PFAW Releases Report on Using Religious Liberty as a Sword Rather than a Shield

Last June, the Supreme Court gave certain for-profit corporations the right to deny women vitally important (and statutorily required) healthcare coverage that offends their employers' religious beliefs, claiming it was simply protecting the employers' religious liberty. Across the country, right wing extremists are seeking to empower individuals and business owners whose religious beliefs are offended by LGBT equality to exempt themselves from anti-discrimination laws – again, supposedly in the name of religious liberty. Conservative Christians aggressively seeking to deprive others of their legal rights regularly portray themselves as the victims of religious persecution.

People For the American Way has released a new report examining the many ways that religious liberty issues are increasingly coming up in public policy debates in communities across the nation. But this isn't religious liberty as it has been understood throughout our nation's history.

Authored by Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery, Religious Liberty: Shield or Sword? examines how the Far Right is working to transform this core American value from a shield protecting individuals' religious freedom into a sword that harms other people and undermines measures to promote the common good.

The report provides vital factual background and analysis to help readers better understand how religious freedom principles have traditionally been regarded, as well as how they are being twisted by a far right movement in an effort to reverse its fortunes as their substantive arguments are increasingly rejected by the American public. These distorting efforts come from conservative advocacy organizations, state and federal legislators, and even a narrow majority of the United States Supreme Court.

This report is an important tool to help understand and confront the Right in public policy debates across the country, as they increasingly seek to use religious liberty as a sword to deny rights to others, and as they continue to portray themselves as victims of religious persecution.


President Obama: 'I'd Love to See' a Constitutional Fix For Big Money in Politics

In an interview with Vox released today, President Obama expressed his support for constitutional remedies to our country’s worsening money in politics problem.

The president said:

I would love to see some constitutional process that would allow us to actually regulate campaign spending the way we used to, and maybe even improve it.

This isn’t the first time the president has weighed in on the push for a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United. In 2012 during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session, President Obama made a splash when he said that “over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United.” As the Vox article notes, today’s comments go a step beyond his previous remarks.

Agree with the president? Share our graphic and show your support:

You can watch the full interview with President Obama here:


Around the Country Op-Eds Support Amendment to #GetMoneyOut

This week three opinion editorials were published in local papers in New Hampshire, New York and West Virginia calling for a 28th amendment to the Constitution to overturn Supreme Court cases like Citizens United. These op-eds are the latest in a stream of media coverage highlighting the growing movement to rescue our democracy from the dominating influence of big money in politics.

In an opinion editorial by Democratic State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark and Republican Rep. Robert Elliot, the New Hampshire state legislators make the case for a resolution currently being considered that supports a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. On January 29th, citizens testified at a hearing on the resolution, attracting more than 50 activists (both Democrats and Republicans) who spoke in favor of the proposed legislation. Sixteen states have already passed resolutions supporting an amendment, in addition to more than 600 towns and cities across the country.

The editorial board of the Times Union of New York also published a piece making the case for a state resolution supporting an amendment. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, they argue, our democracy is threatened by the fact that a tiny fraction of the richest Americans are able to buy outsized influence in the electoral process. The fact that so few contribute so much of the money spent in elections is antithetical to a representative democracy, as politicians are incentivized to be more responsive to donors than voters.  

And in West Virginia the Fayette Tribune published an op-ed making the case for an amendment in the context of protecting majority rule. The author argues that the influence of big money in politics skews the ratio of “one person one vote,” a fundamental tenant of democracy. Because of Supreme Court cases like Citizens United, passing a constitutional amendment is necessary in order to level the political playing field and foster a democracy that is truly of, by and for the people.

PFAW and Allies Advocate for Amendment to #GetMoneyOut in New Hampshire

PFAW activists joined with allies from Public Citizen, Open Democracy, and others last Thursday at public hearings on New Hampshire House and Senate bills calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United.

About 50 supporters of a constitutional amendment attended each hearing, creating standing room only and overflow in the small room reserved for the House bill hearing.

Speakers included small business owners, activists who passed local town resolutions in favor of an amendment, and high school students.  Not a single person testified in opposition to the proposed legislation, underscoring the deep support among Americans of all backgrounds for fixing our big money system.

The bills (HB 371 and SB 136) call for the state legislature to recommend a constitutional amendment to the state’s congressional delegation, as well as for public hearings in geographically diverse areas across the state to decide the exact language for such an amendment.

