one part or another.

        [1] I prefer a wealth tax, but I’m not fool enough to think it would have a snowball’s chance.

        • Baron Siegfried

          Sigh. Form a church, and you can run tax and investment scams to your hearts delight. All the other churches will leap to defend you if called out on your practices, as they’re doing the same thing (drive by your preacher’s house and see what kind of car he’s driving). What the GOP would like to see, of course, is everyone turning to Jeebus, starting a church, and starving the beast even more.

          Ave Mammon!

  • dennis

    What it really boils down to is that David Frum feels stupid now for all the times he’s justified and apologized for Republican policies. Just like I do. Now, I’m having to explain to my kids and friends why I, after years of defending the Republican party, have flipped the script. I feel stupid, yes; but “down here” we don’t have the financial luxury of continuing to kid ourselves. It is apparent that Frum still does.

    Face the facts, David; ideologically and practically, you are NO LONGER a Republican; only in name. Just like many of us on your site. See what we did there?

  • If It Wasn’t For Bad Policy, We Wouldn’t Have No Policy At All | Poison Your Mind

    [...] and watched the latest GOP debate, and can’t help but note that even his preferred candidate, Mitt Romney, has nothing of value to say to an overwhelming majority of Americans: Mitt Romney wants to offer a middle-class economic agenda. (Or anyway, his consultants have [...]

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      Sure, the GOP doesn’t have anything to say about policies that might help the middle class… but in all fairness to the candidates, that’s only because Republicans don’t have policy preferences.

      • overshoot

        that’s only because Republicans don’t have policy preferences.

        That’s not quite true. Manifestly, DF for instance has policy preferences.

        It’s just that like most Republicans, DF’s policy preferences are trumped by tribal loyalty.

  • jeremyh

    The historic Republican Party and many current Republican voters do care about the welfare of the middle class. We need to get the party back to this viewpoint (I as a mostly Democrat voter say this).

    • overshoot

      The historic Republican Party and many current Republican voters do care about the welfare of the middle class.

      Teddy Roosevelt is long dead, Dude.

    • Baron Siegfried

      . . . What planet are you from, and have we established diplomatic relations? (OMG!!!! Illegal aliens from outer space!!!! Beware the Gray Peril . . !)

      Though actually, there are still some rational conservatives out there – David tries to speak for them, but he’s taking withering fire as a result. When the mad roam the streets, the sane stay hidden lest they be dragged on hurdles to the waiting pyres. If I may recommend the American Conservative Magazine website (http://www.theamericanconservative.com/) as a relatively sane bastion of traditional conservative values, I deeply respect the integrity and sorrow of those true conservatives who mourn the lunacy of what was once a proud and patriotic party which has descended into Know-Nothingism. There is nothing worse than seeing barbarians vandalize art . . .

  • Gus

    It’s the same plan the Republicans have had since Reagan. Tax cuts for the wealthy which will eventually “trickle down” to the middle class. Hasn’t worked so well up to now, but the truth is the Republicans don’t care.

    • overshoot

      Hasn’t worked so well up to now, but the truth is the Republicans don’t care.

      Of course it’s worked: look at their electoral and overall political success for the last 30 years. They care a very great deal because it’s going to be a Very Bad Thing if the rank and file decide they’ve been screwed over.

  • paul_gs

    Pay no attention to the left-wing droids posting here David. Long term, being a conservative is a far better choice.

    • _will_

      i’m not so sure these people are all “left-wing droids”

      most seem like folks who are actually paying attention to the realities of our economic situation and are interested in sustainability and fact-based responses to these quandaries. fact is, moderate Dems are now the best manifestation of little “c” conservatism currently available. even your party’s ostensible heroes (Reagan et al) would not have a home in the modern GOP. it’s simply become the party of tax faeries, flat-earthers and Bircher carnival barkers.

