Saturday, February 28, 2009

That Kind of Conservatism Just Soothes The Soul

Newt Gingrich is back, baby! And he's got a 12 point plan, which will presumably morph over time until all 12 points poll at 70% or higher (this was one of the rules for the Contract With America). This looks like it will be fun.

  1. Payroll Tax Stimulus. Tax cut #1. Um, we're already doing this, just not at the insane, bankrupt Social Security rate that Newt wants.
  2. Real Middle-Income Tax Relief. Tax cut #2. This is Mitch McConnell's idea to reduce the middle tax bracket from 25% to 15%, which would deliver much more benefit to super-rich households than it would to the middle class. Nice try.
  3. Reduce the Business Tax Rate. Tax cut #3. Ah yes, Ireland, the conservative's paradise, where business tax revenues are a higher percentage of GDP than in the United states, because Parliament doesn't try to jimmy with the tax code for this and that industry. So man up, Newt; propose the elimination of all loopholes in the corporate tax rate and I'm on board. I'll actually give Newt half credit for this one; I don't think he's just being a shill for corporate interests here, and that in some hypothetical world with a President Gingrich and a Democratic Congress you could get a "broad base; low rates" tax reform that ended up with an Ireland-esque corporate tax code.
  4. Homeowner's Assistance. Tax cut #4. This is the Isakson house flippin g idea, only now we're using the tax code to hand out money to people who've already bought there homes in order to keep them in them. I'm not sure what this does to prevent home values from dropping, unless Gingrich is seriously talking about further subsidizing home ownership forever. Of course, government policy that treated home ownership unadulterated good is part of what got us in this mess; why we'd want more of it escapes me.
  5. Control Spending So We Can Move to a Balanced Budget. Ignore the fact that the public cares way less about balancing the budget than we did in the era of Ross Perot. Ignore the fact that there's considerable consensus even among right-leaning economists that running a deficit is a good idea during a recession. What's their big idea here? End earmarks! Which make up some tiny portion of the federal budget.
  6. No State Aid Without Protection from Fraud. It's nice to see the party of local control and states' rights embracing federal mandates; considering Bobby Jindal just rejected money for unemployment insurance because it mandated changes to his state's tax system. I'm not even sure what this means, but pretty much everyone is against fraud, so we'll give him credit for this one.
  7. More American Energy Now. Ironically due to declining demand, falling prices, and the credit crunch, domestic oil and natural gas production is down from its September 2008 peak. But perhaps if we open up more land to offshore drilling the market will suddenly reverse itself. Okay, maybe not.
  8. Abolish Taxes on Capital Gains. Tax cut #5. And of course, this leads Gingrich to speak approvingly of an East Asian dictatorship (China), and an East Asian city-state with one-party rule (Singapore).
  9. Protect the Rights of American Workers. If by "Protect the Rights" you mean "make it more difficult for Workers to form Unions to Protect the rights".
  10. Replace Sarbanes-Oxley. Newt's reason here is incorrect; the impact of SOX is felt primarily by large businesses; but it does actually have a fairly large negative impact for very marginal gains in accountability. You could design a much better set of accounting reform rules that didn't have the same impact. So, that's a nother one.
  11. Abolish The Death Tax. Tax cut #6. We've been through this eight million times; no point in doing it again.
  12. Invest in Energy and Transportation Infrastructure. We're already about to spend a ton of federal dollars modernizing the power grid, so that one's taken care of. That leave's Newt's latest hobbyhorse of modernizing the Air Traffic Control system, which has the convenient side effect of "cut[ing] the number of unionized air-traffic controllers by 7,000". Half of me thinks this might be a good idea; the other half thinks Newt is still re-fighting PATCO in his own mind. But even if it's a good idea, it wouldn't fix the root of the problem. The main reason for flight delays has little to do with air-traffic control and much more to do with capacity; why Newt doesn't call for knocking down barriers to airport expansion is unclear to me. And the main reason individuals feel like travel takes so long is because we've boosted security screening requirements. Propose eliminating the shoe and coat rules and I think we'll be in business.
So out of twelve ideas, six of them are tax cuts, and two and a half of them might be good ideas. These days, that's a good batting average for conservatives; it's certainly much better than what you get from Mike Pence or what have you. And it's not quite Conservatism's Greatest Hits Of the 1990s; there's no tort reform, either for the medical practice in particular or product liability in general. Maybe he just forgot that one.

They that in politics, you should hope for better enemies, just in case they win. This isn't very much progress.
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