The Republican party is the party of money. They harvest the fundamentalists for support and votes, true, and they don't really care if the fundies get to decide how the lives of the poor are, but their real aim has always been to preserve wealth in as few hands as possible. Yesterday's events are such a good example of this simple truth.
First, the Republicans crushed the attempt to raise the minimum wage. Note that the U.S. Congress has voted themselves raises every year. But no, the poor can't get raises:
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday defeated a proposal pushed by Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage in increments from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour by January 1, 2009.
Second, on the same day the Republicans did this:
Hi folks. The House Republican leadership scurried up to the Rules Committee hearing room for an EMERGENCY meeting they convened with 5 minutes notice. Literally.
Wonder where the fire was? Well the topic Republicans chose for EMERGENCY consideration ... H.R. 5638, the Republican Estate Tax Relief bill, designed to further reduce the estate-tax after the year 2011. Yes, estate-tax reduction, which would benefit less than 1% of the population, was more important to this Republican Leadership than passing a minimum wage increase, extending the voting rights act, or having a real, substantive debate on the war in Iraq.
I once heard William Kristol (one of the thinkers among wingnuts) in an interview state very explicitly that the Republican party is the party of the property owners and that its major goal is to protect property. Good for Bill to be so honest.
There is an inbuilt problem with a party which tries to get property more and more concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, and that is that the property owners alone will then not have enough votes to stay in political power. Unless they find out something populist, something appealing to our worst instincts, like fear and hatred of the other or fear of death. Like fearing the terrorists and the Mexicans who steal our (minimum wage!) jobs. Such populist ideas seem to work quite well in the short run, but I suspect that a day will come when the scales fall off the eyes of those who vote for the rich while staying every bit as poor as before, or those who used to belong to the middle classes but now find themselves relying on that seldom-changing minimum wage. - Well, nobody can blame me for lack of optimism now.