      • _will_

        but hey, they make for *great* television! so i guess you’ve got that going for you…

      • medinnus

        Its much easier for people to dismiss logical arguments if they brand the person setting forth the argument as a left- or right-wing talking-point spouting robot. Lots less work.

    • jamesj

      The way I view it, the modern Republican party has become a reactionary populist party obsessed with idealism and obsessed with a utopian economic view that is unsupported by the majority of mainstream economic theory and empirical analysis. To make matters worse, the party has taken a turn towards a radical post-modern nihilism with a vacant notion of human virtue (namely that not much should be aspired to aside from self interest).

      As a result of these developments, I must criticize the modern Republican party harshly. I must do this primarily and precisely because I am a traditional Conservative. I must do this primarily and precisely because I am a registered Republican and I’ve voted for many Republican candidates for national and local office in the past.

      “Long term, being a conservative is a far better choice.”

      I absolutely agree with your statement. If “conservative” means skepticism of utopian plans and harsh realism when it comes to policy decisions, I agree with you that it is the wisest philosophy a man can live by. But the definition of the word “conservative” is a tattered reflection of its former self these days. In many minds it means an embrace of radical utopianism and a dogmatic idealism at the policy table.

    • Baron Siegfried

      . . . these aren’t the ‘droids you’re looking for . . .

  • Cforchange

    So I caught my first glimpse of the candidates at this debate. Glimpse it was. None of these folks look strong nor presidential. None appear confident. All lack charisma and spark necessary to connect with voters. Who would of expected that the female candidate had the most powerful voice of the lot.

    So not only do none of them present a plan to appeal to the middle class – they appear little to say of interest period. Debate was a real snoozer.

    • overshoot

      None of these folks look strong nor presidential. None appear confident. All lack charisma and spark necessary to connect with voters.

      That’s why a large campaign warchest is so essential. Well, that and good media relations: with enough money and good media relations, they can use CGI to solve all of those problems.

      • Cforchange

        Media spin can only go so far – my college kid tells me that on campus, Republican’s are deemed stupid. So much so that a Republican student would be afraid to admit to being one. This is the group most influenced by media and they already have their perception. Further what can good media relations do if when the spot light is on the candidate – they just can’t sing.

        The media impression I have is that the GOP has morphed into an 80′s nerd movie where the movers & shakers have been benched. But daily the new realm pants as their preachers like Rushbo or some Fox star, soothes their ego with “I am right, you are sooooo right too”. The GOP loud and proud are clueless or filled with envy because they and lack the necessary shoot from the hip, charismatic personality traits that can instantly engage an army to an important cause. Through their rabid party association, they are experiencing power like never before in their entire lives. It’s sick.

        I provide this rant because I saw this element’s presence loud and clear at the 2008 (not) celebration televised for John McCain. Nerds on full display, not a sparkle in their eye but their eyes fixed on their tiny handhelds. People not brave enough to speak from their own hearts – searching frantically on the web to know how to think. That is todays GOP membership and that explains why there are no fresh nor stunning ideas. That is what happens when you meld a super church and a political party.

        The party needs a reboot and it needs to be more detailed than simply trotting out Jeb Bush. The GOP won’t be back on track until it is acknowledged that the hard swing to the not really conservative but judgmentally right has been devastating. How? Throw out the baby Rushbo and the bathwater!

  • Oldskool

    I suggest a few hundred braves republicans Occupy Fox Nooz and other party headquarters if it’s hope you’re looking for.

    • Baron Siegfried

      Wow. That would wind up making Tianamen Square look like a tea party. (please feel free to insert your own snark at this point)

  • Lonewolf

    From Romney you expect empathy for the tribulations of the middle class? We’re talking about a guy who just a few weeks ago claimed he was “one of the unemployed”, offering to make a $10,000 wager – in front of a national audience of millions who have been laid off, lost their homes, or both!

    Looking to Romney for understanding is like looking to Gingrich for ethics, to Perry for intelligence, or to Bachmann for religious tolerance. Truth is, there’s no “there”, there.

