The Corner

Camp vs. Lee

Instead of arguing for putting the two tax-reform plans together, as I do, the editors of the Wall Street Journal set them against each other.

Mr. Camp deserves plaudits for avoiding the trap laid by some conservatives like Utah Senator Mike Lee who want to mimic liberals in using tax reform to redistribute income—albeit to GOP constituencies by greatly increasing the $1,000 per child tax credit. Mr. Camp does raise the per child tax credit to $1,500 to make the tax cut distributionally neutral, but such credits are expensive and do nothing for growth.

“Mimic liberals”? The child credit entered the tax code through the Contract with America. “Redistribute income”? As Senator Lee has patiently explained, expanding the child credit reduces the amount of redistribution the federal government does. It currently redistributes income from larger families to smaller ones. “Such credits are expensive”? That doesn’t seem like the way the Journal typically describes proposals to let people keep more of their own money.

I’ll concede that the child credit does not do much to increase economic growth. But the point of a tax code, it seems to me, should be to raise money while minimizing governmental distortions of our economy and society. Some of those distortions are directly relevant to economic growth; some of them are not; all of them are worth reducing. Taking a position that is both popular and sound policy is no kind of “trap.”


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


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