A committee in the New Hampshire House will vote on the bill in an executive session on Wednesday afternoon, while the appropriate Senate committee has not yet set a date for a vote. PFAW activists and allies will be back at the state capitol next week for a lobby day to meet with key representatives and senators on Wednesday, February 4th.

Interested in joining us? For more information and to RSVP, email Lindsay Jakows at


A Victory in the Fight for Fair Trials for Undocumented Immigrants

In an important victory for fair courts and the principle that justice is available to all, an appeals court in California today issued a decision granting a new trial for an undocumented immigrant whose immigration status was revealed to jurors despite its irrelevance to the issues in the case. People For the American Way had joined the UC Hastings Appellate Project and the ACLU of Southern California in submitting an amicus brief in the case, Velasquez v. Centrome, Inc. dba Advanced Biotech.

In this case, a former factory worker named Wilfredo Velasquez sued Advanced Biotech, Inc. for its alleged failure to tell his employer about the harms of a chemical he was exposed to while on the job — exposure which he says led to a devastating lung disease. But during the jury selection, the trial judge revealed to jurors that Velasquez was undocumented, an action that, in the words of our amicus brief, “unnecessarily injected prejudice into the selection process, making it impossible to know whether Mr. Velasquez received his constitutionally guaranteed fair trial by impartial jurors.” The threat to Velasquez’s right to a fair trial became clear when the jury concluded that Advanced Biotech had indeed been negligent — yet still awarded no damages to Velasquez, meaning that he, in effect, lost his case.

Fortunately, today the appeals court righted this wrong by granting Velasquez a new trial. The state appeals court noted that “cases both in California and in multiple other jurisdictions have recognized the strong danger of prejudice attendant with the disclosure of a party’s status as an undocumented immigrant.”  Indeed, we have seen how undocumented immigrants face ongoing hostility in our country.

As the amicus brief notes, every person, regardless of immigration status, has a right to “a verdict rendered by an impartial jury.” It is a right that must remain a foundational principle of our judicial system.


#DemandDemocracy Video Blog: Businesses Against Big Money in Politics

Sixteen states, 600 towns and cities, dozens of nonprofit reform organizations, and more than five million Americans are not the only ones calling for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. This installment of our #DemandDemocracy video blog features Bryan McGannon with the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) discussing how big money in politics is bad for competition and bad for small business.

As Bryan points out:

“Our campaign finance system subverts competition by allowing powerful industries and corporations to influence legislation that pampers them and hampers small business.”

According to a report published by the Mainstreet Alliance and ASBC, 88 percent of small business owners believe that money in politics is having a negative impact on our democracy, and a strong majority (66 percent) say that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision has been bad for small businesses. Since a vast majority of the money that flows into elections comes from a tiny fraction of mega-wealthy donors, most businesses and individuals alike get priced out of participating in the electoral process.

PFAW’s #DemandDemocracy video blog series is a collection of short videos that highlight how big money in politics affects — and often stalls progress on — a range of other critical issues.


Five Million Strong Calling for a Constitutional Amendment

Last week PFAW, in collaboration with more than 60 partners, collected the five millionth petition signature calling for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. This ambitious goal was reached just in time for the 5th anniversary of Citizens United on January 21, a feat that involved extensive coordination on the part of dozens of organizations representing environmental, labor, social and economic justice, business, faith-based groups, as well as other organizations working on issues affected by big money in politics.

The five million petition signatures demonstrate the growing grassroots support for a constitutional amendment. Both the number of petitions and the number of organizations collecting signatures have increased significantly in recent months, an indicator of the growing call for an amendment. In June of 2014, the Senate held a committee hearing on the Democracy for All amendment, at which point two million petition signatures, collected by 12 organizations, were delivered. In September of 2014, when the Senate brought the Democracy for All amendment to the floor for a week of debate, more than three million signatures, collected by 25 organizations, were delivered. And now most recently, by the 5th anniversary of Citizens United last week, more than 60 organizations collaborated to gather over five million petition signatures calling for a constitutional amendment.

Collecting petitions is one small step in what will be a long journey to amend the constitution and create a government of, by and for the people. Passing an amendment was never intended to be easy. The enormous legislative hurdles – approval from 2/3 of Congress and ¾ of the states – makes the Herculean task of passing an amendment seem nearly impossible. Fortunately, the great social movements of American history, such as the women’s suffrage movement and civil rights movement, have proven that it is indeed possible. Women and African Americans winning the right to vote by amending the Constitution demonstrates that when enough people come together and dedicate themselves to righting an injustice, “We the people” are able to enact fundamental reform and change the course of history. 

