What’s Next for Conservatives
A reform agenda


Sen. Mike Lee

The law the Democrats enacted on a party-line vote in 2010 is going to make both of those problems worse — accelerating health-care costs for both families and the government.

At the same time, Obamacare poses very serious threats to our constitutional system, to the relationship between Washington and the states, to individual liberty and conscience rights, to the strength of our economy, and to the quality of our health-care system.

That puts health care right at the center of what conservatives need to be thinking about. And it means our movement has to be intensely engaged not only in the fight to repeal, but in the debate to replace Obamacare.

That debate is not over. It’s only just beginning.


It took Obamacare to get Republican health-care policy innovation off the sidelines, but we’re finally in the game. And today, conservative ideas are not only superior to Obamacare — they are superior to the old status quo before Obamacare.

The House Republican Study Committee has introduced a comprehensive health-reform plan — led by Representatives Steve Scalise and Phil Roe. The Heritage Foundation proposed its own health-care-reform package as part of the Saving the American Dream plan, which I introduced in the Senate last year. It included, among other things, a universal tax credit to buy health insurance, with extra help for those with lower incomes.

I know my friend Paul Ryan and others are working on their own health-care plans that will continue to improve the debate.

And this is as it should be.

Too many in Washington seem to believe that on any issue, Republicans should either have one plan — one that everyone supports in lockstep — or no plans. But unity cannot come at the expense of creativity. The day will come when Republicans need a health-care plan — today we need ten!

Conservatives are supposed to believe in the wisdom of markets. So let’s trust the marketplace of ideas. If we want policy innovation, we need to innovate policy!

On health care, we have been. And we need more of that kind of innovation — especially to meet the broader range of problems confronting the middle class.

To do my part, today I want to talk about four pieces of legislation specifically designed to address four leading challenges facing middle-class families today:

the cost of raising children;

the difficulties of work-life balance;

the time Americans lose away from work and home, stuck in traffic;

and the rising costs of and restricted access to quality higher education;

These bills won’t solve every problem under the sun. Raising a family isn’t supposed to be easy;

But each would restore to working families more of the freedom they deserve to pursue their happiness: to earn a good living and build a good life.

Perhaps the most basic challenge facing middle-class families is how expensive it has become for couples to simply start and grow their families: the exploding costs of raising children.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child to maturity in the United States today is about $300,000. Even adjusting for inflation, that’s 15 percent higher than in our parents’ generation.

But even that number doesn’t count foregone wages, or child care and college, both of which have seen rampant inflation in recent decades as well.

All told, according to demography writer Jonathan Last, “You’re talking $1.1 million to raise a single child.”

As Last puts it, for a family making the median income:

Having a baby is like buying six houses, all at once. Except that you can’t (legally) sell them—and after 13 years they’ll tell you they hate you.

Here again, Democrats say the solution is new programs to give parents more of other people’s money. I say we let middle-class parents keep more of their own money!

And so tomorrow, I will be introducing in the Senate the “Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act.”

My plan calls for a 15 percent tax rate on all income up to $87,850 — or $175,700 for married couples. Income above that threshold would be taxed at 35 percent.

Like any good conservative tax-reform plan, my bill also simplifies the code, eliminating or reforming most deductions.

But the heart of the plan is a new, additional $2,500 per-child tax credit that can offset parents’ income and payroll-tax liability. This last point is crucial. Many middle-class parents may pay no income taxes — but they do pay taxes. Working parents are not free riders.

Actually, when it comes to Social Security and Medicare, parents pay twice: first when they pay their payroll taxes, just like everyone else, and then again, by bearing the enormous costs of raising their kids, who will grow up to not only pay taxes, but cure diseases, and invent the next iPhone, and most importantly, provide their parents with grandkids!

So my plan eliminates this anti-family bias in the tax code, while improving pro-growth incentives for the economy.

Under my plan, a married couple with two children making the national median income of $51,000 would see a tax cut of roughly $5,000 per year.

For middle-class families, that’s money — their own money, right away — to get out of debt, move into a new neighborhood with better schools, afford child care, help a mom or dad scale back from full time to part time, or even to stay at home with young children.

That is pro-family, pro-growth conservative reform.