GOP: Millionaires Can't Afford Higher Taxes, But Some Unemployed People Are Too Rich For Jobless Benefits

December 05, 2011 3:24 pm ET — Jamison Foser

For years, conservatives have argued that people who make $250,000 a year — about two percent of all American households — aren't really rich. More recently, Republicans have taken to suggesting that even people who earn more than $1 million a year can't afford slightly higher taxes, an absurd sentiment that even most millionaires disagree with.

Now Republicans are reportedly working on a scheme to deny unemployment benefits to people who used to make as little as $100,000 a year. That's right: After arguing that millionaires are too poor to afford a tax increase, the GOP thinks unemployed people who made a tenth of that are too rich for jobless benefits:

Republicans on Capitol Hill are working on a new plan to extend unemployment benefits that would reform the system so prisoners and people making more than $100,000 annually would not be eligible for the payments. [...]

The "goal" of the yet-to-be-released Republican measure will be to fully offset the benefits, and is likely to bar people making more than $100,000 a year from receiving benefits. 

This means-test strategy is seen as a counter to Democrats' criticism that the GOP tax policy protects millionaires and billionaires.

The contradictions are dizzying: Republicans have repeatedly voted to protect millionaires and billionaires — people who currently make more than $1 million a year — from slightly higher tax bills, but they want to deny unemployment benefits to people who used to make $100,000 a year. And they think getting tough on the jobless counters criticism that they protect millionaires and billionaires? Bizarre. If they want to counter criticism that their tax policy protects millionaires and billionaires, there's an easier way: They could stop protecting millionaires and billionaires. Instead, they're trying to distract the public from their pro-billionaire tax policy by preventing unemployed people from getting jobless benefits.

It's bad enough when Republicans explicitly advocate the economic fantasy that if we coddle the rich, a few nickels will trickle down to everyone else. But when they try to co-opt populist arguments, that's when you know they're really up to no good.

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