On Tuesday afternoon, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) delivered a speech that sought to “rebrand” the GOP as a party that can advance legislation that would improve the lives of the “most vulnerable” Americans. “Our solutions will be based on the conservative principles of self reliance, faith in the individual, trust in the family, and accountability in government,” Cantor said in an address titled “Making Life Work.” “Our goal: To ensure every American have a fair shot at earning their success and achieving their dreams.”
But a closer look behind Cantor’s policy proposals reveals that House Republicans are still more interested in sounding compassionate than ensuring economic advancement for middle and lower income voters. Here is why:
1. SCHOOL FUNDING: “Imagine if we were to try and move in this direction with federal funding. Allow the money we currently spend to actually follow individual children. Students, including those without a lot of money or those with special needs, would be able to access the best available school, not just the failing school they are assigned to.” This is a redux of Mitt Romney’s school funding plan, which while a decent idea in theory, wouldn’t be possible alongside the House GOP budget’s call for $2.7 billion in cuts to spending for disadvantaged students. As The Nation’s Dana Goldstein explained, this plan calls for shuffling funding “without guaranteeing the federal funding or regulatory support necessary to ensure quality.”
2. HIGHER EDUCATION: “Over the course of this Congress, we will also work to reform our student aid process to give students a financial incentive to finish their studies sooner. We will encourage entrepreneurship in higher education, including for-profit schools.” The House Republican budget would eliminate Pell Grants for more than one million students. Many for-profit schools, meanwhile, take huge amounts of taxpayer money while leaving students burdened with debt and facing bleak job prospects. Their focus is corporate profitability, not education, and they use aggressive marketing tactics to target vulnerable students.
3. WORKING MOTHERS: “Federal laws dating back to the 1930s make it harder for parents who hold hourly jobs to balance the demands of work and home. An hourly employee cannot convert previous overtime into future comp-time or flex-time…Imagine if we simply chose to give all employees and employers this option. A working mom could work overtime this month and use it as time off next month without having to worry about whether she’ll be able to take home enough money to pay the rent.” Cantor’s proposal would do far less good than simply ensuring that all workers have access to paid sick leave and paid maternity leave. The U.S. is currently the only developed country with no paid sick leave policy and one of just three without required paid maternity leave.
4. TAX REFORM: “Loopholes and gimmicks benefitting those who’ve come to know how to work the system in Washington, are no more defensible than the path of wasteful and irresponsible spending we’ve been on for decades. Working families should come first. Everyone agrees a fairer, simpler tax code would give us all more time.” Republicans pay lots of lip service to tax reform, but want to raise no new revenues through the closing of loopholes and deductions, despite the fact that the deficit reduction implemented since 2011 has come overwhelmingly via spending cuts.
5. IMMIGRATION: “It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home…. I’m pleased that many of my colleagues in both chambers of Congress on both sides of the aisle have begun work in good faith to address these issues.” Republicans have embraced immigration reform after losing the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election. In 2010, Cantor and 160 other Republicans voted against the DREAM Act, a measure that “would offer a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people who attend college or serve in the military.”
6. OBAMACARE: “The new medical device tax in ObamaCare makes it harder for researchers to develop these innovative devices in the U.S….ObamaCare has unnecessarily raised the costs of our health care. “ A tax on the medical devise industry — which will benefit from health care reform — will help fund coverage expansion, without undermining innovation. As the Center For Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) points out the tax “does not apply to eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids, or any other medical device that the public generally buys at retail for individual use.” It would also have minimal impact on innovation since “tax rate is just one of the many factors affecting financial incentives.” The Affordable Care Act has had a very small effect on current premiums.
7. MEDICARE: “We should begin by ending the arbitrary division between Part A, the hospital program, and Part B, the doctor services. We can create reasonable and predictable levels of out-of-pocket expenses without forcing seniors to rely on Medigap plans…. “ President Obama has included many of these efficiency reforms in his budgets — but the GOP’s proposal move far beyond increasing program efficiency. Cantor and almost all Republicans support transforming Medicare into a voucher or premium-support program that will shift health costs to seniors without reducing overall health care spending.
8. MEDICAID: “We can provide states more flexibility with respect to Medicaid that will allow them to provide better care for low-income families in a way that ultimately lowers costs….And we must make it faster and simpler for states to gain approval of federal waivers to modify their Medicaid programs.” Democrats support increasing state flexibility in the Medicaid program, though Republicans — and Cantor himself — have voted to slash federal funding for Medicaid by 1/3 and shift some of the burden of Medicaid’s growing costs to the states. As a result, states could reduce enrollment by more than 14 million people, or almost 20 percent—even if they are were able to slow the growth in health care costs substantially.