May 31, 2013


What Is Reform Conservatism? (Ross Douthat, 5/30/13, NY Times)

[T]he basic "reform conservative" agenda looks something like this:

a. A tax reform that caps deductions and lowers rates, but also reduces the burden on working parents and the lower middle class, whether through an expanded child tax credit or some other means of reducing payroll tax liability. (Other measures that might improve the prospects of low-skilled men, ranging from a larger earned income tax credit to criminal justice reforms that reduce the incarceration rate, should also be part of the conversation.)

b. A repeal or revision of Obamacare that aims to ease us toward a system of near-universal catastrophic health insurance, and includes some kind of flat tax credit or voucher explicitly designed for that purpose.

c. A Medicare reform along the lines of the Wyden-Ryan premium support proposal, and a Social Security reform focused on means testing and extending work lives rather than a renewed push for private accounts.

d. An immigration reform that tilts much more toward Canadian-style recruitment of high-skilled workers, and that doesn't necessarily seek to accelerate the pace of low-skilled immigration. (Any amnesty should follow the implementation of E-Verify rather than the other way around, guest worker programs should not be expanded, etc.)

e. A "market monetarist" monetary policy as an alternative both to further fiscal stimulus and to the tight money/fiscal austerity combination advanced by many Republicans today.

f. An attack not only on explicit subsidies for powerful incumbents (farm subsidies, etc.) but also other protections and implicit guarantees, in arenas ranging from copyright law to the problem of "Too Big To Fail."

To bring things to a finer point, if reform conservatives were suddenly put in charge of the Congressional G.O.P.'s legislative agenda, the party would immediately advance Robert Stein's plan for family-friendly tax reform and champion some version of James Capretta's proposed replacement for Obamacare. It would continue to push hard for Paul Ryan's entitlement reforms, while setting more realistic targets for discretionary spending than his budget blueprints have done to date. It would try to revise the immigration reform bill along the lines suggested by Levin here, and failing that would probably push a more modest increase in high-skilled immigration, paired with more enforcement mechanisms, as an alternative to the comprehensive approach. It would become notably more sympathetic to the Brown-Vitter banking overhaul and to Derek Khanna-style proposals for copyright reform. And it would stop attacking Ben Bernanke for his supposed dovishness and recognize that if anything monetary policy has probably been too tight.

Posted by at May 31, 2013 8:58 PM

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