  • Demosthenes

    I await with baited breath what will happen to David Frum when the con man, phony, and general political scum bag Gingrich is the Republican nominee for president. Will he instead support a rather centrist Democrat (Obama) or will he continue to support a party that no longer wants him or his sort (by that I mean the thinking classes). Time to move on, David. Being a conservative in the Canadian/British sense makes you a middle of the road Democrat in the US. The Republican Party has morphed into something truly awful.

    • NRA Liberal

      On that day I believe we will see Frum back Obama.

      • overshoot

        I would be impressed if he did, but I think it much more likely that he would simply go silent from mortification.

        • Rich T Bikkies

          And then lose the will to live and pass peacefully away in his sleep.

          Come on, Mr Frum. It seems that 95% of posters to your blog are now telling you you’re losing the plot. Let’s have an article from you addressing all these points.

    • Baron Siegfried

      There comes that inevitable point in anyone’s life where you have to take the bull by the tail and face matters directly. One only hopes David’s dodging skills are up to the task when the bull expresses himself.

      • overshoot

        One only hopes David’s dodging skills are up to the task when the bull expresses himself.

        I think that DF has already received that particular expression by the bull. It’s the other end he hasn’t heard from yet.

  • Demosthenes

    I forgot to add that I am an ex-Republican who voted twice for Ronald Reagan. I voted for George W Bush in 2000, and have regretted that ever since. Just like many of the other folks reading this site.

  • SpartacusIsNotDead

    Frum wrote: “I outline four things that really might make a difference to the middle class:

    * health care cost containment
    * college cost containment
    * a push back against Chinese currency manipulation
    * reduction in payroll taxes to be recouped by taxes on consumption or carbon pollution, preferably the latter.

    I think the proper response to this is, “No sh*t, Sherlock.” Being able to identify the problem is not the same thing as being able to address the problem.

    The problem that Frum and, before him, Noah Kristula-Green, have is that it’s impossible for them to come up with rational, effective policy prescriptions to address these problems that aren’t already being advocated by Democrats. But since their devout tribalism prevents them from supporting Democratic proposals they can do no more than agree that the problems Democrats are working on are the right problems.

    If Frum really wanted to help solve these problems he would acknowledge that Democrats have much better plans and he would then encourage his fellow Republicans to try to improve upon those plans and then pass them.

  • Ray_Harwick

    Here’s the GOPs agenda:

    Gingrich Agenda:
    Gingrich Signs Anti-Gay Pledge And Vows To Stop Having Adulterous Affairs:

    http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2011/12/newt-takes-noadultery-pledge-106920.html

    Perry Agenda:
    Perry Call For Constitutional Amendment on School Prayer. Government encroachment on private lives of citizens dismissed. Big goverment is the way. Forgets the Texas bill he signed into law that permits students to have moment of silence to pray or “whatever”.
    http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/firstreading/entries/2011/12/12/_happy_birthday_to_christine.html

    Perry Agenda:
    American Family Association leader says if you “dislike” Rick Perry’s “I Am Proud To Be A Persecuted Christian Who Hates Gays” ad (which got over 500K “dislike” clicks) you support bestiality.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-7i3JlZHsTk

    Romney Agenda:
    Romney Accidently Seeks Photo-Opt With New Hampshire Old-timers To Tell Them He Opposes Same-Sex Marriage: Old-timers Were A Gay Married Couple And Viet Nam Veterans.

    http://www.boston.com/Boston/politicalintelligence/2011/12/gay-veteran-quizzes-mitt-romney-single-sex-marriage/Kj4y3casZIyAAvwrrmcUvI/index.html

    Santorum Agenda:
    Santorum signs anti-gay pledge that says black children were better off in slavery.

    http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/santorum-bachmann-sign-pledge-claiming-blacks-were-better-off-as-slaves-believe-it/question-1963833/

    Bachman Agenda:
    Bachmann signs anti-gay pledge that says black children were better off in slavery.

    http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/santorum-bachmann-sign-pledge-claiming-blacks-were-better-off-as-slaves-believe-it/question-1963833/

  • anniemargret

    I grew up in a traditional Eisenhower type Republican home, but I long ago realized how stifled the Republican party really is. They are so wedded to resentment that they have no vision for this country. They just want an enemy to hate.