Are you one of the five million calling for an amendment to get big money out of politics? Share this graphic with your networks!

Share this image on Facebook

PFAW Foundation Joins Amicus Brief in SCOTUS Case on Health Care Tax Subsidies

Yesterday PFAW Foundation joined the National Women’s Law Center, the law firm Hogan Lovells, and close to 70 other organizations in submitting an amicus brief in King v. Burwell, the pending Supreme Court case on tax subsidies for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The brief notes that a decision in favor of those challenging the subsidies would threaten a central goal of the law: making access to health insurance possible for millions of people across the country.

The ramifications of a wrong decision in this case could be enormous, causing serious harm in the lives of people now relying on health insurance through the ACA. If the core tax subsidy provision were to be struck down, the brief points out, women of color would be especially hard-hit:

These tax credits are critical. Over 9 million women, who would otherwise go without affordable health insurance, are eligible to benefit from them, including a disproportionate number of women of color.

…The tax credits are not only critical to women’s health; they are critical to the ACA’s continued viability. Congress encouraged participation in the insurance market primarily through the careful interrelation of the individual responsibility provision, market reforms, and tax-credit provisions. Eliminate the tax credits, and the system unravels.

The amicus brief highlights the stories of many real women who depend on the tax credits to access needed health care:

Marilyn Schramm, 63, is a 26-year cancer survivor from Austin, Texas. She endured treatment for cervical cancer in her thirties and has experienced life-long complications from that treatment that have required surgeries since then. Marilyn retired several years ago. When her COBRA rights were exhausted, Marilyn was forced to go without insurance for six months because of her “preexisting conditions.” But in January 2014, Marilyn could finally purchase insurance on the federally-facilitated Exchange in Texas, with at least half of her premium covered by the ACA’s tax credits.

Marilyn has now been diagnosed with colon cancer; following surgery, she began chemotherapy this month. Her coverage depends on the ACA’s prohibition on excluding those with pre-existing conditions, and on its premium tax credits: With her modest retirement income, Marilyn is unsure whether or how she could pay her insurance premium without the tax credits.

As we have noted before, this case is a blatantly political attack intended to do serious damage to the Affordable Care Act. The millions of women and men across the country who rely on the ACA in order to access health care ranging from preventative screenings to cancer treatments deserve far better.

PFAW Foundation

Not Even GOP's Own Witnesses Oppose Loretta Lynch

Today was the second and final day of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Loretta Lynch's nomination to be attorney general. Today's session was devoted to witnesses invited by Republican and Democratic senators to help the committee members make the very serious decision as to whether to Lynch is qualified.

Most of the Democrats' witnesses praised Lynch based on their personal and professional experiences with her over the years. But the Republican witnesses had no such personal or professional experience with the nominee, nor did they take issue with her qualifications. In fact, they didn't have much to say about Lynch at all. Instead, they spent their time criticizing President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.

But what did they think of Lynch? The committee's ranking Democrat decided to find out: Senator Patrick Leahy asked all of the witnesses, Republican and Democratic alike, to raise their hand if they actually opposed Lynch.

Not one did.

So the GOP couldn't find even one person who could testify that Lynch isn't qualified.

That's very telling. As PFAW explained in our letter to the Senate supporting Lynch, President Obama has made a nomination with bipartisan support who Senate Democrats and Republicans alike can support.

At the conclusion of Lynch's hearings, it's clear that she deserves a timely committee vote and confirmation by the full Senate.


Koch Brothers Plan to Spend Nearly $1 Billion in 2016

If outside spending by wealthy special interests played a decisive role in the 2014 midterms, the 2016 presidential election is shaping up to be even worse. According to details leaked from an attendee at an annual donor meeting at a high-end resort in Rancho Mirage, California, the Koch-funded political network plans to spend $889 million in the 2016 election, more than double the amount spent by the Republican National Committee in the last presidential election cycle.

Charles and David Koch, worth about $40 billion apiece, hold gatherings like the one in Rancho Mirage twice a year, attracting a growing roster of multimillionaires and billionaires, as well as occasional elected officials, conservative media personalities and Supreme Court Justices. The brothers have been highly effective in convincing other wealthy conservatives to contribute to their political agenda. The 2014 election cycle marked the most expensive midterms in history, in large part due to the enormous spending of the Koch network. Freedom Partners spent $290 million backing right-wing candidates, propelling Republicans to sweeping victories in Congress and state legislatures across the country.

