Head Smacker: McConnell and Boehner Address Income Inequality…But Not Really


January 28, 2015

On Sunday, the CBS news show 60 Minutes aired the first joint interview with Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell since the new Republican majority Congress convened. The interview took place only days after last week’s State of the Union address, and Scott Pelley from CBS asked the two why Republicans don’t applaud the recent gains in the economy President Obama noted. Majority Leader McConnell agreed that things are getting better, but added “But the point is, who’s benefitting from this? This has been a top of the income recovery… but middle- and lower- income Americans are… worse off.” Speaker Boehner added that Republicans want to address income inequality and that “the President’s policies have made income inequality worse.”

Boehner and McConnell discuss income inequality on 60 Minutes

It’s great to hear that these two powerful leaders want to address income inequality. But the next part of the interview, in which Pelley asks the men to react to specific proposals the President called out in his speech, leads us into a real Head Smacker. Boehner says the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for programs and tax cuts to help middle- and lower-income Americans is “Dead. Real dead.” In response to the President’s community college proposal, McConnell says “giving away free tuition… is something we can’t afford.” Boehner says increasing minimum wage is “a bad idea.” And yet in his very next response, Boehner says “We’re all for helping working-class families around America.”

Really? How can you be FOR helping middle-class families while being AGAINST the proposals that would actually help them? And that’s just the start of the Head Smacking. Talk is one thing. Action is another.

Last year, Speaker Boehner’s House passed the a budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) that would drastically cut human needs programs that keep people out of poverty and convert Medicaid and SNAP/food stamps into rigidly limited block grants. As for a minimum wage increase, Speaker Boehner refused to ever bring the issue up for a vote in the House, while Republicans in the Senate – including Sen. McConnell – blocked a vote on it last April, despite the fact that it would have meant a bigger pay check for nearly 28 million workers and their families.

The House last year also passed a package of tax breaks mostly for businesses that cost over $500 billion over 10 years and wasn’t paid for. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has also said he’s in favor of cutting corporate tax rates. That, apparently, we can afford, but free community college we can’t. I’m sure they would say the reason for these corporate tax breaks is to create jobs, but the evidence isn’t on their side. The “bonus depreciation” tax break, which would cost almost $290 billion over the next decade alone, has been called a “relatively ineffectual tool for stimulating the economy” by the Congressional Research Service. Two other tax breaks passed by the House Ways and Means Committee could actually eliminate jobs.

The two men also continue to reiterate their commitment to repeal Obamacare, which is helping millions get insurance and needed health care, many for the first time. And earlier this month, the House passed a bill that would provide incentives for employers to reduce their workers’ hours. It would put health coverage and paychecks for Americans workers at risk and raise the federal deficit by $53 billion. Sen. McConnell has shown his support for a similar move.

In the introduction to the aired piece, Pelley said, “Two men will decide which part of President Obama’s agenda becomes law.” Unless advocates band together and make our voices heard louder and stronger than before, it seems like not much of it will, at the expense of low-income people struggling in America. If this is their idea of addressing income inequality, we definitely have our work cut out for us.

Budget and Appropriations
Head Smacker
income inequality
minimum wage
Poverty and Income
Ryan budget
tax policy