    And this sums it up. They are filled with petty insecurities, with prejudice, fearful that minorities of any stripe or color or religious background gain any traction in our society, no matter how decent that person really is.

    They are superficial.

    They have a narrow vision for what it means to be an American. They are fearful of entering a new age, where the worst traditions are shed and new freedoms exist. They prefer the worst traditions. They are holding America back in a global competition and for that, I have contempt for them.

    While talking ad nauseum about how ‘christian’ they are (little ‘c’ only, please), they cannot truly pretend they embrace the teachings of Christ, because hate, fear, prejudice are not Christian values. They use the purity of Jesus Christ’s words like mean-spirited swords.

    They are a terrible party. I feel sorry for people like Frum and other thinkers, otherwise fairly rational and intelligent people who have no real place in this party anymore. Where are they going to go?

    Don’t kid yourselves. David Frum is not going to be a Democrat any time soon. Most folks pick their parties because the core values that the party embraces is what emanates from their heart. I hate to say this, because I like DF very much, I think he resembles what was once a decent party of thought and direction, but I fear that there is also a streak of rabid pro-Israeli ideology that trumps everything else. Out of loyalty to Israel, at times they can’t see straight. And therefore, the Republican penchant for ‘saving Israel’ even if that means dropping bombs and opening up yet another Pandora’s box of war and consequences of war, falls like deaf ears. They have not learned that the law of unintended consequences will eventually catch up to us.

    He will not leave the GOP. The GOP will take decades to throw out the bums that have corrupted the party, the same way the Democrats threw out the radical left. But that takes decent people who demand it.

    I see no evidence whatsoever that the average mainstream Republican wants to change their party. Yes, I give high fives to all the former or almost-former Republicans here who are speaking honestly about their disappointment.

    But the average Republican? They still tune in to Rushbo and Hannity and Palin on Fox, still cheer despicable character traits like booing gay soldiers, denying civil rights to gays, despise the poor, give lip service to ‘values’, and cheer a proverbial person who could die without insurance….”let him die! (and “reduce the surplus population”- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)

    Scrooges. They are without heart, compassion, benevolence.

    I will stay firmly within the Dem party where intellect is not disparaged, higher education is not met with suspicion, and compassion for my fellow citizens and this nation’s collective interests for *all* socio-economic levels are given due diligence and hard work.

  • valkayec

    Pretty harsh assessment, Mr Frum, of your devoted readers:

    davidfrum twitter feed: “& other thoughts on how NOT to help the middle class …” The attached bit.ly compressed link led to this comments section.

    But perhaps you erred in linking not to the blog post but to the comments. I hope so, because if you intentionally linked to the comments, then I’d be forced to say you show little respect for your readers and their ideas. Yes, many of the comments are not favorable either to you or the GOP, but their comments reflect the severe disappoint with how far down the GOP has fallen since its glory days of being considered the smart, knowledgeable policy wonks. Now, twits like IL Rep. Walsh dominate the airwaves, leaving a bad taste in moderate viewers mouths.

    As for your post, what can I say that you’ve not already said…. The landscape is barren and the ocean empty of fish….

  • Carney

    Extreme antipathy to regulation and greens also prevents many conservatives from conceding that we do NOT have enough oil for own needs regardless of drilling restrictions, and that oil crashes our economy and greatly harms national security. Even though we worked with Stalin to win World War 2 and Mao to undermine the Soviet bloc, somehow we are forbidden from working with greens or unions on any issue ever, lest somehow we give in to their entire agenda.