The Corner

The Next Conservative Tax Reform

The important conversation that conservatives have been having in recent months about tax reform has been seen both by some participants in it and by some outside observers as involving a kind of choice between an emphasis on overall economic growth and an emphasis on tax relief for American families. But surely the very existence of that conversation shows that what conservatives need is an approach that seeks both: lightening the burdens families face where they are heaviest and removing the obstacles to growth where they are greatest and most harmful. 

It seems to me that that’s exactly what senators Mike Lee and Marco Rubio have in mind in the tax-reform proposal they outline in today’s Wall Street Journal. They don’t get into all that many particulars, and I imagine some of the key particulars are yet to be worked out and will be developed in response to any serious advice or criticism they get now that they have sketched out their intentions. But the general outline is a very pro-growth reform of the business tax code alongside a version of the pro-growth and pro-family reform of the individual tax code outlined previously by Lee. That individual-code reform would provide parents with significant relief from both their income-tax and payroll-tax burdens through an expanded child credit that would help offset the double burden they face in supporting our entitlement system, and beyond that would lower rates and simplify the system, improving its efficiency and reducing its burdens and costs. In terms of both policy and politics, this combination of business and individual tax reforms would seem to have great promise. 

Republicans don’t face a choice between lessening the tax burden on families and lessening the tax burden on the economy — they face the challenge of doing both. They win on taxes when they manage that combination. Lee and Rubio seem to see that, and the approach they lay out seems like a plausible general outline for the next conservative tax reform.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

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