Our democracy is not supposed to be run by billionaires in closed-door meetings. Fortunately, some in Congress are recognizing the need for reform in order to level the political playing field and protect the promise of American democracy. Last week, on the 5th anniversary of Citizens United, nine campaign finance reform bills were reintroduced together in the House and Senate. This “Defending Democracy” legislative package has the support of dozens of grassroots advocacy organizations representing a broad spectrum of issues. Collectively these groups have millions of members. The reform package includes small donor empowerment bills, disclosure legislation, and a proposed constitutional amendment to put reasonable limits on the amount that can be spent in elections.

The Koch network has made clear that their flood of money is not slowing down anytime soon. Now it’s up to grassroots activists to push for money in politics reform and make clear that we want a democracy that’s run by the people, not the Koch brothers.

National School Choice Week: PR for Privatizers?

On Wednesday morning, a roomful of school children were herded into a congressional meeting room and required to sit through an hour and a half worth of speeches by conservative Members of Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner, Sens. Ted Cruz and Tim Scott, Chief Deputy Whip Rep. Patrick McHenry, Education & Workforce Committee Chair John Kline of Minnesota, and a handful of others. Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana was the emcee.

The Capitol Hill event was in honor of National School Choice Week, whose organizers describe it as a nonpolitical, nonpartisan “independent public awareness campaign” promoting the idea that every child deserves access to an excellent education. Who would disagree?

In other words, it’s a PR campaign, one that wraps itself in the moral mantle of children. But the bright yellow scarves it wraps around its participants are meant to distract attention from the fact that sponsors of this week’s thousands of events include many anti-public education, anti-union, anti-government ideologues, including the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Heritage Foundation, the Alliance for Prosperity and others. The President of National School Choice Week, Andrew Campanella, used to work at the Alliance for School Choice, whose board is chaired by deep-pocketed right-wing activist Betsy DeVos and is funded by a who’s who of right-wing foundations.

As we noted during last year’s NSCW:

Education policy is a vast, complicated, and hotly contested arena. Terms like “education reform” and “school choice” sound good, but they are so broad as to be almost meaningless. They can be applied to genuine efforts to strengthen teaching and educational opportunity as well as cynical schemes to destroy public employee unions and dismantle public education altogether.

In particular, “school choice” encompasses a huge array of education policies, from public charter and magnet schools to taxpayer-funded for-profit cyberschools and homeschooling.  Even a seemingly specific term like “charter schools” cloaks a more complex reality that ranges from innovation labs co-located in public schools to for-profit chain operations.  

Indeed, this year, Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter published “A Smarter Charter: Finding What works for Charter Schools and Public Education.” The book documents that the original vision for charter schools – teachers empowered to be creative in diverse schools that could identify ways to strengthen public education – has been turned on its head. Rather than a teacher-empowering and collaborative paradigm, charter schools are often noted for tightly controlled teachers in highly segregated schools dominated by an ideology of competition with public schools. 

There are more collaborative models, just as there are charter schools with strong academic track records as well as those that lag behind the public schools that choice advocates consistently disparage. Important distinctions get lost under the big, vague, banner of school choice. And that’s intentional.

NSCW is about painting in broad strokes and drawing no distinctions, for example, between public magnet schools and for-profit corporations cashing in on the “reform” movement. No distinction is made between giving students choice among their district’s public schools and diverting education dollars into religious academies and online homeschooling via vouchers and other schemes.  These do not have the same impact on public schools, or the same levels of public accountability, but in the interest of keeping things simple, and winning public support for across-the-board expansion of these programs, they’re all “choice.”

As we wrote last year:

The problem with this “collective messaging” approach is that it hides the anti-public-education agenda of some “reformers.” Celebrating “school choice” across the board lends credibility to organizations pushing for destructive policies that are not at all popular with the American public. In spite of decades of right-wing-funded attacks on public education, for example, Americans oppose privatization plans like vouchers that transfer public education funds to private schools.

Self-proclaimed reformers often dismiss concerns about privatization as a “red herring.” But you can’t embrace the Milton Friedman Foundation as a partner and then pretend that privatization is only an imaginary threat dreamed up by teachers unions.  Friedman has an explicit goal of getting rid of public schools altogether; they see programs like vouchers for poor kids as a tactical stepping stone toward that ultimate goal.

