Republican presidential hopefuls are planning to highlight the populist message of income disparity as part of their major policy agenda during the 2016 campaign – a theme historically associated with Democrats.
The GOP candidates feel sympathy for the millions of middle-class and working-class families who fear they will never afford to live the American dream, and plan to come up with fresh policies to address the country’s core economic concerns, according to reports.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has proposed tax breaks to help companies invest in struggling communities, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has devoted his new book, "American Dreams,"
due out this week, to revamping programs for the poor and middle class, The Wall Street Journal reported
Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, has told friends that he believes poverty must be part of the discussion as he mulls running for the White House four years after Democrats attacked him for being out of touch with the lives of average Americans, The Washington Post reported
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, another presidential hopeful, is planning to use his inaugural address Monday to reiterate his policy of helping "people in the shadows," according to the Journal.
And during his inauguration, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker vowed to give students a quality education, "regardless of background or birthright."
And while launching his political action committee Right to Rise, this month, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush described his potential campaign in a style that could fairly be called populist, the Associated Press says
"Millions of our fellow citizens across the broad middle class feel as if the American dream is now out of their reach; that our politics are petty and broken; that opportunities are elusive; and that the playing field is no longer fair or level," he said.
According to the Post, Bush’s characterization of the economic and social challenges in the United States echo the same concerns expressed by presumed Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton, as well as other possible progressive contenders like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
"You talk to any pollster, on the Democratic side or the Republican side, they’re in complete agreement on the idea that there has to be an economic populist message," said Matthew Dowd, a top strategist for former president George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns. "Then it comes down to 'Are there credible solutions and is there a credible candidate?'"
Bush appears ready to combat Democrat candidates in 2016 on policy issues that they have considered their own in past elections – poverty, income equality, economic prosperity, and middle-class wage stagnation, the Post said.
There are 45 million Americans living at or below the poverty line, according to recent census estimates, which says that the average family income is under $52,000. As proof of wage stagnation, the median is 8 percent lower than it was in 2007, adjusted for inflation, and 11 percent below 2000.
"Since the late 1970s, wages for the bottom 70 percent of earners have been essentially stagnant, and between 2009 and 2013, real wages fell for the entire bottom 90 percent of the wage distribution," Lawrence Mishel of the liberal Economic Policy Institute wrote in a paper published this month.
"Too many of the poor have lost hope that a path to a better life is within their grasp," Bush’s website reads, according to the Journal.
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