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New from the policy shop

Who says “conservatives” are devoid of any grand ideas?  This Washington Post article [1] shows three prominent “new ideas” or public policies developed by Right-leaning intellectuals and academics.

But after reading the article, you may very well say to yourself, is it better to have no ideas than bad ideas?

One of these ideas basically tries to jigger the tax code in order to benefit parents. But author of the proposal  admits that empty nesters and DINKs (Double Income, No Kids) would get socked with a tax increase in this new plan.

The other wishes to have the federal government provide  “funding for public-service announcements and other social marketing to promote marriage, modeled on anti-smoking campaigns.”

For a conservative “movement” that supposedly wishes to reduce the influence of the federal government in one’s life, using the tax code for the purpose of social engineering and using federal funds to promote marriage among low-income groups, seems rather odd. It’s almost the equivalent of saying: “Get married! Because the government says so! Oh, if you do get married, we’ll make it worth your while to have kids, aside from special moments, championships and diplomas, etc.” For all the talk of boldness, such ideas have been kicked around for at least the last 15 years, since the Christian Right switched from constitutional amendments to tax policy. Yet no matter who gets taxed, it’s hard to see any GOP politician signing on to any tax increases.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposals have a little more merit to them. They at least acknowledges government entitlements will not be able to make their payouts in a debt-laden federal budget, not without massive tax increases or cuts in spending. And there’s a paean to the freedom agenda too.  The Social Security benefits idea for upper-income earners seems fine. But what retiree is going to be willing to pay more out-of-pocket costs for health insurance in a private healthcare insurance market that right now doesn’t exist just simply because they can get a piece of paper from the Feds saying, “You can spend this however you like”?  And if I, as a young worker, invest my money in an individual retirement account, and it gets wiped out on Wall Street, will the Feds replace my losses? They bailed out AIG. I think the little guy deserves a little something, do you? I know a lot of politicians who will think so. That’s a lot of bailout money right there.

Oh for a little Goldwaterian simplicity! Social Security? It’s voluntary. You want in, you stay in. You don’t? Well, good luck to you. The same with Medicare. True freedom is voluntary association. People should have the right to be in the system or stay out, not be forced to contribute. These are policy ideas that may seem simplistic, but at least are in line with popular and traditional concepts which makes them politically salable, without which such policies are simply bad ideas no matter which faculty boardroom or think tank conference center or Congressman’s office they come from.

Ron Paul’s call to “End the Fed” may seem simplistic  too, but it at least produced  a watered down version of an audit of the institution which passed 96-0 in the Senate and has already been passed in the House.  By contrast, House GOP leaders want nothing to do with Ryan’s proposals. There’s a reason why.

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#1 Comment By PiledhighDeep On May 14, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

I’ll vote for the first pol with proposals that make him/her unelectable! I didn’t mean it sarcastically, but now that I read it there, I realize nobody with any idea how to get out of the hole will ever be elected. Doomed I say, doomed!

#2 Comment By cfountain72 On May 14, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

Thanks Sean.
You almost always make solid points in your pieces, but I am starting to wonder: does your word processor have any spelling or grammar check on it? I also see misspellings in other parts of the AmCon website on a far too regular basis. Thinking Conservatives deserve proper English!
Peace be with you.

#3 Comment By Sean Scallon On May 14, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

Agreed cfountain12, my apologies for any mistakes. Now hiring for personal editor.

#4 Comment By TomT On May 15, 2010 @ 7:30 am

“Who says “conservatives” are devoid of any grand ideas? ”

That would, um, be you sir.

#5 Comment By Red Phillips On May 17, 2010 @ 7:29 am

I am always skeptical when I hear about conservatives with “new ideas.” Liberals/progressives are all about new ideas. Conservatives are supposed to be about defending old ideas. Paul’s End the Fed rhetoric seems novel to the modern listener, but opposing the Fed has been a near litmus test of authentic conservatism since it was created.

#6 Comment By Kevin J Jones On May 19, 2010 @ 6:42 pm

“For a conservative “movement” that supposedly wishes to reduce the influence of the federal government in one’s life, using the tax code for the purpose of social engineering and using federal funds to promote marriage among low-income groups, seems rather odd.”

The welfare state is fed by family breakdown and is possibly even more invasive than the tax code. Since the tax code will inherently favor some and disfavor others, it should be set up to benefit family formation rather than be neutral or even a hindrance toward it.

Pro-family tax policy actually dates back to the New Deal era, but was destroyed by feminism and the welfare state. Read more Allan Carlson.

As Peter Hitchens has noted, we can’t pretend that tax policy is the cause of, and solution to, family breakdown. But it surely has an auxiliary role.