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September 13, 2016

Trump Proposes Child Care Tax Credits and Changing Rules of Unemployment Insurance to Cover Paid Maternity Leave for Six Weeks

Before getting into this, let's talk about the Reformacons.

Who are the Reformacons? Well, they're "reform conservatives."

Among their number are many legislators favored by the Twitterati #SmartSet.

Like Mike Lee, like even -- Marco Rubio.

The Reformacons make this point: Republicans have been so successful on cutting taxes on the lower middle class -- as Mitt Romney infamously observed, 47% of the population now pays no federal income tax at all -- that the traditional Republican platform of cutting taxes cannot directly help a large swath of GOP voters.

You can argue an indirect benefit -- supply side, trickle down -- but simply cutting taxes now has no direct tangible benefit to large numbers of GOP voters.

And people don't seem to be wowed by arguments about indirect benefits. One can believe they should be -- but they're much more impressed by direct, tangible, cash-in-pocket arguments.

If you assume that elections largely turn on a party's offering of financial betterment to voters -- well, what can you do when you've already reduced the tax rate to 0% for almost half the country?

The Reformacons suggest what they call a "refundable tax credit." Let's cut to the chase: What they mean is a negative income tax rate, that is, you straight-up get paid by the federal government.

Is this idea worthy? Well, I don't like it, and I've said so. I don't like simply replacing the Democrats' system of bribery of voters with a Republican scheme to do the same.

However, the Reformacons do have a practical point: What can you offer lower-income voters when you've already cut their taxes to zero, except a "refundable tax credit," also known as a straight up subsidy to voters from the American Treasury Department?

The Reformacons' idea is contrary to ideology -- but its saving grace is that it is in accordance with political reality, which is a nice thing too.

By the way, another one of the Reformacons' ideas to boost the incomes of lower-income Americans -- apart from the straight-up welfare payment -- is to, get this, sharply reduce the number of low-skilled immigrants permitted to enter the country.

Such immigrants necessarily exert downward pressure on wages paid for low-skilled jobs, which causes the incomes of lower-income Americans to stagnate, as they have been stagnating now for 30 years.

Given the choice of the two, it seems to me that the latter is the less ideologically heretical one, but the GOP Capital Class seems to very much disagree.

Now, I don't like this idea of paying voters. I would strongly prefer to let their wages rise naturally and organically by removing the constant downward pressure of ever-increasing numbers of low-skilled workers coming into the country to compete with Americans for an ever-shrinking pool of low-skilled jobs.

But again, that's Racist or something.

My point, however, is that those who are now Shocked and Scandalized by Trump's similar "let's bribe lower-income Americans" plan have apparently not been paying careful attention to the actual policy changes offered up by some of their favorite TrueCon politicians, like Mike Lee and Marco Rubio.

Expanding the refundable child tax credit -- that is, simply paying people for their children out of the US Treasury funds -- is a longstanding centerpiece of the Reformacon agenda.

Here's an NPR piece explaining some of this Exciting New Thinking from GOP wonks.

LIASSON: Political necessity is forcing Republicans to play on what's traditionally been Democratic turf. On Election Day in 2012, a whopping 80 percent of voters told pollsters that Romney could not relate to the problems of people like them.

PONNURU: That is symptomatic of a middle-class problem that Republicans have had.

LIASSON: Republicans are acknowledging that the next election will be about why it's become so hard to move up the economic ladder. It's no accident that Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio's new book is called "American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity For Everyone." Jeb Bush's new PAC is called the Right to Rise. Last week in Detroit, Bush gave his first big policy speech and said that the opportunity gap was the defining issue of our time.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BUSH: Today, Americans across the country are frustrated. They see only a small portion of the population riding the economy's up escalator.

LIASSON: Bush didn't offer many specific solutions to this problem. He said he'll be doing that over the next several months. So far Republicans seem to have learned the music, but they still need the lyrics. A group of conservative thinkers known as Reformacons have floated a bunch of ideas, including expanding the child tax credit and streamlining the system of education tax credits.

So am I shocked and scandalized by Trump's proposal?

No, because I've actually bothered to keep up with policy proposals offered up by GOP thinkers and Senators, which include this sort of idea.

Has the #SmartSet bothered to inquire as to what the actual policy recommendations of their TrueCon All-Star Favorites are?

Do they have to hear what their (squee!) GOP Favorites are actually proposing from a non-conservative hack like me?

Now, I do oppose Trump's idea. I didn't like this idea when the Reformacons proposed it, and I've said so before. I can't find my piece on this, but you can read Drew's skeptical piece on it.

I don't hate the Reformacons for this -- I don't think they're "RINOs." They are dealing with a tough political fact -- you just can't offer more tax cuts to people already entirely removed from the tax rolls.

But still, I do not like the idea.

That's why I strongly prefer limiting immigration. So that these people see a financial improvement without it costing me any money.

The point is, we can disfavor these things, but we cannot pretend that what Trump is proposing is so far out of the TrueCon mainstream as to be heretical.

If you didn't know the Reformacons -- Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, etc. -- were proposing this sort of "family friendly" child subsidy policy, well, that's your bad for being ignorant about a political philosophy you claim to care deeply about.

It cannot be the case that Mike Lee and Marco Rubio are Forward-Thinking Reform-Minded Conservative Idea Wizards for proposing this sort of thing, and yet Trump is a Liberal Sell-Out Liar Who Doesn't Speak Conservatism for proposing the same thing.

I'll make two further points:

I don't like loud politicians who say deeply alienating things. Many people seem to think this makes a candidate "Tough and strong."

In fact, it makes him weak. When your tone is offensive, you must then compromise on actual policy to woo back those you've offended.

Trump right now is in a biding war to try to buy some support from women voters -- something he wouldn't have had to do if he hadn't alienated them so much by shooting his mouth off so often.

Soft words permit you to enact hard policy; hard words require you to push soft policy.

When Al Gore and John McCain were caught taking Chinese money and doing favors for donors (respectively), what did they do? They immediately began pushing the idea of Campaign Reform. Having compromised themselves on the issue, they had to become more Catholic than the Pope to make up for their own personal weakness on campaign donation issues.

That's what Trump is doing. Having compromised himself so badly and made himself so unappealing to the women whose votes he absolutely needs, he now has to throw them sops, and by sops, read "your tax money."

One other point, though, is about the TrueCons: Having stated that their absolute number one priority is to make sure Trump doesn't win (so as to protect the party from being "Corrupted" by him), they must know -- mustn't they? -- that their actual influence on Trump is now diminished.

Why would Trump chase your vote? You've already said you'd never, ever vote for him, and you either say -- or imply, without admitting -- that Hillary Clinton would be preferable as president.

Since the pool you're swimming in is absolutely immune to Trump's bait, why wouldn't he go fishing in another pool?

Politicians need voters, period. If you've declared yourself absolutely Ungettable, they will naturally try to get others.

Now, that said, let's not overlook the first point, which is that Trump is in this position of having to bribe women to vote for him precisely because his Strong, Tough mouth has landed him in a Weak, Yielding position.

As they say: Speak softly and carry a big stick.

Not Speak loudly and then try to payoff people with US Treasury funds after you've shot your mouth off so much you've pissed off voters.



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posted by Ace at 02:59 PM

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