On Sunday, the two most powerful Republicans in Congress offered the party’s response to recent economic gains: only the rich are benefiting in President Barack Obama’s economy while middle income Americans are worse off.
In a joint appearance on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were asked if they congratulate Obama for falling unemployment, dropping gas prices and a booming stock market.
Both sought to refashion the GOP as the party of mitigating income inequality.
“Look, things are getting better. But the point is, who is benefiting from this? This has been a top of the income recovery. The so-called 1 percent that the president is always talking about have done quite well,” McConnell said. “But middle and lower income Americans are about $3,000-a-year worse off than they were when he came into office.”
Boehner said income inequality — an issue that progressive advocates, Democratic lawmakers and Obama have increasingly highlighted recent years — is something Republicans want to tackle.
“And frankly, the president’s policies have made income inequality worse,” Boehner said. “All the regulations that are coming out of Washington make it more difficult for employers to hire more people. Chief amongst those, I would argue, is Obamacare.”
(A brief fact-check: research by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center indicates that Obamacare is reducing income inequality by imposing a slew of tax increases on upper earners to pay for billions of dollars in health insurance subsidies to low- and middle-income Americans.)
Boehner flatly ruled out Obama’s call for raising taxes on the wealthy, calling the idea “dead — real dead.” He also batted away a potential gas tax hike to fund an infrastructure bill.
The Speaker wouldn’t embrace or dismiss Obama’s plan to triple the child tax credit, saying that’s “something that can be looked at in the overall context of simplifying our tax code and bringing rates down for everyone.” That’s Washington-speak for tax reform, which is highly unlikely given the breadth of disagreements between Obama and the Republican-led Congress.
McConnell ruled out Obama’s proposal for two years of free community college as “something we can’t afford.”
He praised Obama’s call for new trade deals in the State of the Union speech.