A group of young conservatives, dubbed “reformicons,” are making inroads among Republican presidential candidates by arguing the party’s traditional reliance on broad-based tax cuts…isn’t enough to cure middle-class woes.
Instead, they are calling for crafting subsidies, tax credits, and other public-policy tools based on conservative philosophies and tastes to help the unemployed and other struggling middle-income households.
“For the past 10 years, our biggest issue was whether the top tax rate was 35% or 39.5%. I don’t care anymore,” said Michael Strain, 33 years old and an economist at the American Enterprise Institute think tank. One of his ideas gaining fans on the right: let employers pay some workers less than the minimum wage as an inducement to hire them and use the federal tax code to bump up salaries.
Leaving aside the abject surrender inherent in that “I don’t care” bleat, Strain’s small point—letting employers pay below-minimum wage rates under certain circumstances—is better achieved by curbing yet another government interference in the market, by getting rid of the minimum wage altogether.
Bob Davis’ article in The Wall Street Journal goes on in this vein, but you get the idea.
The larger point, though, is that these reformicons’ ideas are foolish. Using the tax code for social engineering or for favoring some Americans—which can come only at the expense of other Americans—is an inefficient and immoral use of people’s money. Even when it favors those Americans whom Republicans and Conservatives favor.
Government interference in the free market only inhibits the market, only caps what used to be equal opportunity, only reduces prosperity to the lowest common denominator rather than increasing the general prosperity by elevating the lowest common denominator.
These reformicons’ policies, worse, will only exacerbate the byzantine structure of our tax code and make it even harder to get to a single, low tax rate that every citizen pays; a rate based on all income, regardless of source and devoid of special treatment based on that income’s source; a rate devoid of gerrymandering with tax credits here, subsidies there, loopholes over there. A fair tax rate.