Other supporters of National School Choice Week have included companies that want to tap into the huge flow of public dollars spent every year on education. K12, a member of the “choice”-promoting American Legislative Exchange Council and a company the New York Times has described as “the biggest player in the online-school business,” paid its president more than $5.5. million last year; two other executives each made more than $4 million. A November 2014 investigation by Bloomberg focused on the company’s efforts to turn around “subpar test scores” and declining enrollments.

National School Choice Week promoters say it is nonpolitical and has no legislative agenda, but that’s hard to take seriously given the agendas of its backers. At this week’s event on Capitol Hill, the only Democratic Member of Congress to join the Republican parade was Illinois’ Dan Lipinski, who declined to endorse Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012. (Former Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford also spoke.)

Members of Congress at Wednesday’s event talked about pushing legislation this year to expand “school choice” programs, meaning that battles over vouchers, charter schools, and other education issues will be on the agenda this year, including February’s Senate markup of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. And, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, “There are currently private school voucher and tuition tax credit programs in 23 states and at least 10 states are looking to create new or expanding existing school voucher programs this year.”

Obviously, not everyone who participates in National School Choice Week activities is an anti-public-education ideologue. People from across the political spectrum are eager to strengthen schools and give students an opportunity for a great education. That includes public school teachers, administrators, and school board members – people who are collectively smeared as “the blob” by some “reformers.” People who are seeking to strengthen public education and make schools better for all children should think twice about making common cause with organizations that see public education as something to be dismantled and corporations that see students as the means to a bigger bottom line.


Democracy For All Amendment to #GetMoneyOut Becomes Bipartisan Bill

On Monday the push for the Democracy For All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United v. FEC and allow legislators to put reasonable limits on money in elections, became a bipartisan effort in Congress when Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) signed on as a cosponsor of the legislation.

While this is a historic step that deserves celebration, in many ways it is long overdue. Washington is the only place where the fight to get big money out of politics is a partisan issue, and it hasn’t always been that way.

Similar amendments proposed in the past have found bipartisan support in Congress, including from Rep. Jones. Republican elected officials across the country have been advocating at the local and state level to get big money out of politics. In fact, a recent report from Free Speech For People highlights the more than 100 Republican officials nationwide who favor an amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United.

Among voters, it’s also a bipartisan movement, with Americans of all political stripes speaking out against a democracy unduly influenced by corporations and billionaires. A 2014 poll found that in Senate battleground states, almost three in four voters favor a constitutional amendment to undo the harm of decisions like Citizens United, including majorities in “even the reddest states.” This support did not waver among Republican voters polled: amendment supporters outnumbered opponents by a 26 percent margin.

Still, Rep. Jones’ decision to become a cosponsor of the Democracy For All Amendment is an important step forward. Money in politics is an issue that affects all of us, and one that Americans of all political backgrounds feel strongly about. It’s only fitting that our federal elected officials in both parties listen to the voices of their constituents and join the movement to take our democratic process back from the grips of wealthy special interests.


A Feast of Radical Right Red Meat

Over the weekend, likely Republican 2016 presidential candidates stepped up to the microphone at two extremist events to throw red meat at their Radical Right base and prove their ultraconservative bona fides in the run up to primary season.

Here’s a taste of what went down at Iowa’s so-called Freedom Summit, hosted by Rep. Steve King – who is most famous for his radical and dehumanizing anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won the day with the most well-received speech, in which his biggest applause came when he bragged about his party’s attempts at voter suppression in his state, saying, “we required in our state, by law, a photo ID to vote.”

Former Arkansas Governor and 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee said states should ignore Supreme Court rulings favorable to marriage equality.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie played up how staunchly anti-choice he is.

Senator Ted Cruz made the case for caucus voters to weed out anyone but extreme right-wing candidates. “Every candidate is going to come to you and say they are the most conservative person that ever lived,” Cruz said. “Talk is cheap.”

And at a separate Religious Right event, hosted by SPLC-designated hate group the American Family Association, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal discussed the need to enshrine discrimination against same-sex couples in the Constitution, promoted Islamophobic conspiracy theories and closed his speech with the statement “our god wins.” That event, titled The Response, perfectly embodied the dangers of mixing religion with politics in the way that the Right so loves to do.

By making political issues – even incredibly important ones, and even ones that are historically divisive – litmus tests for their followers’ religious conviction, they cast their opponents not only as wrong, but as evil and satanic, allowing for no possibility of compromise and making even civil coexistence difficult.  

