“You have to be all sorts of twisted to think ‘making poor people more comfortable’ is a bad thing.”
The grassroots organization People for Bernie on Tuesday advised the Democratic Party to take a page from an unlikely source—right-wing Vice President Mike Pence—after Pence told a rally crowd in Florida that progressives and Democrats “want to make rich people poorer, and poor people more comfortable.”
“Good message,” tweeted the group, alerting the Democratic National Committee to adopt the vice president’s simple, straightforward description of how the party can prioritize working people over corporations and the rich.
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) December 22, 2020
Suggesting that a progressive approach to the economy will harm the country—despite the fact that other wealthy nations already invest heavily in making low- and middle-income “more comfortable” by taxing corporations and very high earners—Pence touted the Republicans’ aim to “cut taxes” and “roll back regulations.”
The vice president didn’t mention how the Trump administration’s 2017 tax cuts overwhelmingly benefited wealthy households and powerful corporations, with corporate income tax rates slashed from 35% to 21%, corporate tax revenues plummeting, and a surge in stock buybacks while workers saw “no discernible wage increase” according to a report released last year by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Popular Democracy.
Similarly, the Republican Party’s recent attempts to roll back regulations include measures that have actively harmed working families, including the administration’s termination of overtime protections for workers—resulting in an estimated $1.2 billion in lost earnings—and of requirements that federal contractors meet labor and wage standards.
While the GOP during the coronavirus pandemic has allowed enhanced unemployment benefits to expire and cited concerns over the federal deficit while blocking legislation to offer Americans a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks—despite the fact that the deficit has grown by trillions of dollars under President Donald Trump—progressives including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have consistently called for robust economic relief for workers.
Along with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Sanders introduced legislation to provide Americans with monthly payments of $2,000 in May, saying the $1,200 direct payment included in the CARES Act last March was “not nearly enough.”
In August, Sanders also introduced a bill to tax the “obscene wealth gains” of U.S. billionaires during the pandemic, which would raise at least $420 billion—a sum that would allow the popular Medicare program to pay all out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for everyone in the U.S. for a year.
Pence’s description of progressive goals was “exactly” correct, author and commentator Anand Giridharadas tweeted.
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) December 22, 2020
“Yes, and what’s wrong with making poor people more comfortable?” asked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).
The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen denounced Pence for suggesting the government should not prioritize the wellbeing of Americans who are struggling financially during a pandemic, including an estimated 50 million people expected to face food insecurity this year.
54,000,000 Americans are going hungry right now and Mike Pence is scandalized by the very concept of “making poor people more comfortable.” https://t.co/Ej1sCjAgC6
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) December 22, 2020