Conservatives for an Efficient Welfare State - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Conservatives for an Efficient Welfare State

Jim quotes Matthew Continetti as writing that, “The trick is to finance the welfare state in a way that allows the maximum possible amount of individual liberty and economic growth.” Continetti must have been reading Bruce Bartlett, formerly of the Reagan White House, who made a similar point in the Politico the other day, but took it a step further by arguing that conservatives should focus on advocating better ways to raise taxes:

I think conservatives would better spend their diminished political capital figuring out how to finance the welfare state at the least cost to the economy and individual liberty, rather than fighting a losing battle to slash popular spending programs. But this will require them to accept the necessity of higher revenues.

It is simply unrealistic to think that tax cuts will continue to be a viable political strategy when the budget deficit exceeds $1 trillion, as it will this year. Nor is it realistic to think that taxes can be kept at 19 percent of GDP when spending is projected to grow by about 50 percent of GDP over the next generation, according to both the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office. And that’s without any new spending programs being enacted. 

If conservatives refuse to participate in the debate over how revenues will be raised, then liberals will do it on their own, which will likely give us much higher tax rates and a tax system that is more harmful to growth than necessary to fund the government. Instead of opposing any tax hike, I think it makes more sense for conservatives to figure out how best to raise the additional revenue that will be raised in any event.

This, keep in mind, is from the man who wrote the book Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, which is a blistering critique of Bush’s spending policies. In it, he calls the Medicare prescription drug bill “the worst piece of legislation ever enacted.” But remember that one of the main arguments made to woo conservative support for the bill at the time was that if conservatives didn’t support the law, that Democrats would come in and we’d end up with something much worse. Well, guess what? The bill passed, it did absolutely nothing to close the gap that Republicans face on health care issues with the Democrats, and now Democrats are back in charge and poised to have the government takeover the health-care system. I imagine the type of “conservative” tax increases that Bartlett has in mind would have about the same effect.

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