Updating Reaganomics: Responses to All and Sundry

A number of commenters on that New York Times op-ed take me to be urging Republicans to pay more attention to inequality. That’s not quite right. I want an economy where most people are getting ahead, but the relative rates at which they do so is not something that concerns me. I’m concerned about median wages, that is, not Gini coefficients.

Josh Barro asks how an expanded child tax credit would be paid for. My own preference would be some combination of restraining the growth of entitlements, cutting discretionary spending, abolishing the deduction for state and local taxes, and expanding the range of income to which the top income-tax rate applies, with a heavier weight on the earlier items in that list. I don’t think you would be able to bring the top rate much lower than 35.

Phil Klein points out that reforming the tax treatment of health insurance along the lines I suggest could push more people into Obamacare’s exchanges. That’s true, but remember that I was trying to argue for additions and changes to the Republican agenda. Most Republicans say they want to repeal and replace Obamacare but have not said much about what that replacement would look like. That replacement should, I think, include a flattening of the tax break for health insurance that lets people pocket all of the savings from choosing cheaper policies, and an extension of this new flattened tax break to people who do not have access to employer-provided coverage.

After some kind words about me, which I can reciprocate with much more justice, Yuval Levin notes that in one respect Republicans have adapted their message to the circumstances of today: They have embraced premium support for Medicare. I agree with that and think the Republicans, especially Paul Ryan, deserve credit for it.

A few people on Twitter, meanwhile, complained that the agenda I laid out is too thin to sustain the Republican party. To that charge I plead guilty. Replacing the Republican platform with that op-ed would indeed be a mistake.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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