Rand Paul’s Plan To Rebrand The GOP, And The Lie That Ruins It

Bill Scher

On Saturday, Sen. Rand Paul traveled to New Hampshire and addressed conservative activists at the Freedom Summit.

In his remarks he described his vision to “grow our movement” and attract new constituencies to the Republican fold. Namely, “We can’t be the party of the plutocrats and the rich people.”

This was brave talk at an event co-sponsored by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

He continued:

We have to show concern for people who are out of work … we have to have ideas … There’s always more of a working class … than an owner’s class. I’m not against the owner’s class, but I want to tell the workers of America that we’re on their side. The President keeps offering you free stuff, but you’re still in poverty … more unemployment insurance? Frankly, I think they’d rather have a job.

Tantalizing. Paul is suggesting his brand of libertarian Republicanism holds the key to creating jobs, and Barack Obama’s activist government vision does not.

So let’s see some more leg. How does Paul show evidence of his concern for the poor?

Oh, by lying about the history of presidential job creation. And not very cleverly.

When is the last time in our country we created millions of jobs? It was under Ronald Reagan … Did he say, “oh let’s just cut taxes for low-income people?” No, he said forthrightly, “let’s cut everyone’s taxes” … The top rate was 70% … he lowered it … to 28% … and 20 million jobs were created.

Sometimes conservative lies take a lot of effort to unpack. This one does not.

Bill Clinton’s presidency presided over the creation of 23 million. Ronald Reagan presided over 16 million (not 20 million). Bill Clinton came after Ronald Reagan.

And Clinton, you may recall, increased the top tax rate to 39.6 percent.

Yes, Reagan created jobs. But his tax policies also contributed to widening economic inequality.

As economists Thomas Piketty and Emanuel Saez recently discovered in their comprehensive tax data analysis, between 1980 and 1990, the average inflation-adjusted pre-tax income of the top 1 percent increased 55 percent, while income for the bottom 90 percent fell a bit.

And poverty, which had been declining ever since Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty, rises during the Reagan Era, only to decline again in the Clinton Era.

Rand Paul’s tax logic also falls apart in the George W. Bush era. Like Reagan, Bush cut the top tax rate. Yet Bush ended up with a measly net 1.5 million jobs created in his eight years, with a loss of 4.4. million jobs in the final year of his presidency.

Rand may have an understanding of the Republican Party’s problem. But if his solution is simply to lie, and not very artfully, about the record of conservative tax policy and its impact on job creation, it’s safe to say the poor will still believe Republican Party does not have concern about their well-being. And rightly so.