It was a lot of what you’d expect – unfortunately – but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. These are the people who are setting the agenda for one of America’s two major parties – and the one that right now controls both houses of Congress.

Read more and check out video from both events at

UPDATE: Jon Stewart's can't-miss segment on the Freedom Summit from the Daily Show (video courtesy of Comedy Central):


Democracy Reform Package Reintroduced in the 114th Congress on Citizens United 5th Anniversary

On Wednesday (1/21), at a press event on Capitol Hill, Congressional leaders focused on solutions to the money in politics problem by announcing the reintroduction of a host of pro-democracy bills in the 114th Congress, including small donor empowerment, disclosure, and a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. For the first time, members of the House and Senate introduced these separate bills together as a democracy reform package, emphasizing in their remarks that the individual pieces of legislation reinforce one another in creating a democracy truly of, by and for the people.  

One key theme of the event was the American public’s growing appreciation that money in politics is an underlying, systemic issue that must be addressed in order to confront the many important challenges of our time. States and municipalities across the country are already passing resolutions and ballot initiatives supporting reform, and millions of Americans are on record in favor of these solutions.

Reform groups are also coming together around a range of approaches to tackling big money in politics. More than 130 organizations have signed onto a Unity Statement of Principles, expressing their support for the values underlying many of the solutions discussed at the event today. The unity statement serves as a foundation for collaboration among diverse organizations, including environmental groups, labor unions, social and economic justice groups, business groups, and communities of faith. By mobilizing these broad constituencies around a common set of solutions a political force with the potential to enact pro-democracy reforms can be set in motion.  

Members that spoke included Sen. Tom Udall, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Sen. Jon Tester, Rep. Ted Deutch, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. John Sarbanes, Rep. David Price, and Rep. Michael Capuano. The bills reintroduced include the Democracy for All amendment, DISCLOSE Act, Government by the People Act, Real Time Transparency Act, and Shareholder Protection Act, among others. In the coming months PFAW will continue to work with a broad set of partners to mobilize around these solutions in Congress.


Unbelievable Nerve - Republicans Finally Discover Income Inequality

Have you noticed the Republicans’ latest central talking point -- evident in their multitude of goofy “responses” to the president’s State of the Union Address this week?

It’s this: America has a major problem with income inequality, the middle class is being squeezed and … wait for it … it’s all the fault -- somehow, although they don’t clearly say how -- of President Obama and Democrats.

Well, look who decided to show up! Republicans from Ted Cruz and Joni Ernst to Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney are all finally acknowledging the crisis-level problems America faces with economic inequality and wage stagnation, but only because they think they can somehow flip the blame onto their political opponents.

It’s their new favorite tactic. The same one that worked for them in the 2014 elections. Create a big problem and when frustration with that problem becomes widespread enough, blame it on President Obama. Leading up to 2014, the GOP on Capitol Hill was responsible for unprecedented obstruction and gridlock -- very intentionally, as their political strategy. They then used Americans dissatisfaction with Washington to achieve a “change” election, which went against the president’s party, because the president’s party is inherently the one seen as “in control.”

So, after decades of pushing deregulation of rapacious corporate interests, policies favoring no rules for Wall Street, attempts to deny workers a living wage, deny people health care coverage, deny people unemployment insurance and deny opportunity to students at every level of their education, the Right is going to try to blame progressive policies and progressive leaders for the new Gilded Age that they created?

Granted, too many Democrats over the years have pursued and allowed policies that promote rather than rein in Wall Street greed, as well some other speciously labeled “pro-business” policies. But those policies never were the product of a progressive agenda, and always had much backing among Republicans.

Now, as I noted, EVEN MITT ROMNEY is on this new message … Mitt Romney, who himself is a living symbol of opulent wealth and the stark disconnect between the top 1% and the struggles of the vast majority of Americans.

Clearly, Republicans are trying out this messaging tactic as the central theme for their 2016 campaign efforts. And, based on its ongoing proliferation, we can only assume that so far it is working.

Presented with the facts, Americans are undoubtedly smart enough to see through the GOP’s latest hypocrisy. But with the vast millions of corporate special interests and billionaire ideologues fueling their propaganda machine, and a powerful media empire led by Fox News, we cannot afford to take anything for granted.

Please do your part, in your community and among your peers, to call out Republicans’ dishonesty and challenge them to articulate real solutions to economic inequality and strengthening America’s middle class.

Ted Cruz's video response to State of the Union Address: