February 20, 2015


Reform conservatives are conservative! (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, February 20, 2015, The Week)

Most conservatives and libertarians agree that capital gains should receive preferential tax treatment because doing so encourages investment, which leads to increased productivity and growth. The child tax credit is merely a recognition that having children is also an investment in capital -- human capital -- one which is ultimately the most important kind of investment. As the great libertarian economist Julian Simon put it, people are the ultimate resource.

Does expanding the child tax credit mean conservatives are allowing liberalism to triumph, or entering into a "bidding war" with liberals that they can only lose? This is a legitimate concern in theory, but historically it is unfounded. As Ramesh Ponnuru points out, the authors of the Contract with America included a child tax credit with their plan, and passed it. No Democratic bidding war followed. And philosophically, reformocons are hardly abandoning conservatism with this policy.

Consider another example: the EITC, by most measures the most successful anti-poverty program in many generations (with welfare reform a close second). Reformocon plans for expanding the EITC (which was a key part of Reaganomics) and/or reforming it to replace it with wage subsidies or payroll tax cuts is an expansion of Reagan's movement. Making work pay for everyone, not just the upper class, is the point of Reaganomics. This is hardly liberalism.

Another example: The mortgage tax deduction is a giant government subsidy. Reformocons want to reduce or eliminate these tax breaks. This is entirely in keeping with conservative principles.

If the reformocon agenda represents the triumph of liberalism, then by that standard, every Republican administration since Coolidge has been a triumph of liberalism." Reagan's call for "a government that rides with us, not on our backs" was a call for more limited government, absolutely, but not for the nightwatchman state.

Some right-of-center writers grasp that nettle, and argue that the job of conservatives is to push for a return to the state of affairs under Coolidge, or even McKinley. I'd be lying if I said there isn't a part of me that is attracted to that. But at the end of the day, there are still elections every four years, and the country will still be better off with a Republican Party and a conservative agenda that can actually govern the country. 

Posted by at February 20, 2015 10:26 AM

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